FL Lawmaker Aide Fired For Peddling Conspiracy About Student Survivors

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An aide to a Republican Florida state lawmaker was fired Tuesday after telling a reporter that two students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were “crisis actors” instead of real students.

Florida Rep. Shawn Harrison (R) announced on Twitter Tuesday evening that his aide, Benjamin Kelly, had been “terminated” from his position as district secretary.

“I am appalled at and strongly denounce his comments about the Parkland students,” he said in the tweet.

The Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R) carried out the firing, according to Politico and a tweet from the state lawmaker.

“On behalf of the entire Florida House, I sincerely apologize to the students targeted and again commend them for their courage through this unspeakable tragedy,” he said in a tweet.

The Tampa Bay Times was first to report on the controversy, after Kelly, the aide, sent Times reporter Alex Leary an email claiming Marjory Stoneman Douglas students Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg were not actual students, but actors. Both students have been vocal on national news outlets, calling on lawmakers and the President to address gun control, following the death of 17 people at their high school when a former student attacked the school with an AR-15 last week.

According to Leary’s tweet, Kelly — from his official Florida state legislature email account — told Leary that “both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis (sic) when they happen.”

Kelly’s conspiracy theory has been widely peddled by far-right conspiracists, like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit, who claim the students organizers have been planted by left-wing anti-gun groups.   

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