An aide to a Florida House lawmaker was fired Tuesday after he said that Parkland students who were speaking out on gun control after Wednesday’s mass shooting were paid actors.
Benjamin Kelly, the aide to Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison, emailed Tampa Bay Times reporter Alex Leary to claim that two Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who appeared on CNN weren’t actually survivors of the attack.
"Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen,” Kelly reportedly emailed the newspaper. When the Tampa Bay reporter asked for proof, the House aide sent a follow-up email claiming the same student who appeared on CNN, David Hogg, was in another state hundreds of miles away.
"There is a clip on you tube that shows Mr. Hogg out in California. (I guess he transferred?)" Kelly's email reportedly stated.
Harrison took to Twitter Tuesday evening to explain that he “placed [Kelly] on leave until we determine an appropriate course of action,” adding that he doesn’t “share his opinion and he did so without my knowledge.”
Following Harrison’s post, Kelly wrote on Twitter that he’s been “terminated from the State House” because he “tried to inform a reporter of information relating to his story regarding a school shooting. This was not my responsibility. I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland.”
The aide added that Rep. Harrison “is an honest and respectable man. In no way should be held responsible for my error in judgment.”
Kelly's Twitter account was later taken down.
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Republican, said that he “was shocked and angry to read [Kelly’s] appalling email about the brave students who traveled to Tallahassee today,” and said that with Harrison’s support, he fired Kelly and apologized on behalf of the House.
Conspiracy theorists often claim after mass shootings that survivors or victims who appear in the media are actors playing a role.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., stated that “Claiming some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency.”
After his firing, Kelly tweeted: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."