A Florida state senator’s aide was fired on Tuesday for telling a reporter that two students who survived last week’s shooting at a high school in Florida were actors who travelled to “various crisis when they happen.”
Seventeen people were killed and another dozen were injured last week when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
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The Tampa Bay Times published a story on Tuesday which detailed how some of the school’s students who were speaking out after surviving the attack were “coming under attack from the far-right, accused of either being attention-seekers or dupes of the mainstream media.”
The story was posted with a still picture of two of the school’s students, Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, from an appearance they made on CNN.
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Benjamin Kelly, an aide to State Rep. Shawn Harrison, responded to the story a couple of hours later by telling the story’s reporter Alex Leary that the pair were not indeed students, but actors.
“Both kids in the picture are not students but actors that travel to various cities when they happen,” Kelly wrote.
Later that afternoon, Harrison issued a statement on Twitter which said that Kelly had been placed on leave for “an insensitive and inappropriate allegation.”
Kelly later announced he had been fired but seemed to blame his firing on his decision to speak with the reporter rather than spreading false information.
“I made a mistake whereas I tried to inform a reporter of information relating to his story regarding a school shooting. This was not my responsibility,” he wrote on Twitter. “I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland.”
Kelly’s Twitter account has since been deactivated.
Florida state Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran confirmed the firing on Twitter while also issuing an apology to the students.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called the conspiracy theory “the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency.”
He received a thank-you response from Hogg.
Another reporter from the paper spoke with Robert Runcie, Broward County school superintendent, to confirm the teens were students at the high school.