State Watch

Florida lawmaker’s aide fired after claiming shooting survivors were ‘actors’

A Florida state lawmaker’s aide was fired late Tuesday, hours after he claimed two survivors of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., who had appeared on television were actors.

Benjamin Kelly, an aide to state Rep. Shawn Harrison (R), emailed a Tampa Bay Times reporter after students Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg appeared on CNN to call for legislation to curb gun violence.

According to Tampa Bay Times reporter Alex Leary, the staffer emailed him, saying, “Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.” 

The comments drew condemnation from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as well as Harrison, who said the comments did not reflect his views and that Kelly had been placed on leave. 

About an hour later, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R) tweeted that he fired Kelly. 

“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,” Corcoran tweeted.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Kelly himself later tweeted that his comments should not reflect on Harrison, and that he had erred in trying to “inform a reporter.”

“I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland,” wrote Kelly, who later on Tuesday appeared to change his Twitter setting so that his tweets were made private.

The false claim that survivors of mass shootings are “crisis actors” is a common conspiracy theory that sometimes appears after high-profile shootings.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have in recent days spoken out in favor of legislation to curb gun violence.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly killed 17 people and wounded several others at the school last week.

Updated: 8:45 p.m.

Tags Florida Marco Rubio
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