An aide to a Florida legislator was fired Tuesday after claiming two survivors of a Florida high school shooting who spoke to CNN were not students, but instead "actors that travel to various crisis when they happen."
Benjamin Kelly, an aide to State Rep. Shawn Harrison (R., Tampa), reportedly sent an email to Alex Leary, the Tampa Bay Times' Washington bureau chief, about the appearance of two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, on CNN. The students are survivors of a mass shooting at the Parkland, Fla., school Wednesday that left 17 people dead and dozens of others wounded after a 19-year-old walked into the school and opened fire.
In their interview, Gonzalez and Hogg called for disbanding the NRA, and for stricter gun control laws.
"The fact that you were in power for so long, that you had so much influence for so long in America just goes to show how much time and effort we still need to spend on fixing our country," Gonzalez said of the NRA. "And gun control is just the first thing right now."
In his email to the Tampa Bay Times, Kelly said, "Both kids [in the interview] are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen," according to the newspaper.
When the Tampa Bay Times asked Kelly to support his claim, he sent a link to a YouTube conspiracy video about Hogg.
"There is a clip on you tube that shows Mr. Hogg out in California. (I guess he transferred?)," Kelly said in the email, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
An article published in the Coral Springs Talk on Feb. 8, six days before the shootings, names Hogg as a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and features a documentary he made about astronomy students' efforts to launch a weather balloon and an attached craft into space. Gonzalez is featured in the video as the project's tracking team leader.
After receiving the link to the video, the Tampa Bay Times then reached out to Harrison, who said, "If my aide disparaged a student from Parkland who is grieving than I will deal most strongly with my aide. … Clearly it was inappropriate for him to send that."
Tuesday afternoon, Harrison tweeted that Kelly was put on leave. Less than two hours later, he said in a tweet that Kelly had been fired, and apologized to grieving families for any pain Kelly's actions caused.
Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the Florida House, who fired Kelly, said in a tweet he was "shocked and angry" after reading the email.
Kelly also took to Twitter on Tuesday, and said after his firing that he had made a mistake.
He later tweeted, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."