GOP lawmaker's aide fired over offensive claims on Florida shooting survivors

A Florida state representative's aide was fired from his position on Tuesday after he sent an email to a reporter alleging that two outspoken survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were "actors."

Benjamin Kelly, an aide to State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, was fired after emailing the Tampa Bay Times' Washington bureau chief Alex Leary to say that David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, two students who have been extremely vocal about gun laws following the attack, were paid crisis actors

RELATED: These are the victims of the Florida shooting: 

17 PHOTOS
Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
See Gallery
Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Scott Beige - Geography Teacher

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Elizabeth James Watt​​​​​​​

Chris Hixon - athletic director

Photo Credit: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

15-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff

Photo Credit: Florida Youth Soccer Association

14-year-old Alex Schachter

Photo Credit : Getty 

14-year-old Cara Loughran

Photo Credit: Facebook

17-year-old Helena Ramsey

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Alaina Petty

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Gina Montalto

Photo Credit: Facebook

15-year-old Peter Wang
18-year-old Meadow Pollack (left)

Student Jaime Guttenberg

Photo Credit: Facebook 

Student Martin Duque

Photo Credit: Martin Duque/GoFundMe

17-year-old student Nick Dworet

Photo Credit: Instagram 

Football coach Aaron Feis.

Photo Credit: MSDfootball.com

16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup

Student Joaquin Oliver

Photo Credit: Facebook

Student Luke Hoyer

Photo Credit: Facebook 

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen," he wrote in his message.

Leary said he had never before spoken to Kelly and that the email was completely unsolicited.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that when Leary asked Kelly to provide evidence to support his claim, he sent the reporter a link to a YouTube conspiracy video that showed Hogg being interviewed in a separate news segment in August 2017.

The interview, which was shot in California, prompted conspiracy theorists to questioned what Hogg was doing on the news in another state last year, with some branding him a "crisis actor."

Speaker of the Florida House Richard Corcoran fired Kelly in response to his offensive remarks on the two shooting survivors. 

"I was shocked and angry to read the appalling email about the brave students who traveled to Tallahassee today. Representative Shawn Harrison immediately contacted me and with his full support, I terminated the employment of the individual responsible," wrote Corcoran on Twitter. 

"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."

Rep. Harrison took to Twitter after Kelly's firing to comment on the incident as well.

"I was just made aware that my aide made an insensitive and inappropriate allegation about Parkland students today," the representative wrote. "I have spoken to him and placed him on leave until we determine an appropriate course of action. I do not share his opinion and he did so without my knowledge."

Students like Hogg and Gonzalez, who have made multiple televised appearances urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the attack on their high school, have recently become the subject of conspiracy theories and smear campaigns from the far right.

Hogg, the son of a retired FBI agent, has been targeted by sites like The Gateway Pundit because of his father's former occupation. 

"Why would the child of an FBI agent be used as a pawn for anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation?" published the outlet. "Because the FBI is only looking to curb YOUR Constitutional rights and INCREASE their power. We've seen similar moves by them many times over. This is just another disgusting example of it."

After these theories began gaining steam online, even Senator Marco Rubio took to social media to denounce the people slandering the shooting survivors. 

Hogg showed gratitude on Twitter for Rubio's words, responding to him with a simple "thank you."

14 PHOTOS
Vigils held after deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
See Gallery
Vigils held after deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
People attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Students mourn during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A woman lights a candle during a vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Residents attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A man reacts during a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Daniel Journey (C), an 18-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, attends a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at his school, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. Journey said he lost two friends he had known and grown up with since they were seven years old in the shooting. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A handwritten note to a lost friend is surrounded by candles and flowers at a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A student places a candle with other tributes at a vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Mourners react during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Mourners react during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A student rests his head against his mother as they attend a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Students mourn at a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story