The staffer, who was the district secretary of Rep. Shawn Harrison from Tampa Bay, had earlier sent an Email to a local news outfit claiming that two of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting were ‘actors’.
An aide of one of the Florida Legislators was fired on Tuesday evening after saying that two survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting were not students, as they were ‘’actors that travel to various cities when shootings happen’’.
Benjamin Kelly, State Rep. Shawn Harrison’s District Secretary, had an exchange via Email with a Tampa Bay Times reporter about two of the students – David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez – who had earlier appeared on CNN to talk about the shooting.
In what is since then described as a Valentine’s Day massacre, shooting at the Portland High school left 17 dead, most of them children, with dozens wounded.
After surviving the shooting, both Hogg and Emma gave an interview to CNN on Monday morning in which they requested the government to disband the NRA and implement stricter gun-control laws.
In the wake of these comments, Benjamin Kelly sent an email to Tampa Bay Times’ Washington Bureau Chief, Alex Leary, and stated that they “are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.”
When Tampa Bay Times asked Kelly to substantiate his claim by giving facts, the former aide sent the newspaper a link to a YouTube video, in which baseless comments were made against Hogg.
“There is a clip on youtube that shows Mr. Hogg out in California. (I guess he transferred?),” Kelly retorted in the email, according to the Times.
Kelly’s bluff was called when some of the journalists found an article on Coral Springs Talk.
The article, published six days before the massacre took place, showed that Hogg was a student at Marjory Stoneman and discussed a documentary he made alongside other students of the high school.
Gonzalez, the student who appeared alongside Hogg on CNN, could also be seen working in the documentary as the team leader.
After their brief exchange with Kelly, Times contacted Rep. Shawn Harrison, who called the comment ‘’totally inappropriate’’, and promised to look further into the matter.
On Tuesday afternoon, just a day after Kelly had sent the email, the State Representative tweeted from his official account that his aide was put on leave. Two hours later, Harrison said that Kelly was fired from his job and apologized to the grieving families for the disparaging comments made by his former aide.
Tonight Mr. Kelly was terminated from his position as my District Secretary. I am appalled at and strongly denounce his comments about the Parkland students. I am again sorry for any pain this has caused the grieving families of this tragedy.
— Shawn Harrison (@ShawnHarrisonFL) February 21, 2018