An aide to a Florida state lawmaker was fired on Tuesday after he allegedly referred to some survivors of last week’s mass shooting as “actors that travel to various crisis when they happen,” officials said.
Florida state Rep. Shawn Harrison said he was “appalled” by the comments made by his district secretary, Benjamin Kelly, earlier in the day and supported a decision to have him terminated.
Harrison also apologized for “any pain this has caused” to families of the victims in last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student allegedly shot and killed 17 students and teachers.
“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,” Harrison said in a statement posted on Twitter Tuesday night. “I am again sorry for any pain this has caused the grieving families of this tragedy.”
Kelly reportedly made the bogus claims in an email sent from his state account to a local reporter, Alex Leary, who posted a screenshot of the email on Twitter Tuesday.
“Here’s the email,” Leary tweeted. “I asked for more information to back up the claim and was sent another email that linked to a YouTube conspiracy video.”
Claiming some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 20, 2018
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also appeared to lash out at Kelly over the alleged email in a tweet on Tuesday, although he didn’t mention him by name.
“Claiming some of the students on TV after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency,” Rubio said.
Leary, a reporter for The Tampa Bay Times, said the comments were directed at two outspoken Marjory Stoneman seniors — David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez — who have rallied for tougher gun laws in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting.
Here's the email. I asked for more information to back up the claim and was sent another email that linked to a YouTube conspiracy video. pic.twitter.com/VRSVOcjj3E
— Alex Leary (@learyreports) February 20, 2018
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he made the decision to fire Kelly with Harrison’s full support.
“I was shocked and angry to read the appalling email about the brave students who traveled to Tallahassee today,” he said in a statement Tuesday evening. “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.
“[Harrison] immediately contacted me and with his full support, I terminated the employment of the individual responsible,” he added.
News of Kelly’s firing surfaced just hours after Stoneman Douglas students descended on the state’s Capitol building in Tallahassee, where the Florida House voted down a measure that would’ve banned assault rifles like the one used in the deadly shooting. The Republican-dominated body voted against the bill in a 36-71 vote.