Students who survived the gun massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have emerged as powerful advocates of gun control and fierce critics of the NRA. Now they are being targeted by a right-wing smear campaign.
David Hogg, a senior at the school, was one of the first to appear on national television and demand action. “We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together. Come over your politics and get something done,” Hogg said, looking directly into the camera.
Hogg is now being targeted by Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that has press credentials from the Trump White House. A post published on Monday by the site’s White House correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, features Hogg’s photo with the word “EXPOSED” stamped in red.
Wintrich says Hogg and other students throw up some “red flags.” The first “red flag” is that Hogg’s father is a retired FBI agent. (Hogg freely admitted this on national television.) The insinuation is that Hogg’s father, who does not even work for the FBI, has tasked his son with talking about gun control to take the heat off the agency.
Wintrich also uses an edited YouTube video of Hogg having some difficulty answering questions for a taped interview as evidence that Hogg is “heavily coached on lines and is merely reciting a script.” There is no evidence, in the video or elsewhere in the article, supporting this claim.
Wintrich then drops all pretenses and fully embraces the conspiracy:
Why would the child of an FBI agent be used as a pawn for anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation? 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.
The Gateway Pundit story is spreading quickly on Facebook and has already been picked up by One American News Network, another right-wing outlet with White House media credentials.
#RT @GrahamLedger: Could it be that this student is running cover for his dad who Works as an FBI agent at the Miami field office Which botched tracking down the Man behind the Valentine day massacre? Just wondering. Just connecting some dots… https://t.co/eMFOepw0Me
— One America News (@OANN) February 20, 2018
Jim Hoft, the editor of of Gateway Pundit, made media appearances on Monday to promote the story.
The article is also being promoted by Bradley Blakeman, a member of the George W. Bush administration, lobbyist and frequent television pundit.
This kid is a shill. He bragged about the number of interviews he is doing and is playing to the camera like he… https://t.co/6Gjt99frjt
— Bradley Blakeman (@BlakemanB) February 20, 2018
Gateway Pundit is not limiting its criticism to Hogg. A separate article, authored by Kristinn Taylor, attacks Hogg and fellow students Delaney Tarr, Cameron Kasky and Emma González. The entire article attacks these students for smiling in a photo.
The article is entitled “Student School Massacre Survivors and CBS Reporter Party Like Rock Stars.” But there is no evidence of any partying. Rather, at one point, the group, which was being interviewed for CBS’ morning show, smiled for a photo.
It starts now.
— Cameron Kasky (@cameron_kasky) February 18, 2018
Taylor says this photo shows them “laughing uproariously and posing for the photos like they are partying rock stars.” She also describes the photos as “promo stills for Glee: The High School Massacre.”
The article parrots a popular post on r/The_Donald, a Reddit forum for Trump supporters.
The attacks on Hogg and other students are also extremely widespread on Gab, a social network that caters to white nationalists and other extremists groups.
The question now is whether these attacks, as they often do, spread beyond Gateway Pundit and OANN to more mainstream conservative outlets.
UPDATE: Hogg responds to the smear campaign in comments to BuzzFeed News:
I just think it’s a testament to the sick immaturity and broken state of our government when these people feel the need to pedal conspiracy theories about people that were in a school shooting where 17 people died and it just makes me sick. It’s immature, rude, and inhuman for these people to destroy the people trying to prevent the death of the future of America because they won’t.