An aide to a Florida state representative falsely suggested Tuesday that outspoken survivors of the Parkland school shooting were actually crisis actors.
Benjamin Kelly, district secretary for Rep. Shawn Harrison, put his thoughts into writing, emailing a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times that several students who appeared on television criticizing lawmakers on gun-control laws actually travel to different incidents when they happen.
"Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen," he told reporter Alex Leary.
Harrison said he was "appalled" and fired Kelly after being made aware of the comments.
"I was just made aware that my aide made an insensitive and inappropriate allegation about Parkland students today," he said on Twitter. "I do not share his opinion and he did so without my knowledge."
Kelly also posted an apology after his comments went viral on Twitter.
"I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland," he said on Twitter. "Rep. Shawn Harrison is an honest and respectable man. In no way should he be held responsible for my error in judgement."
A number of students who survived the attack in Parkland, Fla., have become outspoken critics of lawmakers, President Trump and the National Rifle Association. Many traveled to to the state's capital Tuesday in hopes of tightening gun laws.
Their strong response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has made them a target of online trolls, conspiracy theorists and even some conservatives, including former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston, of Georgia, who suggested on CNN that students were being used as props for left-wing groups as they plan demonstrations to protest gun laws.
"Do we really think, and I say this sincerely, do we really think that 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?" Kingston said Tuesday.
One of the Florida survivors, 17-year-old David Hogg, denied the accusation Tuesday.
"I'm not a crisis actor," Hogg told CNN's Anderson Cooper on AC360. "I'm someone who had to witness this and live through this, and I continue to be having to do that."
"I'm not acting on anybody's behalf," he said.
Follow Christal Hayes on Twitter at Journo_Christal