Aide to Tampa-based Florida lawmaker goes full Alex Jones on Parkland, gets fired

Benjamin Kelly, a staffer for State Rep. Shawn Harrison, told the Tampa Bay Times he thought some of the high school students who witnessed the killing were paid actors.

click to enlarge State Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Tampa Republican. - Florida House of Representatives
Florida House of Representatives
State Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Tampa Republican.

Florida lawmakers apparently need to change the way they vet candidates for legislative staff positions.

Namely, perhaps job applications ought to have two yes-or-no questions:

a) Do you believe there is a "deep state" that plots and carries out fake mass shootings with the intent of persuading the voting public to support stricter gun measures in order to render the populace defenseless in the face of a pending dystopian nightmare?


b) If you have such beliefs, would you express them, on the record and via a communication conduit that's technically public record, without permission from your boss, to a member of the political press employed with the most widely read news outlet in the state?

Such questions would've saved State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, a PR headache on Tuesday.

The Times's Alex Leary was reporting on all the bizarre conspiracy theories emerging about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors who have been calling for stricter gun control and safety measures.

Some of those students have been notably media savvy, especially senior David Hogg, an aspiring journalist.

Leary's story includes tweets accusing Hogg and others of being "coached," including one tweet linking to a post pointing out how Hogg's dad is allegedly employed with the FBI, a post that was liked by none other than President Donald J. Trump.

At least one points out that Hogg was quoted on camera in a California television news report last year, which to them was evidence that he was an actor brought in to speak to news outlets on camera.

Benjamin Kelly, Harrison's aide, apparently has a similarly paranoiac take.

Via his state email account, he reportedly said of Hogg and another student who appeared alongside him in a CNN interview: "Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis [sic] when they happen."

Leary tweeted the quote, and Harrison quickly responded that he would place Kelly on leave.

Subsequently, House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Lutz) tweeted that he was "shocked" at Kelly's comments and he would use his authority to fire him.

Some politicos, like Tampa consultant Kevin Thurman, called Corcoran out for not fully condemning the statement itself as a falsehood.

Kelly seemed to accept his firing and expressed via Twitter that he has no animosity toward his now-former boss.

He has apparently deleted his Twitter account or strengthened its privacy settings, but we were able to get a screen grab of those farewell tweets.

Kelly tweeted some remarks about Tuesday's events before either deleting or locking down his account. - Screen grab, Twitter
Screen grab, Twitter
Kelly tweeted some remarks about Tuesday's events before either deleting or locking down his account.

Catch ya later, conspiracy dude!

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