NRA Says It Will Not Be Intimidated By Corporations Severing Partnerships
BY Kerry Picket
The National Rifle Association released a statement Saturday saying corporations severing ties with the gun group will not deter its mission or its members.
Several companies that offered discounts and deals to NRA members announced this weekend those agreements would no longer be valid.
The more than five million law-abiding members of the NRA have enjoyed discounts and cost-saving programs from many American corporations that have partnered with the group to expand member benefits.
“Since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, a number of companies have decided to sever their relationship with the NRA, in an effort to punish our members who are doctors, farmers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, nurses, shop owners and school teachers that live in every American community. We are men and women who represent every American ethnic group, every one of the world’s religions and every form of political commitment,” the NRA said in a statement Saturday evening.
The statement continued, “The law-abiding members of the NRA had nothing at all to do with the failure of that school’s security preparedness, the failure of America’s mental health system, the failure of the National Instant Check System or the cruel failures of both federal and local law enforcement.”
The NRA slammed the corporations who have backed off as cowards who hid in a political storm and says others will simply replace them in time.
“Despite that, some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve.”
The statement concluded: “Let it be absolutely clear. The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world.”
Gun control activists, including MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, have also urged online streaming services such as Amazon and Apple to remove NRATV from their channel line-up. NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch responded to the campaign to eliminate the programming by charging hypocrisy among those criticizing the NRA and its media arm.
Boycotts Against NRA Have Backfire Effect, Galvanize Conservatives.
The Daily 202: Trump’s push to arm teachers gives the NRA what it wants and highlights GOP radicalization
How Trump’s talking points on guns sound just like the NRA’s
By James Hohmann
With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
The Washington Post
President Trump suggested some gun proposals that aren’t exactly in step with the NRA, but he has repeated some of their statements – sometimes word for word.
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump’s promises to take meaningful action on guns after Florida look increasingly hollow. His moves to get right with the National Rifle Association on Thursday reflect how much the contours of the debate have shifted and the degree to which the Republican Party has radicalized in recent years.
After 20 kids and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre responded by calling on Congress to pony up for armed personnel in every single school in America.
This was treated as a fringe proposal and rejected by most leaders in education, law enforcement and the GOP.
After 14 kids and three adults were murdered in Parkland, Trump has emerged as the leading champion of the same idea. He suggested arming 1 in 5 teachers on Thursday, paying them bonuses to pack heat in their classrooms. He revealed that he had spoken “often” with NRA executives during the previous two days and praised them as “Great American Patriots.”
So it should not be surprising that the president’s comments at the White House yesterday afternoon closely mimicked a speech that LaPierre delivered earlier in the day at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Our banks [are] all more protected than our children at school,” said LaPierre.
“I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected,” said Trump.
LaPierre said “gun-free zones” are “wide-open targets for any crazy madman bent on evil.”
Trump said “a gun-free zone to a killer or somebody who wants to be a killer [is] like going in for the ice cream” because, “When they see ‘this is a gun-free zone,’ that means that nobody has a gun except them, nobody’s going to be shooting bullets in the other direction.”
The NRA chief spoke of “hardening” schools. “God help us if we do not harden our schools,” LaPierre said. “Schools must be the most hardened targets in this country.”
“We have to harden our schools, not soften them,” Trump said a little later. “You want a hardened school, and I want a hardened school too.”
Trump’s changing stance on guns through the years
— It wasn’t always this way. “Crooked Hillary said that I want guns brought into the school classroom,” Trump tweeted in May 2016. “Wrong!”
The NRA also embraced the idea of gun-free schools after the shooting at Columbine in Colorado two decades ago. “First, we believe in absolutely gun free, zero tolerance, totally safe schools,” LaPierre said at the NRA’s annual meeting in 1999. “That means no guns in America’s schools, period, with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.”
— Trump has certainly changed his views on guns over the years, but he’s now been parroting for several years the NRA mantra that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” In classic Trumpian fashion, he takes ideas that other Republican politicians have espoused and goes one step further.
After the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016, Trump said: “It’s too bad some of the people killed over the weekend didn’t have guns attached to their hips, where bullets could have thrown in the opposite direction. … Had people been able to fire back, it would have been a much different outcome.”
“At the time, even leaders of the NRA said arming drunk club-goers was a bad idea,” John Wagner and Jenna Johnson note.
LaPierre calls for more protection and guns at schools
— In 1995, LaPierre referred to FBI agents as “jackbooted thugs” after the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex. In protest, former president George H.W. Bush resigned as a member of the group. He said it was a “vicious slander on good people” that offended his personal sense of “decency and honor.”
LaPierre once again attacked federal agents yesterday. “As we’ve learned in recent months, even the FBI is not free of its own corruption and its own unethical agents,” he said at CPAC. “What is hard to understand is why no one at the FBI stood up and called B.S. on its rogue leadership.”
But this time he is preaching to the choir. The sitting president tweeted this last weekend:
Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
— This is just the latest data point that underscores the degree to which the Republican Party has been radicalized. Ideas that just a few years ago were widely considered kooky, like concealed-carry reciprocity, have moved from the fringe to the mainstream.
The same thing has happened on immigration. Before Trump took office, almost every member of the Republican elite considered the idea of reducing legal immigration extreme. But Jeff Sessions is now attorney general, and GOP congressional leaders are insisting that such draconian changes to the law must be part of any package to protect the “dreamers” from deportation.
When Trump first proposed a Muslim ban as a candidate, all his Republican rivals — and Mike Pence — balked. But when he rolled out a travel ban as president that targeted predominantly Muslim countries, they cheered. When federal judges appointed by previous Republican presidents called it unconstitutional, they jeered them.
When billionaire industrialist David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president in 1980, he got 1.1 percent of the popular vote. Now he’s not just one of the richest men in the country, but undeniably one of its most powerful. The Koch network has supplanted the official Republican Party apparatus in its influence and ability to shape the agenda, which includes several of the ideas he ran on 38 years ago.
None of this is meant to pass judgment about the quality of the underlying policy ideas. The point is not that the old bulls were correct and the new guard is wrong. It is that the party has inarguably transformed. Long-term trends have been supercharged since Trump rode down the escalator at Trump Tower to launch his campaign in June 2015. Just 10 years ago, Steve Schmidt was the chief strategist for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. Now he’s warning of fascism in America:
Watching LaPierre at CPAC today was disturbing and frightening. It reminded me of the quote often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross”. There was an illiberal wind blowing today. It was ominous
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) February 23, 2018
— Just as Trump was suggesting that arming teachers would be a panacea to stop future shootings, new details emerged about how the armed sheriff’s deputy who was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during last week’s attack failed to stop the killer. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he suspended School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson on Thursday after seeing a video that showed him standing around outside the school building where the shooter was inside and attacking. “He said Peterson was armed, and was in uniform, and should have gone into the building during the 6-minute event,” Lori Rozsa and Mark Berman report. “Peterson, 54, a resource officer at the school since 2009, resigned after Israel suspended him. … When asked what he is seen doing on the video, Israel replied: ‘Nothing.’ … Israel said two other officers have been placed on a restricted assignment, pending an internal investigation related to the shooting.”
— POTUS has given himself lots of wiggle room by floating lots of ideas without committing to anything. “At Wednesday’s event and elsewhere, Trump broached several policies … but was vague and always changing on the specifics,” Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report. “Eager to be seen as leading the debate, Trump tossed out ideas like so much fish food. … Even his allies who are intimately involved in the gun debate were left confused about what he was proposing. On background checks, for instance, Trump was unclear about whether he was advocating for a universal system that closes loopholes and has been long championed by Democrats, or simply making tweaks to shore up existing law.”
“Trump has offered no details on how a program of arming teachers would work, how much it would cost and how school districts already strapped for cash would fund it,” Jenna and John note. “The Education Department estimates there are 3.1 million public school teachers and 400,000 private-school teachers. Arming 20 percent of teachers would mean arming more than 700,000 people.”
“Right now, we’re in a listening phase,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said during yesterday’s press briefing. “I wouldn’t say that we are or aren’t going to propose something that is as specific as legislative language.”
— The Washington Post-ABC poll published Tuesday found that 51 percent of Americans think the Florida shooting “could not have been prevented” by allowing teachers to carry guns, while 42 percent said it could have been prevented.
— To be sure, there are some signs of movement. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told the Wichita Eagle that nobody under 21 should be able to buy an AR-15, but he’s unlikely to ever face voters again.
But Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who plans to run for Senate this year and feels like he needs NRA support to win what will be a close race, has stayed in lockstep with the group since the shooting. “Scott has responded to questions about the issue with answers that quickly turn to mental health and the need for enhancing safety protocols in schools,” Robert Costa reports. “Although he initially told CNN last week ‘everything’s on the table,’ Scott declined an invitation [to appear at the network’s town hall] … Scott could face a reckoning on the issue in the coming days, with GOP lawmakers engaged in talks with Democrats designed to produce a potentially modest gun restriction bill before the legislature’s session ends next week.”
Trump praises the NRA
President Trump called the National Rifle Association “good people” and “patriots” on Feb. 22, and said they’re “ready to do things” about gun violence.
— Top Democrats on the Hill who work on this issue have grown much more pessimistic over the last 24 hours that Trump will follow through on his tough talk. They now anticipate that he’ll drag his feet on specifics until the public loses interest, and that he’ll insist on adding poison pills to placate the NRA. If something gets through Congress, the conventional wisdom among insiders is now that it will be so watered down as not to make a meaningful difference.
— Follow the money: After Trump’s friendly comments toward the NRA, gun stocks popped. Sturm Ruger rose 3.6 percent. The value of the company that was until recently known as Smith & Wesson, which made the AR-15 used in Florida, increased 0.6 percent.
— Meanwhile, Trump is still struggling to show empathy for the Florida victims and connect on a human level. Consider this remarkable anecdote from Julie Hirschfeld Davis in today’s New York Times: “Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, said she had felt no reassurance during a phone call from the president to her hospital room last week. ‘He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up,’ she said in an interview after being discharged from the hospital. ‘Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.’ Ms. Fuentes, who was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her right eye, said Mr. Trump had called the gunman a ‘sick puppy’ and said ‘‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.’
“The account of the call was reminiscent of the last time Mr. Trump drew public scrutiny for his reaction to a tragedy, with his private condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four American soldiers killed in an attack in Niger,” Julie notes. “In that case, in October, Ms. Johnson said she had been deeply offended by Mr. Trump’s words and tone, saying that he had not referred to her husband by name, calling him only ‘your guy,’ and had upset her by saying that Mr. Johnson ‘knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.’”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, more gun regulation is not the answer.
HOW IT’S PLAYING:
— In the mainstream media:
Moriah Balingit and Nick Anderson: “‘No way I would do that’: Educators decry Trump proposal to arm teachers.”
New York Times: “Justice Dept. to Prioritize Prosecutions for Lying in Gun Background Checks.”
CNN: “School shooter threatened others with a gun, first host family told police.”
New Yorker: “The N.R.A. Lobbyist Behind Florida’s Pro-Gun Policies.”
CBS News: “Poll: Support for stricter gun laws rises; divisions on arming teachers.”
Joe Heim and Donna St. George: “For student protesters, consequences are across the map.”
Justin Wm. Moyer: “Organizers plan for 500,000 attendees at ‘March For Our Lives’ gun-control march in Washington.”
Boston Globe: “MIT to applicants: Being disciplined for protesting guns won’t affect admission.”
Omaha World-Herald: “First National Bank of Omaha ends relationship with NRA.”
Louisville Courier Journal: “This rural Kentucky lawmaker is turning his back on the NRA and supporting students.”
Salvador Rizzo: “Fact-checking Trump, NRA claims on gun background checks.”
Aaron Blake: “The NRA goes to DEFCON 1 with its new talking points.”
Callum Borchers: “Trump brings the gun-control conversation back to himself and ‘fake news.’”
Philip Bump: “The economics of arming America’s schools.”
The Atlantic: “[LaPierre’s] Cynical Exploitation of Outrage.”
The Wrap: “Trump Wants a ‘Rating System’ for Movies and Games (Which Already Have Rating Systems).”
— On the right:
National Review: “[LaPierre] Turns His Attention to the FBI’s ‘Rogue Leadership.’”
Daily Caller: “[LaPierre]: Mentally Ill List Skirts Due Process.”
Townhall: “[LaPierre]: Why Are NBA Stars Better Protected than Our Children?”
CNS News: “[LaPierre] Warns of ‘New Socialist Wave in America.’”
Washington Free Beacon: “[LaPierre] Slams Schumer for Not Following Through on Promise to Use Mental-Health Records in Checks.”
Breitbart: “[LaPierre] Warns CPAC Attendees of ‘Socialist Agenda’ After Florida Shooting.”
LifeZette: “[LaPierre] Offers Free Armed Guard Training for All Schools.”
Washington Examiner: “[LaPierre] turns discussion from school safety into fear of creeping socialism.”
— On the left:
New York Magazine’s Frank Rich: “Donald Trump Will Never Cross the NRA.”
LA Times’s Robin Abcarian: “Now they’re playing the race card to avoid talking about gun control. How low will the NRA go?”
The Guardian’s Lois Beckett: “[LaPierre’s] speech: a reminder of the paranoia that gave us Trump.”
Mother Jones: “Trump Just Praised an NRA Official With a Long History of Appalling Statements.”
— “What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns,” by Heather Sher in The Atlantic: “As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries … I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before. … I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the [Parkland shooting], who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. The injury along the path of the bullet from an AR-15 is vastly different [from a typical handgun injury]. … [The bullet] does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. … Exit wounds can be the size of an orange.”
— Related reading: “What Bullets Do to Bodies,” by HuffPost’s Jason Fagone from April 2017: “The main thing people get wrong when they imagine being shot is that they think the bullet itself is the problem. The lump of metal lodged in the body. The action-movie hero is shot in the stomach; he limps to a safe house; he takes off his shirt, removes the bullet with a tweezer, and now he is better. This is not trauma surgery. Trauma surgery is about fixing the damage the bullet causes as it rips through muscle and vessel and organ and bone. The bullet can stay in the body just fine.”
— A former Minnesota teacher spoke to the New Yorker’s Daniel A. Gross about surviving a deadly school shooting in 2005 — and the grief that endures long after the television crews pack up and move on. Here were some of her quotes from the interview:
On the shooter: “’He shot the lock, and it melted. Next to my door there was a panel of glass that he literally walked through. And that’s how he got in. We were all lined up. And he literally just went down the row. We were sitting ducks. … Five were killed. By the time he got to me, when he pulled the trigger, there were no more bullets.”
On going to her classroom to help identify bodies: “I remember just total shock. … and I kept saying, ‘Oh, it’s fine. It’s fine.’ It looked just like ‘CSI.’ I have not been able to watch a show like that in thirteen years.”
On PTSD: “I never cried until I got home … And I don’t think I cried again for six months. You just shut down. … My sister was pregnant [at the time], and, in August, I was there for the birth. They put him in my arms, and I had absolutely no feelings. And that scared me. I realized, in therapy, that I can’t go back to teaching. That was one of the big things for me to admit.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
Yevgeniy Prigozhin, left, shows Vladimir Putin, then prime minister, around his factory outside St. Petersburg in 2010. Prigozhin is believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria.
— A Russian oligarch and Putin ally believed to control mercenaries blamed for a recent attack on U.S. troops had been in contract with the Kremlin. Ellen Nakashima, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly report: “In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had ‘secured permission’ from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a ‘fast and strong’ initiative that would take place in early February. Prigozhin made front-page headlines last week when he was indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on charges of bankrolling and guiding a long-running Russian scheme to conduct ‘information warfare’ during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. … [T]he attack marked the biggest direct challenge to the U.S. military presence in eastern Syria since U.S. Special Operations forces began deploying there in 2015[.] … The episode also raises questions about ongoing U.S. cooperation in Syria with Russia[.]”
— Ivanka Trump arrived in South Korea for the closing ceremonies. Anna Fifield reports: “The South Korean government is going to great lengths to give Trump a royal welcome, especially given the precarious state of relations between Washington and Seoul[.] … To lead its delegation to the closing, North Korea is sending Kim Yong Chol, a senior official who is widely considered the mastermind behind the 2010 torpedo attack on a South Korean naval corvette, which killed 46 sailors. … Although [South Korea’s president] will meet with the North Korean delegation after the closing, the Blue House has said there are no plans for any meetings or even encounters between Trump and Kim during the closing ceremony.”
GET SMART FAST:
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge. He allegedly threatened to blackmail a woman with whom he had an affair by distributing a nude photo that he took of her. Greitens, who had presidential ambitions, acknowledged having the affair but denied trying to blackmail the woman, calling the indictment a “disappointing and misguided political decision.” (Marwa Eltagouri and Sean Sullivan)
Texas state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D) was convicted on 11 felony charges of money laundering and fraud related to his tenure at a now defunct oil field company. The ruling could land him in federal prison for years. (San Antonio Express-News)
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry faced questions over early-morning visits to the city cemetery with her police bodyguard, with whom she was having an affair. Barry has repeatedly insisted Sgt. Rob Forrest was never paid when the two were sharing personal time, an assertion on which the cemetery trips cast doubt. (Nashville’s NewsChannel 5)
Forensic psychologist Shannon Edwards, who had an affair with former congressman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), declared her candidacy for Congress. Murphy was forced to resign after reports that the antiabortion rights Republican asked Edwards to have an abortion during a pregnancy scare. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Australia’s deputy prime minister resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment allegation. Barnaby Joyce had recently weathered the political storm of acknowledging an extramarital affair with a woman now carrying his child, but the sexual harassment claim sealed his fate. (A. Odysseus Patrick)
The KIPP charter network fired its co-founder Mike Feinberg for sexual misconduct. An independent investigation concluded a student’s sexual abuse claim from two decades ago had “credibility.” (Valerie Strauss)
A Florida businessman pledged thousands of dollars to fund a Mar-a-Lago gala just two weeks after being tapped as Trump’s ambassador to Barbados. The gala’s organizer said Leandro Rizzuto Jr.’s contribution would likely equate to “upwards of probably $15,000 or $20,000 or $25,000.” (David A. Fahrenthold)
West Virginia teachers went on strike over pay and benefits, triggering a shutdown of all public schools. Education officials have warned the work stoppage could adversely affect the state’s more than 277,000 public school students. (Sarah Larimer)
A Swedish “museum of failure” pays homage to some of the world’s biggest innovation flops. Inductees include Colgate’s line of beef lasagna dinners, or “Blak,” and a short-lived Coca-Cola drink that mixed Diet Coke with coffee. But contrary to its name, the gallery is designed to celebrate failure, and museum visitors are encouraged to scrawl their own imperfections on Post-it notes scattered throughout the exhibit. (Fortune)
Gates pleads guilty after new Mueller charges
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III filed new charges on Feb. 22 against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates.
— Robert Mueller’s team filed a new 32-count indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, outlining a multiyear scheme of fraud and tax evasion that continued even as Manafort ascended to the top ranks of Trump’s presidential campaign. The additional charges were filed in Virginia — where both men filed their tax returns — and significantly escalate pressure for their cooperation in the special counsel’s ongoing Russia probe. Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman and Spencer S. Hsu report: “Mueller accused the men of lying on their income-tax returns and conspiring to commit bank fraud to get loans. A court filing indicates that prosecutors initially sought to combine the new charges with the preexisting indictment in federal court in Washington, but Manafort declined to agree, leading to the possibility of separate trials in neighboring jurisdictions. … The new indictment offers a more detailed portrait of what prosecutors say was [a years-long effort by] Manafort and Gates to use their income from working for a Ukrainian political party to buy properties, evade taxes and support a lavish lifestyle even after their business connections in Kiev evaporated.”
The charging documents claim both men continued the alleged conspiracy even as FBI agents were breathing down their necks: “On Oct. 25, 2017 — just days before the first indictment was revealed — Gates submitted a false tax document for the 2013 tax year … And both men were charged with a bank fraud conspiracy involving a $9.5 million loan that investigators said continued even after that indictment was unsealed.”
Gates’s legal strategy is a question mark: “Three of his lawyers had asked to leave the case, a request the judge granted Thursday. The details of his issues with his lawyers have not been described publicly, beyond a court filing that said they involve ‘highly sensitive matters’ … Shortly after Thursday’s indictment was filed, a new lawyer, Thomas C. Green, filed notice with the court that he is now representing Gates.”
— “This is pretty raw criminality,’’ former federal prosecutor Patrick Cotter told our colleagues. “’According to the indictment, these are two fellows on a multiyear tear of lying to every bank they could find about their income. … It’s extensive and bold and greedy with a capital ‘G’ … Cotter added that the indictment suggests serious risk for the defendants — if convicted at trial … they could be facing de facto life prison sentences.”
— “The original indictment did not explicitly bring tax charges, an omission that experts had predicted that Mr. Mueller would ultimately correct,” the New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo report. “The first indictment also relied heavily on accusations that Mr. Manafort violated foreign lobbying laws, which have rarely been used at trial. The new indictment gives prosecutors more options.” (Read the full indictment here.)
— Mueller’s probe is blocking Jared Kushner’s ability to receive a full security clearance. CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, Jeremy Diamond and Dana Bash report: “Kushner’s application for a top-level security clearance has been held up for over a year in part because it cannot be completed while the special counsel’s team continues to probe Kushner’s contacts with Russians and his financial dealings with foreigners, [two] sources said. … There is no indication that Mueller is close to wrapping up his investigation, … [which] could leave Kushner without a security clearance for months to come, even as he tackles sensitive issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States’ relationship with Mexico.”
Swedish opposition leader Stefan Loefven and his wife stand behind polling booths to cast their vote in Stockholm. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty)
— Sweden is working to preemptively “Russia-proof” its political system ahead of its September elections. Officials say the country’s expansive efforts may have already dissuaded the Kremlin. Michael Birnbaum reports: “Hundreds of local election workers have been trained to spot and resist foreign influence. The country’s biggest media outlets have teamed up to combat false news. Political parties scour their email systems to close hacker-friendly holes. … In a Stockholm conference center one recent afternoon, about 70 local lawmakers and election officials heard a presentation on how to recognize and address vulnerabilities. [Attendees also] watched a news clip of Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) talking about Russian influence … [and] ways the Kremlin is thought to have targeted the U.S. election.”
— Paul Ryan and the White House have decided to replace the head of a federal commission meant to protect election systems. From Reuters’s Dustin Volz: “Matthew Masterson, a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission who currently serves as its chairman, has been passed over for a second four-year term as one of the agency’s four commissioners. … [Ryan’s spokeswoman] rejected the notion that Masterson was being removed or shoved aside, characterizing the change as routine. … Masterson has been a popular figure among state election officials, many of whom have praised his expertise and leadership on cyber security issues and expressed chagrin at his pending departure.”
Shown is a photo from the 1966 Nassau Herald of Robert Mueller. Donald Trump photographed for the yearbook at New York Military Academy. (New York Military Academy)
— Marc Fisher and Sari Horwitz just posted an in-depth comparison piece of the life paths of Mueller and Trump: “They are the sons of wealth, brought up in families accustomed to power. They were raised to show and demand respect, and they were raised to lead. They rose to positions of enormous authority, the president of the United States and the special counsel chosen to investigate him. … Yet [Mueller] and [Trump], born 22 months apart in New York City, also can seem to come from different planets. One is courtly and crisp, the other blustery and brash. One turned away from the path to greater wealth while the other spent half a century exploring every possible avenue to add to his assets.”
Trump threatens to pull immigration officers out of California
President Trump called gang members “animals” on Feb. 22, and said he’s “thinking about” to pulling federal immigration officers out of California.
— Trump publicly pondered whether to remove federal immigration officials from California. Jenna Johnson reports: “‘If we ever pulled our ICE out, if we ever said, “Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,” in two months they’d be begging for us to come back,’ Trump said during a roundtable discussion about school shootings Thursday with state and local officials. ‘They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.’ … ‘If I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime mess like you’ve never seen in California,’ Trump said. … [California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry] Brown responded with a statement Thursday afternoon: ‘In California, we protect all of our people from criminals and gangs, as well as dangerous assault weapons. We do our job, Mr. President, you do yours.’”
— U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is removing the phrase “a nation of immigrants” from its mission statement. Agency Director L. Francis Cissna first announced the change in a staff email Thursday. The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux reports: “The director highlighted, specifically, the removal of the word ‘customers’ from the new mission statement, making the case that the word gave a false impression.”
Here’s the former statement: “USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”
And the new statement: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”
— Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose that transgender troops be allowed to continue serving in the U.S. military, despite Trump’s string of tweets last July banning them. Dan Lamothe, Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey report: “The defense secretary was scheduled to brief the president on Wednesday, but the meeting was postponed and will occur soon … Dana White, a spokeswoman for Mattis, said the secretary will meet with Trump this week and the president will make an announcement at some point afterward. It’s unclear whether Trump will adopt Mattis’s recommendations, which the president requested in an Aug. 25 executive order.”
— GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson has offered to partially pay for a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The AP’s Josh Lederman reports: “Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said. … In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but potentially from other donors in the evangelical and American Jewish communities, too. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost — expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and what the administration is able to raise.”
— Trump is expected to discuss what one official called “the largest package of new sanctions against the North Korea regime” in his CPAC speech this morning. The vice president previewed the sanctions during his Asia trip earlier this month. (Reuters)
— U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the administration’s Mideast peace proposal is nearly finished. From Anne Gearan: “Haley added that U.S. negotiators [Kushner] and Jason D. Greenblatt are ‘still going back and forth,’ and she gave no more specific timeline. ‘They’re coming up with a plan. It won’t be loved by either side, and it won’t be hated by either side.’ … [Former Obama top adviser] David Axelrod … pressed Haley on whether the United States would propose an independent Palestinian state … ‘It’s for them to decide,’ Haley said of Israel and the Palestinians. She added that ‘it is hard for me to see how they would want’ a single state, and added that she thinks ‘they are pushing toward a two-state’ outcome.”
— “This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference began 472 days after the 2016 presidential election. Its first day ended with jeers for Democrat Hillary Clinton,” writes David Weigel. “Ben Shapiro, a conservative pundit and college campus speaker, told attendees Thursday afternoon that President Trump had ensured that Clinton ‘will never be president of the United States.’ The chant started within seconds: ‘Lock her up! Lock her up!’ ‘She’s already in a jail of her own making,’ said Shapiro, ‘somewhere in the woods in Upstate New York.’ … Like the president, who peppers his remarks and tweets with references to the defeat of ‘Crooked Hillary,’ the CPAC conservatives lacked a clear, new adversary.”
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER (AND 2020):
— Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, is on a listening tour this week with stops in Pittsburgh, Toledo and Indianapolis to hone the party’s economic message. Erica Werner reports: Hoyer “ventured into states that are hosting some competitive House races and where [Nancy Pelosi], already featured in numerous GOP attack ads this cycle, might be less welcome. … In sessions on topics including entrepreneurship, the education skills gap and infrastructure, Hoyer gathered suggestions from local officials and others on everything from how to improve technology at local airports to how to move forward with improving aging infrastructure. … [O]ne point emerged clearly: ‘I think we Democrats just need to focus like a laser on the economic issues,’ Hoyer said.”
— The next political dynasty? Bernie Sanders’s son is considering a congressional run in New Hampshire. From Vice News’s Alex Thompson: “Levi Sanders, [the senator’s] only biological child, [said] that he is actively considering running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District, an open seat expected to be one of the most contested in the country in 2018. ‘Oh absolutely, I’m definitely considering it. I’m excited, motivated, and interested in the race,’ Levi said. ‘I’m just dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s.’ The 48-year-old Levi said that he would run on a similar platform of Medicare for all and free college tuition that animated his father’s presidential run in 2016, when the elder Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in New Hampshire[.]”
— Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s team is gearing up for a potential 2020 presidential bid. Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti reports: “[His advisers are] actively weighing the prospect of a Republican primary challenge to [Trump] against the feasibility of a long-shot general election campaign as an independent. And there’s one consideration driving their thinking perhaps more than any other: what some of his advisers consider the very real, maybe even likely, possibility that Trump doesn’t run again — by choice or not — or that the president becomes so politically hobbled by late next year that the political landscape fundamentally shifts in Kasich’s favor. That’s one reason Kasich has yet to decide whether to pursue an independent bid or a primary challenge.”
— The calls for judicial impeachment are growing louder in Pennsylvania, where judges just redrew the state’s congressional map. Christopher Ingraham writes: “Judicial impeachment in Pennsylvania requires the support of a majority of House members and two-thirds of the Senate. Republicans currently hold enough seats in both chambers to carry out an impeachment without any Democratic support. Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati have been sharply critical of the court, saying that it ‘conspicuously seized the redistricting process.’ But they have not weighed in on the question of impeachment. Legal experts say the comments from other Republican lawmakers are alarming.”
— Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), facing a tough reelection this year, caught flak for an event in which he drank a glass of chocolate milk to demonstrate his commitment to diversity. From the Chicago Tribune’s Kim Janssen: “‘It’s really, really good,’ Rauner said after taking a sip of the sugary drink. ‘Diversity!’ The clunky corporate metaphor was the brainchild of Hyatt Hotels diversity and inclusion executive Tyronne Stoudemire[.] … Stoudemire, who is black, poured a glass of milk to represent the white men who lead most organizations (including, um, the state of Illinois). ‘This chocolate syrup represents diversity,’ Stoudemire said, before squirting a healthy dash of brown syrup that immediately sank to the bottom of the glass. ‘When you look at most organizations, diversity sits at the bottom of the organization,’ Stoudemire continued. ‘You don’t get inclusion until you actually stir it up.’ Rauner then stirred the syrup into the milk, turning it brown, and he took a sip and pronounced it good.”
— The DCCC took the rare step of posting negative research on a candidate running in the Texas 7th’s Democratic primary. The Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston reports: “The [DCCC] posted negative research on [Laura] Moser, a Houston journalist vying among six other Democrats in the March 6 primary to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson. Democrats locally and nationally have worried that Moser is too liberal to carry a race that has emerged in recent months as one of the most competitive races in the country. The DCCC posting, which features the kind of research that is often reserved for Republicans, notes that Moser only recently moved back to her hometown of Houston and that much of her campaign fundraising money has gone to her husband’s political consulting firm. It also calls her a ‘Washington insider.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump made a pitch for the border wall in a morning tweet:
MS-13 gang members are being removed by our Great ICE and Border Patrol Agents by the thousands, but these killers come back in from El Salvador, and through Mexico, like water. El Salvador just takes our money, and Mexico must help MORE with this problem. We need The Wall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2018
The Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent fact-checked the president:
“By the thousands” is a consistent exaggeration from Trump. The deputy director of ICE says 796, not thousands, of MS-13 “members and associates” were arrested (not deported) in the 2017 fiscal year – including US citizens. Activists say far from all of them are actually MS-13. pic.twitter.com/lk2yxCCfpH
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) February 23, 2018
Barack Obama joined his wife in applauding the student activists rising up in the wake of the Parkland shooting:
Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe; marching and organizing to remake the world as it should be. We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 22, 2018
A House Republican pushed back on Trump’s call to raise the age requirement for purchasing a rifle:
Why should a 20yr old single mom be denied the right to defend herself and her kids? We should lower the age to buy a handgun to 18, instead of raising the age to buy an AR15. SAD! https://t.co/riLrfXZlbb
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 22, 2018
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) responded to the NRA chief’s attacks on her in his CPAC speech:
Wayne LaPierre can call me whatever he wants. He doesn’t scare me. You know what scares Wayne LaPierre? That people will lift their voices & demand action. That his name-calling & bullying won’t work anymore.
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) February 23, 2018
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) addressed the assault weapons bans following his CNN town hall appearance:
Under N.Y. State “Assault Weapon” ban 1 simple cosmetic change pictured here is difference between legal & banned.Otherwise exactly same 1/4 pic.twitter.com/kYtwxGEz1T
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 22, 2018
This 2008 tweet from NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch also recirculated after the town hall:
Teenagers piss me off.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) May 29, 2008
Obama’s former senior adviser celebrated reports of companies cutting ties with the NRA:
Maybe there is more promise in developments such as these than relying on a Congress in the thrall of the gun industry.https://t.co/3kMVr9NoMS
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) February 23, 2018
CPAC enforced strict security measures:
long security line to get into #CPAC2018 where, for the record, firearms are strictly prohibited pic.twitter.com/du5VDViTat
— J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) February 22, 2018
A former White House adviser clashed with a HuffPost reporter at the conference:
Nearly just got into a fight with Sebastian Gorka at a bar at CPAC, and all I did was ask why he blocks people on Twitter
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) February 22, 2018
A New York Times opinions editor bemoaned the state of the conservative movement:
I know I should be over it, but the speed at which the organized conservative movement became the ideological home of Marion Le Pen, Seb Gorka, Nigel Farage, Dinesh D’Souza and their ilk remains shocking to me.
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) February 22, 2018
Conservative and former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin replied:
I share the sentiment and wish it were a sudden development as we could then hope for its sudden reversal. But the truth is that the current state of the GOP has been a long time in the making. Current leadership was and is too cowardly, self-serving, and aligned to correct it. https://t.co/XH3k120sHP
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) February 23, 2018
A spokesman for Obama’s Justice Department analyzed the latest Manafort indictment:
One thing that really comes through in the new indictment is just how bad Manafort’s cash crunch was when he told Tom Barrack in early 2016 that “I really need to get to Trump.” To work for him for free. Hmm.
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) February 23, 2018
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch placed the state’s indicted governor on its front page:
Sneak peak. @stltoday pic.twitter.com/Jrs0HpqO8I
— Lisa Eisenhauer (@STLed) February 23, 2018
The former director of the Office of Government Ethics called for the VA secretary’s resignation:
I’m not letting this go folks. Help me spread: #ShulkinResign.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 23, 2018
This quote from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) prompted some pointed responses from congressional reporters:
Ted Cruz on reporters working on Capitol Hill: Their questions “are never about substance.”
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 22, 2018
A Weekly Standard congressional reporter:
Haley Byrd on lawmakers working on Capitol Hill: Their answers are never about substance https://t.co/ZJF6CuVVzf
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) February 22, 2018
An editor for Axios:
“How do you feel about this Trump idea that’s been floated, that they use the proceeds of international tax repatriation, tax revenue, to fund infrastructure?”
— Sam Baker (@sam_baker) February 22, 2018
And Obama’s former foreign policy adviser announced some personal news:
Some news: I have a book coming out on June 12th: “The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House” – my story of going to work for Barack Obama’s campaign at 29 and walking out the door of the White House on the last day. https://t.co/W8X2GlIcmf
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) February 22, 2018
— BuzzFeed News, “He Became A Celebrity For Putting Science Before God. Now Lawrence Krauss Faces Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct,” by Peter Aldhous, Azeen Ghorayshi and Virginia Hughes: “BuzzFeed News has learned … of many wide-ranging allegations of Krauss’s inappropriate behavior over the last decade — including groping women, ogling and making sexist jokes to undergrads, and telling an employee at Arizona State University, where he is a tenured professor, that he was going to buy her birth control so she didn’t inconvenience him with maternity leave. In response to complaints, two institutions — Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario — have quietly restricted him from their campuses. Our reporting is based on official university documents, emails, and interviews with more than 50 people.”
— “‘I don’t know how you got this way,’” by The Post’s Terrence McCoy: “He was two years out of high school now, and he didn’t have a job, or a car, or a place of his own, or much money beyond what his mother gave him — nothing at all to occupy his time except a computer that had carried him to the most extreme parts of the Internet, and to beliefs that no one in his family could understand. In the year since the 2016 presidential election, Kam had gone from supporting white supremacists, to joining a neo-Nazi group, to shouting ‘white lives matter’ at a rally, to standing beside Richard Spencer outside the White House, to increasingly tense conversations with his mother and grandmother, both of whom were beginning to fear that what they had once thought was just a phase was quickly becoming his life. How did this happen?”
— “Enough with the rancid conspiracy theories,” National Review’s Kevin Williamson writes in a powerful column, excoriating right-wing figures including David Clarke, Dinesh D’Souza and Scott Baio, who has suggested on Twitter that Charlottesville murder victim Heather Heyer was the same woman who was presented as the mother of a Sandy Hook victim years ago. “The implication — that the events [were] some sort of hoax pulled off by a powerful and far-reaching conspiracy of wily political operators who could not be bothered to hire an extra actress to fortify their schemes — is poisonous, lunatic conspiracy-theory stuff. Normally, I would not give one furry little rat’s patootie … but this is a man who was invited to speak on the opening day of the Republican National Convention in 2016, who is a regular representative of the conservative view on Fox News and other outlets, and who is, therefore, a figure of some cultural consequence[.]
“[Conservatives should be ashamed of] bending the knee to … every other third-rate celebrity who has something nice to say about a Republican from time to time. And we should be ashamed of ourselves if we come to accept this kind of dishonesty in the service of political expediency. If conservative ideas cannot prevail in the marketplace of ideas without lies, they do not deserve to prevail at all.”
— New York Times, “Am I Going Blind?” by Frank Bruni: “They say that death comes like a thief in the night. Lesser vandals have the same M.O. The affliction that stole my vision, or at least a big chunk of it, did so as I slept. I went to bed seeing the world one way. I woke up seeing it another. This was about four months ago, though it feels like an eternity. So much has happened since.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Florida House approves bill to post ‘In God We Trust’ in all public schools,” from the Tampa Bay Times: “[T]he Florida House overwhelmingly passed a measure Wednesday its sponsor said aimed at bringing ‘light’ to the schools. The bill (HB 839) would require all public schools to post the state motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ in a ‘conspicuous place.’ Sponsor Rep. Kim Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat who runs her own ministry, said Florida needed the legislation, given the goings on in the state. ‘He is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white,’ Daniels said. ‘He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.’ She spoke directly of the [Parkland] school shooting, and said it’s no secret that the state has ‘gun issues’ that must be addressed. ‘But the real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart,’ Daniels said.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sen. Ted Cruz told CPAC attendees, “I think the Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson, and Republicans are happily the party of Homer and Bart and Maggie and Marge.” (Michael Cavna)
The head of “The Simpsons” took issue with Cruz’s analogy:
.@TheSimpsons Ted Cruz says Maggie Simpson would vote for him.
I think Ted’s the one who could use a pacifier in his mouth.
— Al Jean (@AlJean) February 22, 2018
.@TheSimpsons The way things are going even Mr. Burns is thinking of becoming a Democrat.
— Al Jean (@AlJean) February 22, 2018
James Hohmann is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post.
Parkland Survivor To Melania Trump: Stop Donald Trump Jr. From Cyberbullying Me
His conspiracy theory “like” put a “target on my back,” the 14-year-old tweeted.
By Mary Papenfuss
A 14-year-old survivor of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has pleaded with first lady Melania Trump to stop her stepson Donald Trump Jr. from bullying her and her family online.
“You say that your mission as first lady is to stop cyber bullying,” tweeted Lauren Hogg. “Don’t you think it would have been smart to have a convo with your stepson @DonaldJTrumpJr before he liked a post about a false conspiracy theory which … put a target on my back?”
“I’ve been getting all these horrible messages from Nazis and white supremacists and I woke up this morning and remembered that Melania Trump’s mission was to fight cyberbullying,” Hogg told Huffpost on Friday. “That’s what’s happening to me: cyberbullying. I thought she could do something about Donald Trump Jr.”
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump’s eldest son “liked” two tweets promoting a conspiracy theory about Lauren’s 17-year-old brother, David Hogg, another shooting survivor. The cooked-up conspiracy claimed he had been coached to speak out against guns by his former FBI agent father to “cover” for the agency’s failure to prevent the shooting. The ruse was backed up by the “deep state media,” claimed one of the posts.
The fake theories circulating about the Hoggs have resulted in death threats against the family, the siblings’ mom, Rebecca Boldrick, told The Washington Post.
A “like” by Donald Trump Jr. can have a tremendous effect because he has 2.6 million followers.
Melania Trump vowed shortly before her husband was elected president that if she became first lady, one of her key missions would be to combat online bullying. “Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” she explained in a speech in Philadelphia.
Lauren Hogg told the first lady in her tweet that the conspiracy theories are “re-victimizing” her family. “I’m 14 I should never have had to deal with any of this … I thought it couldn’t get worse [but] it has because of your family.”
The Hogg siblings are now dealing with an onslaught of social media hate after a gunman killed 17 people at their school.
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“It’s unbelievable to me that these people are even saying this,” David Hogg told CNN. He called Donald Trump Jr.’s support for the conspiracies “disgusting.”
The 17-year-old has become a key target for conspiracy theories swirling around Parkland’s student activists. One conspiracy video that presented him as a paid “crisis actor” — not a student — hit No. 1 on YouTube’s trending page before the company took it down earlier this week.
Melania Trump got caught in another Twitter storm last week after she encouraged people to “test the power of kindness” on Random Acts of Kindness Day. “It’s an opportunity to teach our children the importance of taking care of one another,” she wrote.
A huge number of responses urged her to encourage her husband to be kind — or resign.
The first lady had not yet responded to Lauren Hogg’s tweets as of Friday evening.
Florida Shooting Survivors Are Being Targeted by Conspiracy Theories. Here’s What to Know
By Katie Reilly February 22, 2018
After surviving a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead, many of the student survivors have become vocal advocates for gun control and changes in mental health care and school safety.
Just days after they lived through the worst high school shooting in U.S. history, they’re being targeted by conspiracy theories that claim they are paid “crisis actors” involved in a shooting hoax.
Other, more mainstream conservatives are questioning whether the survivors are little more than pawns manipulated by Democrats, gun-control activists and even the FBI.
The conspiracy theories are being promoted by fringe right-wing media outlets and social media accounts. An aide to Florida state Rep. Shawn Harrison was fired on Tuesday after he falsely told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that two Stoneman Douglas students were actually actors “that travel to various crisis when they happen,” using a conspiracy video to back up his claim.
Some claims are threatening to go mainstream because of attention from President Donald Trump’s son. Donald Trump Jr. liked two tweets spreading a conspiracy theory about student David Hogg, accusing him of working with the FBI to criticize the president.
As students, politicians and tech companies continue to respond to the conspiracy theories, here’s what to know about the controversy:
What are the hoax conspiracy theories?
The false conspiracy theories have focused heavily on Marjory Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg, the high school’s student news director who has been one of the most most visible and vocal advocates in the wake of the shooting. Hogg’s father is a former FBI agent — a detail that conspiracy theorists pounced on because the FBI is facing criticism for not investigating tips that were made about the Parkland shooter. President Trump has linked that failure to investigate with the ongoing investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.
Postings on numerous right-wing Facebook pages and other social media outlets have also fueled false claims that Hogg is a crisis actor, hired to act as a victim in the wake of a mass tragedy.
That claim and others have been promoted by far-right sites and have spread quickly on social media. The Gateway Pundit, a site that has promoted debunked conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton in the past, accused Parkland students of plotting with liberal activists “to further anti-Conservative rhetoric and an anti-gun agenda.”
How are Parkland students responding?
“These people saying this is absolutely disturbing. And I am not an actor in any sense, way, shape or form,” Hogg said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday. “I am the son of a former FBI agent, and that is true. But, as such, it is also true that I go to Stoneman Douglas High School, and I was a witness to this. I’m not a crisis actor, I am somebody that had to witness this and live through this.”
“The fact that Donald Trump Jr. liked that post is disgusting to me,” he added.
Emma González told BuzzFeed that she and her classmates having some fun at the expense of the conspiracy theorists.
“It’s actually really funny to us, last night we kept showing the pictures to each other of the actors that we’re supposed to be and could not stop laughing — it was nice, we haven’t had such a good laugh in what feels like years,” she told BuzzFeed. “It just shows how weak the other side’s argument is, like they have to attack the messengers since the message is airtight. Also I’m thankful that there are people out there finding my doppelgänger for me, always wanted to have a party with a room full of people who look like me.”
Sarah Chadwick, a student whose tweets demanding action from President Trump went viral last week, joked that Hogg “can’t act to save his life.”
How are tech companies responding?
Facebook said Wednesday that it is working to remove posts that falsely label Parkland survivors as “crisis actors” working for liberal activists.
YouTube faced criticism for prominently featuring a video that claimed Hogg was a crisis actor. The company said it is working to fix the problem.
“This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it. As soon as we became aware of the video, we removed it from Trending and from YouTube for violating our policies. We are working to improve our systems moving forward,” a YouTube spokesperson told CNBC.
How are politicians responding to conspiracy theories?
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called the false “crisis actor” conspiracy theories “the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency.”
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called the conspiracy theories “disgusting smears” and praised the students for speaking out.
Florida state Rep. Shawn Harrison — the lawmaker whose aide, Benjamin Kelly, promoted the conspiracy theory — called it an “insensitive and inappropriate allegation” and then fired him. “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,” Harrison said on Twitter.
This has happened before
Conspiracy theories have emerged after past shootings, even though they have been repeatedly debunked. Conspiracy theorists have alleged that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting did not happen and argued that the gunman in Las Vegas was joined by other shooters. Both claims are false.