David Hogg has become a strong voice among survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
The attention has given him a powerful platform — but it has also made him the subject of smear campaigns and demonstrably false conspiracy theories.
Either he has been “coached” by his father, a former FBI agent; or he is a “pawn” for anti-gun campaigners; or, the most far-fetched, he is not a victim but a “crisis actor,” paid to travel to disaster sites to argue against stricter gun laws.
“I’m not a crisis actor,” Hogg told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on AC360 on Tuesday. “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,” the 17-year-old added.
As the false theories continued circulating on Tuesday, US Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, came to the students defense on Twitter.
“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 wrote.
Hogg and many of his classmates have been outspoken about the need for stricter gun laws since they witnessed the massacre that killed 17 students and staff members at their Florida high school last week.
They have become the subject of false conspiracy theories and smear campaigns online. Memes and YouTube videos make outlandish claims that some of the students are “actors” working for a globalist gun grab who travel around the country to the sites of shootings.
Some are also accusing Hogg of letting his father, a former FBI agent, coach him to speak out against President Donald Trump — an allegation that Donald Trump Jr. endorsed on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Hogg criticized those who amplified the claims and said it was disturbing that Trump Jr. liked the Twitter post.
“Unlike the people who are tweeting that stuff about me and my dad, I haven’t lost hope in America and my dad hasn’t either,” said Hogg with his father by his side.
Responding to claims he is in favor of repealing the Second Amendment, Hogg said he doesn’t “want to take a constitutional right away from American citizens.”
He believes Americans can own a gun if they are mentally stable, don’t have previous major convictions and are “not going to go out and commit these atrocities”
“We have a right to live just as we have a right to bear arms,” he said.