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High school senior David Hogg (right) has been a popular target of conspiracy theories. Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Several of the students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week have become targets of conspiracy theorists online and on social media — especially those who have emerged as advocates in support of gun reform.

  • The theories — which range from accusing the students of being pretend "crisis actors," to working on behalf of the FBI — are far-fetched, but have spread rapidly online.

The bottom line: As Parkland student Jaclyn Corin wrote on twitter, they're just kids.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Some of the conspiracy theories:

  • Donald Trump Jr. liked two tweets claiming that high school senior David Hogg, who has been particularly outspoken about changing gun laws, is a "plant" that is being coached to say specific lines because his dad is an FBI agent.
    • Hogg responded in a statement to Buzzfeed news: "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."
  • Former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke tweeted that the students' efforts on gun reform has, investor and political activist, "GEORGE SOROS' FINGERPRINTS all over it." The theory was also picked up by the Gateway Pundit.
  • An aide to state Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa) was fired after emailing a reporter: "Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen," according to the Tampa Bay Times.
  • Alex Jones, host of Infowars, suggested that the shooting was a "false flag" put on by gun control groups.
  • Former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Georgia) told CNN's "New Day": "Do we really think — and I say this sincerely — do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally."
  • Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday: "Everything they’re doing is right out of the Democrat Party’s various playbooks. It has the same enemies: the N.R.A. and guns.”
  • Conservative political commentator Dinesh D'Souza suggested the students' grief was "politically orchestrated" and "phony & inauthentic." Two of his other tweets also led to intense backlash, which he ultimately apologized for.

Go deeper

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

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