Some right-wing sites and figures have suggested that the teenagers are actors posing as grieving students, or that people from the left fed them talking points. One student, David Hogg, 17, became a target after he said that his father is a retired FBI agent. By Monday, the fringe website Gateway Pundit had published an article claiming that Hogg was being coached to peddle anti-gun and anti-Trump rhetoric and that he was a pawn of the FBI.
“And you know, yes, there are always crackpots in situations like this who would come out of the woodwork with these irrational — this paranoia-fueled nonsense. It happened after Sandy Hook, too. It happens a lot. The far-right wing thrives on conspiracy theories,” Kimmel said. “Global warming is a conspiracy. The Russia investigation is a conspiracy. Obama’s birth certificate was a conspiracy. And those are just the big ones.”
Kimmel also singled out one of President Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., who liked two tweets linking to false stories about Hogg.
“But in this case, we have known people, people like Donald Trump Jr., the president’s least favorite son, perpetuated this kind of stuff. … That is our president’s son doing that, liking a story that directly defames a student that survived a shooting,” Kimmel said.
And Ted Nugent:
“You remember Ted Nugent? That pair of camouflage cargo shorts that came to life? Well, Ted Nugent, who’s a member of the board of the NRA, shared this article on Facebook,” Kimmel said, referring to an article claiming that Hogg’s activism was “all THEATER.”
“Is that okay? Should the person who actively spreads this garbage around be a member of your board if you are a reputable organization? I don’t think so, but I want you to consider this, especially if you are a Trump supporter or a member of the NRA. Do you really think these kids, these teenagers who spoke out after a shooting in their school, are actors who are part of some kind of deep-state left wing conspiracy? If the answer is, ‘Yes, I do believe that,’ I have some bad news for you. You’re crazy. You’re a crazy person. Your brain is not functioning. And I’m worried about it.”
The online campaign to attack and discredit survivors of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., began on anonymous forums such as 4chan and Reddit before it rapidly bled into conservative websites and various social media platforms. Conspiracy videos about Hogg, for example, dominated YouTube’s “Trending” list.
Hogg has spoken out publicly about his detractors.
“It’s annoying. I hate it. But it’s part of American democracy,” he told The Washington Post. “Am I an actor? No. Am I a witness? Yes.”
Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Abby Ohlheiser and Andrew Ba Tran contributed to this article.