In the past month, the vocal teenage survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, with their ballooning social-media followings and national TV appearances, have emerged as the newest and youngest voices in the push to beef up gun-control laws in the United States.
And critics who have bad-mouthed the teens on the Internet or the airwaves have found their own vitriol turned back on them by people sympathetic to the plight of students who became activists after seeing their classmates and educators slaughtered.
There was the aide to a Florida legislator who was fired after he called the school shooting survivors crisis actors who travel from tragic place to tragic place making impassioned but bogus political pleas to take away gun rights. Then there was Donald Trump Jr., who was blasted after he liked a tweet saying one of the most vocal students had been coached by his FBI agent father to peddle “anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation.”
And several naysayers have been castigated for criticizing the teens for smiling on the set of CBS’s morning news show, saying the students were “posing for the photos like they are partying rock stars.”
And then there is Leslie Gibson.
A week ago, the Republican was the only declared candidate to represent the 57th District in Maine’s House of Representatives. On Friday, his fortunes vastly changed as he quit the race to represent the towns of Greene and Sabattus, according to the Associated Press.
Gibson had become known outside his little corner of Maine for what many say was his rage-tweet against the vocal survivors of the shooting that killed 17 in Parkland, Fla.
“There is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you’re a frothing at the mouth moonbat,” the now-deleted tweet read.
The 17-year-old girl he was referring to is Emma González, who has emerged as one of the most outspoken activists in the Parkland group.
She has, for example, called President Trump’s plan to arm teachers as a first line of defense school shooters “stupid.”
“First of all, Douglas ran out of paper for, like, two weeks in the school year, and now all a sudden they have $400 million to pay for teachers to get trained to arm themselves?” she says. “Really? Really?”
Sometimes, she has led people in “Shame on you!” chants directed at lawmakers.
Gibson’s tweet last week was a response to a report on González’s rocketing number of Twitter followers, the AP reported. But she wasn’t the only Parkland survivor he targeted.
He also criticized David Hogg, another Parkland student who has become a prominent activist following the shooting, calling Hogg “a bald faced liar.”
The reaction was swift. Hogg, who also saw a precipitous increase in his Twitter following, asked whether somebody, anybody, would run against Gibson.
The next day, Eryn Gilchrist, a 28-year-old Democrat who also hails from Maine’s 57th District, announced that she would also run for the seat, according to CBS News, because she was “horrified and embarrassed” that Gibson would represent her in the legislature.
And Thomas Martin Jr., a Republican, said he “couldn’t sit back” after reading Gibson’s comments and felt compelled to enter the race, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Gibson said he made the decision to quit after meeting with friends, family members and colleagues. Those consultations included what he calls a “very positive conversation” with Martin, the newspaper reported. Dropping out, he said is “the best decision for myself, my family, the Maine GOP and for candidate Tom Martin.”
Just as they have criticized politicians for what they say is inaction on gun control, the students have also gone head-to-head against their critics.
“I just think it’s a testament to the sick immaturity and broken state of our government when these people feel the need to peddle conspiracy theories about people that were in a school shooting where 17 people died, and it just makes me sick,” Hogg told 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,” he said.
Late Friday, he took to Twitter again. This time he was sharing news that Gibson was out of the race.