As conspiracy theorists accuse survivors of the Florida school shooting of being “crisis actors,” President Trump on Saturday retweeted a fringe radio host who once used identical language to peddle hoaxes about the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012.
The host, Wayne Dupree, has also repeatedly attacked survivors of the high school massacre in Parkland, Fla., who are pushing for new gun laws after 17 of their schoolmates and teachers were killed with an AR-15 rifle last week.
Trump’s retweet of Dupree had nothing to do with guns. It was also four years old and didn’t seem particularly relevant to anything in the news.
“It’s ok 2 b black, conservative and love America and not vote Democrat!” Dupree posted in 2014.
“So true Wayne,” Trump wrote as he shared the message on Saturday morning.
The president went on to mention record low black unemployment rates under his presidency, something he has repeatedly claimed since the December employment figures came out.
But critics, noting Trump’s history of retweeting far-right figures, accused him of deliberately promoting a school shooting conspiracy theorist just as gun control opponents are trying to discredit the Florida teens with similar hoaxes.
“The President of the United States is lifting up a voice that is smearing the survivors of the Parkland massacre,” the liberal news outlet ThinkProgress wrote as it dug up Dupree’s history of fringe theories.
In 2013 — about a month after a gunman killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and spurred calls for gun control — Dupree posted several articles on his website about the “Sandy Hook hoax” or “Sandy Hook victim hoax.”
The articles, published under Dupree’s name, accused parents of children at the school, and in one case the medical examiner who identifies the bodies, of being “crisis actors” — impersonating parents to promote “the New World Order agenda of total control, including the control of children’s minds.”
“On and before December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook was infested with espionage operatives,” reads one article. “These operatives posed as the incredible, primarily parents.”
Another: “Now I dont know if this means that everything is fake but it certainly shows that this is a planned event.”
Dupree didn’t immediately respond to questions from The Washington Post.
A Snopes article debunking the Sandy Hook theories noted that they continue to spread today, with hoax articles claiming the same actors are playing parents of victims from last week’s shooting in Florida.
Dupree was one of many people to peddle theories about the Sandy Hook massacre. He has not gone quite so far in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, but other conspiracy theorists accuse student survivors like David Hogg and Emma González, who have used their stories from the shooting to push for gun control, of being “crisis actors.”
But Dupree has repeatedly criticized the teens on social media and his Internet radio show, which has a modest 12,000 subscribers on YouTube.
“Listen, I am really trying to give these students spokespeople a chance,” Dupree wrote on Facebook last Sunday, four days after the shooting. “I know they are still grieving & emotions are still high but this misinformation on gun control and blaming Trump is making my mercury rise.”
As the teens kept showing up on national news, Dupree’s patience soon ran out. He juxtaposed photos of the shooting survivors smiling for a photo and sitting somberly as they discussed the shooting in an interview. “3 … 2 … 1 … Action!”
Dupree wrote on Twitter. “I ain’t saying nuthin.”
The next day, Dupree suggested two of the survivors were gay activists.
“Unfortunately, you can already tell these kids are going to be card-carrying leftists,” he wrote beneath a picture of Hogg and Gonzalez on CNN. “I hate to be blunt despite what tragedy they went through, but both those kids look like they are going to be future members of the LGBTQXYZ movement.”
On Friday, Dupree brought his radio show to the Conservative Political Action Conference. He wasn’t long into the show before, again, the Parkland survivors got under his skin.
“Now you disrespecting a U.S. Senator,” Dupree said, referring to a recent CNN town hall in which teens confronted Sen. Marco Rubio for taking donations from the National Rifle Association. “I felt bad about them last week. Now they’re grown-up.”
The host noted that Trump — whom he has long supported and who occasionally gave him a shout-out on Twitter before his election — was speaking at the conference that day.
In his speech, Trump called for teachers to be armed with guns, a popular suggestion with Dupree and other conservatives.
The next morning, for reasons still not entirely clear, the president dug up a 4-year-old tweet from the radio host and shared his name with the world.