As the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting fight for gun control and school safety, critics are questioning their intentions and attacking their credibility. But the teen activists continue to push back.
In the six weeks since the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the students have defended themselves against constant false claims, ridicule and conspiracy theories. Seventeen-year-old David Hogg, who has become one of the most prominent voices in the student-led movement and has frequently drawn the ire of gun supporters, has been at the center of the most recent attack.
Conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham mocked Hogg on Twitter Wednesday after he said in an interview that he had been rejected from four California universities. Ingraham wrote that Hogg “whines” about his rejection and linked to a story on conservative news site Daily Wire.
Hogg responded swiftly to Ingraham by threatening a boycott of her advertisers. By Wednesday evening, Hogg had compiled a list of 12 major brands that advertise on Ingraham's show and called on his 600,000 followers to boycott the companies. The list, which included AT&T, Hulu, Arby’s, and Nutrish, has been retweeted 25,000 times.
Thursday morning, Rachael Ray's Nutrish brand heeded Hogg's call, tweeting, "We are in the process of removing our ads from Laura Ingraham’s program."
Wayfair and TripAdvisor also followed suit, the companies confirmed to NBC.
Ingraham later apologized to Hogg, writing, "Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —including David Hogg. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David immediately after that horrific shooting. And as always, he’s welcome to come on my show anytime for a productive discussion."
Hogg did not recant, telling NBC News that he is still calling for an advertiser boycott. He wrote on Twitter that he would not accept Ingraham's apology until "you denounce the way your network has treated my friends and I in this fight. It’s time to love thy neighbor, not mudsling at children."
This isn't the first attack against Hogg specifically. He is a student journalist at Stoneman Douglas and was focused on documenting his school’s tragedy. He initially gained attention for recording himself hiding in a closet with classmates and interviewing them during the shooting. In a CBS interview, he described riding his bike back to school later in the evening with his camera to record more interviews. But conservative writer Sarah Rumpf questioned this account in a Monday blog post and wondered if Hogg lied about being at school during the shooting.
Rumpf, on the conservative political blog Red State, misinterpreted Hogg’s comments to CBS to mean that perhaps Hogg rode his bike to school in the evening because he had not been in school at all that day. The theory was spread across social media.
Rumpf later issued a correction and apology, writing that she was “absolutely wrong” and that “David Hogg was absolutely on campus during the shooting.” She added: “It appears that the problem was that CBS included a very confusing quote without context.”
After the story spread online, Hogg explained on Twitter that he rode back to school after returning home because “my sister was crying so much I couldn't stand not being able to do anything about it.”
Hogg also faced backlash after delivering an impassioned speech at last week’s March for Our Live rally in Washington Saturday, which organizers say drew more than 800,000 participants. After addressing the crowd and calling on Congress to enact sweeping gun law changes, Hogg raised his arm and put a closed fist in the air.
Many Twitter users compared the gesture to the salute of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party. A meme spread through social media with side-by-side images of the teen and dictator and the caption: “All in favor of gun control, raise your right arm.” The Daily Wire and other conservative outlets like Breitbart and Infowars wrote about the comparison.
However, Hogg’s closed-fist gesture is different from the Nazi salute, which consisted of an open hand and down-turned palm. And the raised fist has a history of being paired with political activism. Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists after receiving their Olympic medals at the 1968 Games, and feminists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes did so as well on a 1971 cover of Esquire magazine.
Hogg himself did not respond to the memes, but a classmate did. Though Parkland student Kyle Kashuv has been outspoken about his disagreements with Hogg, he told The Hill that “it is reprehensible that people are comparing a 17-year-old to Hitler. As a Jew, I find it egregiously misinformed.”
The comparisons to early-19th century Germany didn’t stop there. Alex Jones of Infowars, the outlet that helped spread the false theory Hogg and his classmates are coached crisis actors, called the March for Our Lives a “Hitler Youth invasion” and pronounced Hogg the “propagandist-in-chief,” even dubbing video of Hogg’s speech with audio of Hitler.
At least one GOP congressmember made a Hitler Youth comparison as well.
Hogg doesn’t seem to be distracted by the detractors, though. He’s currently busy mobilizing constituents across the country to organize local “Town Hall for Our Lives” events to talk about gun violence. As of Thursday morning, more than 400 events had been scheduled.