The students from Parkland, Florida who organized to fight gun violence following last week's school shooting were attacked by former Republican Rep. Jack Kingston. In a panel discussion on CNN's New Day Tuesday, Kingston belittled the student survivors and challenged their ability to think independently and organize to create change. "I know their sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups who have an agenda," he said.
Kingston was immediately challenged by CNN host Alisyn Camerota who was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School interviewing survivors shortly after the shooting. "Do you think these kids aren't acting on their own volition?" Camerota asked Kingston.
The former congressman argued that "organized groups" are the ones truly organizing things like the "March for Our Lives." Kingston said:
Do we really think — and I say this sincerely — that 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally? I would say to you very plainly that organized groups that are out there like George Soros are always ready to take the charge and it's kind of like instant rally, instant protest.
It was up to Camerota, once again, to intervene. "Jack, I'm sorry. I have to correct you," Camerota said. "I was down there; I talked to these kids. These kids were wildly motivated. I talked to these kids before they knew the body count, how many of their friends had been killed."
"No one had talked to them yet," Camerota continued. "They hadn't been indoctrinated by some left-wing group, they were motivated from what they saw and what they endured."
After Kingston interjected once more about the survivors' ability to plan their own response, including trips to the state capital, Camerota responded, "They're 17-years-old; they can figure this out."
Kingston had also attacked the survivors on Twitter earlier in the day, posting a link to a USA Today piece on upcoming protests, writing, "O really? “Students” are planning a nationwide rally? Not left wing gun control activists using 17yr kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy?" He added the hashtags #Soros, #Resistance, and #Antifa.
Kingston spent more than two decades in Congress. He won election in Georgia from 1992 to 2014, when he decided to run for the Senate. He lost the Republican primary and now works in public policy, fundraising, and as a commentator.
Later on CNN, some of the student survivors themselves responded, asking the former lawmaker for an apology. Brandon Abzug told Camerota the comments were "not right."
"I think it's very despicable that he would even have the audacity to say that," Abzug told CNN. "Young people all across this country and over the world should feel that they have the power to make things right. And especially in the wake of a tragedy, we really show who we truly are. To say that just because we're young we can't make a difference is not right and he should apologize for that."
His fellow student survivor and organizer Delaney Tarr was in the CNN studios and told Camerota that she wasn't surprised by the congressman's attacks.
"With any movement comes this amount of hating and trolling and people telling you, 'You're just a little kid, you don't know what you're talking about.' Or, 'You're a puppet,'" Tarr told CNN. "But ultimately, we have to move past all that because the amount of support that we're getting is so overwhelming compared to everything else."
In addition to speaking at rallies and giving interviews, a group of the school shooting survivors have started a group Never Again MSD which is working to make their school shooting the country's last. One of their actions will be a march both in D.C. and nationwide on March 24, the "March for Our Lives."