Ted Nugent, a National Rifle Association (NRA) board member and rock musician, became the latest to lob personal attacks at the teenage Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors who organized the March for Our Lives — saying that the kids are “liars,” “poor, mushy-brained children,” and even “soulless” during an interview on March 30 with The Joe Pags Show, a nationally syndicated conservative radio show.
“All you have to do now is not only feel sorry for the liars, but you have to go against them and pray to God that the lies can be crushed and the liars can be silenced so that real measures can be put into place to actually save children’s lives,” Nugent said.
Many conservatives have been critical of the Parkland survivors’ political beliefs, which isn’t too surprising given that they generally want gun control. But some, like Nugent, have gone further than that — attacking the kids for unrelated and often personal aspects of their lives.
On the radio show, Nugent claimed that the left had lied to the Parkland students, which he said meant they were committing “spiritual suicide.”
“To attack the good, law-abiding families of America when well-known, predictable murderers commit these horrors is deep in the category of soulless,” Nugent continued. “These poor children — I’m afraid to say and it hurts me to say this, but the evidence is irrefutable — they have no soul.”
It’s not unusual for politics to get personal, though it’s particularly glaring when prominent pundits and even lawmakers are going after teenagers in such a personal way. But Nugent’s comments aren’t a one-off incident — they’re part of a broader campaign of politically motivated character assassination.
Nugent isn’t the only conservative attacking the Parkland survivors
Other examples of false, bizarre, and personal conservative attacks on March for Our Lives leaders:
- Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the host of Infowars, has pushed conspiracy theories that the March for Our Lives organizers are “being funded” and “given scripts” — insinuating that they’re actors.
- Conservative documentarian and noted troll Dinesh D’Souza tweeted in February, “How interesting to hear students who can’t support themselves for one day giving us lectures about American social policy.”
- The campaign of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has a history of racism, posted a meme on his Facebook page mocking March for Our Lives organizer Gonzalez for her Cuban heritage. The meme stated, “This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don’t speak Spanish and ignore the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense.”
- On Twitter, conservative figures, including actor Adam Baldwin, have shared fake images of Gonzalez tearing up the US Constitution. In the real image, she was tearing up a gun target.
- The conservative outlet Breitbart rounded up tweets that falsely suggested Hogg performed a Nazi salute during the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC.
- Infowars’ Jones also put out a video of Hogg’s March for Our Lives speech dubbed with an Adolf Hitler speech, and a separate video that depicted Gonzalez as a member of the Hitler Youth.
- Leslie Gibson, a Republican candidate for the Maine state House, called Gonzalez a “skinhead lesbian” and Hogg a “moron” and a “baldfaced liar.” The comments drew so much criticism that he dropped out of the race.
- Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, argued that instead of advocating for gun control, Parkland survivors should take personal responsibility for preventing deadly shooters — and learn CPR: “How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that.” Santorum later said he misspoke.
- Several conservative outlets falsely suggested that Gonzalez admitted to bullying the Parkland shooter. This is part of a broader victim-blaming campaign: It has become a common talking point to insinuate that the shooter only carried out the attack because he was socially isolated, so students should have tried to befriend him to prevent the shooting. (A Stoneman Douglas student wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in response to the claim, detailing the time she tried to befriend the shooter to no avail.)
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Twitter mocked Hogg for getting rejected by four colleges. After Hogg called on advertisers to boycott her show, Ingraham apologized. Companies from Hulu to Nestle have continued dropping ads on her program anyway.
- Frank Stallone, actor and brother of Sylvester Stallone, on Twitter called Hogg a “pussy,” saying that he’s “getting a little too big for his britches” and that “someone from his age group is dying to sucker punch this rich little bitch.” Stallone also called Gonzalez “another headline grabbing clown.” Stallone quickly deleted the tweets and later apologized for his remarks.