David Hogg has become one of the leading student voices among survivors of the Florida mass shooting, but many have also attempted to smear the 17-year-old as a “crisis actor,” paid to pose as a victim to argue for stricter gun laws.
Conspiracy theorists have slammed the student as having been "coached" by his father, a former FBI agent. They have also claimed he is a "pawn" to forward the action of anti-gun campaigners and have attempted to provide evidence he has posed as a high school student in several different states to preach politically-charged statements.
But Hogg and his father appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 on Tuesday to dispel the rumors.
"I'm not a crisis actor," Hogg said. "I'm someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that."
"I'm not acting on anybody's behalf," he added.
As the false theories continued circulating on Tuesday, Florida's Republican Senator Marco Rubio came to the student's defense on Twitter.
"Claiming some of the students on TV after Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency," Rubio wrote.
Hogg and dozens of his classmates have been outspoken about the need for stricter gun laws after they were subject to a massacre at their Florida high school last week. At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a 19-year-old former student unleashed bullets from an AR-15 rifle upon students shuffling in the halls, killing 17 students and staff members.
The survivors who have spoken out following the mass shooting have been targeted with smear campaigns and conspiracy theories online, with users suggesting they are all "actors" who travel the country to the site of shootings to push a Democratic anti-gun agenda.
In one tweet, a user accused Hogg of being coached by his father, a former FBI agent, to speak out against President Donald Trump on the highly-visible media stage. According to CNN, Donald Trump Jr. liked the Twitter post as a subtle endorsement of the theory.
During his appearance with Cooper, Hogg slammed theorists and said it was "disgusting" that Trump Jr. supported those who mocked or belittled their tragedy. Still, he plans to continue speaking out to promote safer schools across the country.
"Unlike the people who are tweeting that stuff about me and my dad, I haven't lost hope in America and my dad hasn't either," said Hogg with his father by his side.
Responding to claims he is in favor of repealing the Second Amendment, Hogg said he doesn't "want to take a constitutional right away from American citizens." He believes Americans can own a gun if they are mentally stable, don't have previous major convictions and are "not going to go out and commit these atrocities."
"We have a right to live just as we have a right to bear arms," he said.
As Hogg spoke with Cooper, several of his classmates headed to the Florida state Capitol to speak with lawmakers about school safety on Tuesday. On the same day, the House voted down a proposal to consider a ban of many assault weapons in the state.