David Clarke attacked a survivor of the Parkland, FL, school shooting for speaking out about gun violence, saying “my dad would have backhanded me” for “popping off” against an authority figure like President Donald Trump. Clarke is scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which has claimed it finds attacks on Parkland students “indefensible.”
Clarke is the former sheriff of Milwaukee County who is now a right-wing pundit and spokesperson for the pro-Donald Trump super PAC America First Action. He is a frequent speaker at the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) annual meeting and is regularly featured and promoted by the NRA's media operations. He has a history of toxic rhetoric about people ranging from former President Barack Obama to artist Beyoncé.
Since the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, student survivors have been speaking out against gun violence, calling for new gun laws, and organizing rallies. Right-wing media personalities, however, have been mocking and attacking the students and engaging in conspiracy theories about their efforts.
Clarke smeared the students’ efforts during a February 19 appearance on Compass Media Networks’ The Joe Pags Show, stating that his dad would have “backhanded” him for similar remarks about the president and claiming that the left is using the students as pawns.
Host Joe Pagliarulo began the segment by attacking Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Emma Gonzalez, who he said “is a far-lefty propagandist -- well I don’t know that she’s a propagandist. She’s just 17 years old [editor's note: Gonzalez is 18]. Maybe her parents are, maybe the community is. But her attacks are on the president, they’re on the NRA.”
Later in the segment, after criticizing school districts for supposedly having “no will” to “protect these kids,” Clarke returned to the topic of students speaking out, though he appears to have misheard Pagliarulo as he referred to an unnamed male instead of female.
“Then, of course, the left, the anti-gun movement, moves in, they exploit the issue, they’re exploiting these kids. As a 17-year-old kid that you were talking about the other day. First of all, he shouldn’t be popping off against the president of the United States,” Clarke said.
“My dad would have backhanded me at 17 years old if he would have heard me popping off to an authority figure.”
Pagliarulo then interjected that Emma Gonzalez’s “parents were standing next to her like patting her on the back and people were cheering and it was nothing but misinformation” and she’s being used “as a pawn.”
Clarke responded by attacking Gonzalez’s parents for purportedly allowing their daughter to be exploited, claiming: “They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree -- so her parents -- I don’t know her parents and I’m not going to disparage them, but they’re probably anti-gun ninnies too.”
From the segment:
JOE PAGLIARULO (HOST): I want to start with the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. That’s not far from where I grew up. I had a survivor on last Thursday that the media has widely ignored who says that she and her parents still want there to be armed teachers and armed guards at schools to protect the kids. But the loudest voices that are getting the attention are voices like this Emma Gonzalez, who is a far-lefty propagandist -- well I don’t know that she’s a propagandist. She’s just 17 years old. Maybe her parents are, maybe the community is. But her attacks are on the president, they’re on the NRA.
DAVID CLARKE [6:08 minutes into the audio clip]: There’s some things we can do, but like I said, we can do these things right away but there’s no will on the part of these school districts and these other soft targets to protect these kids. And then, of course, the left, the anti-gun movement, moves in, they exploit the issue, they’re exploiting these kids. As a 17-year-old kid that you were talking about the other day. First of all, he shouldn’t be popping off against the president of the United States.
CLARKE: My dad would have backhanded me at 17 years old if he would have heard me popping off to an authority figure.
JOE PAGLIARULO: Well, well her parents were standing next to her like patting her on the back and people were cheering and it was nothing but misinformation, sheriff. I mean, she wasn’t saying things that will solve the problem. She was screaming about President Trump. I’m not sure I understand. She was screaming about the NRA. And, of course, if you counter it with, “Yeah but Planned Parenthood spent 38 million dollars trying to get Hilary Clinton elected. I’m not sure I understand why you support the killing of 300,000 unborn children every year.” To make it political is stupid. And to use a 17 year old as a pawn is stupid. But our media and our social media -- and you’ve seen this. They’ve used this poor young lady who is indoctrinated with these thoughts as some sort of hero. Nothing she said will solve the problem, will it?
CLARKE: Nothing. And that’s the shame. Her parents there should provide a little more parental guidance than they did. But that’s not what we get in this situation. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree --
CLARKE: -- so her parents -- I don’t know her parents and I’m not going to disparage them, but they’re probably anti-gun ninnies too. And you get that situation, they sit there -- I wouldn’t allow my kid to be exploited like this, especially after a tragedy like this.
CLARKE: I’d be more interested in having my child be able to recover, watch for signs of PTSD, that sort of thing, instead of putting them in front of a TV camera before God and country to be exploited by the anti-gun left.
On February 20, Clarke also pushed the right-wing conspiracy theory that liberal philanthropist (and prior Media Matters donor) George Soros has his “FINGERPRINTS ALL OVER” the students’ efforts.
The well ORGANIZED effort by Florida school students demanding gun control has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it. It is similar to how he hijacked and exploited black people’s emotion regarding police use of force incidents into the COP HATING Black Lives Matter movement. pic.twitter.com/XDZ3bcwF6F
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) February 20, 2018
Clarke is an upcoming speaker at CPAC. The conference recently denounced the “indefensible” rhetoric of prior speaker Dinesh D’Souza, who has mocked and attacked the school survivors (D’Souza later claimed he was sorry). Conspiracy theorist and serial misinformer Jim Hoft was also removed from a scheduled CPAC panel because of his attacks on the student survivors (note: this sentence has been updated with additional information).
CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski tweeted in response to Clarke’s tweet about Soros: “Hey @CPAC, here's a speaker for your conference promoting a conspiracy Florida students are George Soros pawns. … Very interested in how @mschlapp and @CPAC respond to this. Easy to condemn D'Souza when he's not speaking/affiliated. This is a prominent speaker.”
In 2017, Clarke withdrew from joining the Department of Homeland Security after, as CNN reported, his “potential appointment faced numerous problems.”