David Hogg, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has been frequently featured in news reports since the horrific shooting on February 14. The aspiring journalist has interviewed students himself about the shooting and has become a prominent voice seeking stricter gun control legislation. But astute viewers noticed that he also appeared in a news report in California last year, and comparisons have been circulating social media, with some people accusing him of being a “crisis actor.” But David Hogg is actually exactly who he says he is, frequently posting about his life on social media and even Reddit. Here’s what you need to know about David Hogg, how the allegations began, and proof that he truly is a Stoneman Douglas student.
1. David Hogg Is a Senior at Stoneman Douglas High School and Aspires To Be a Professional Journalist
David Hogg is a senior at Stoneman Douglas High and loves broadcast journalism, CNN reported. He’s a Teenlink reporter for the Sun Sentinel, according to his Instagram profile, a student filmmaker, and a surfer. He and his family moved to Florida several years ago, when he was a freshman, and chose Stoneman Douglas High partially because of the TV production classes the school offers. Hogg once wrote on Reddit about moving in the middle of his freshman year and how hard it was because so many people in high school weren’t authentic. He talked about missing his friends from Los Angeles, whom he still visits. He then told someone else on the site that the first few months can be really hard, but it does get better. As a sophomore, he created some of his own broadcast packages and decided that TV news was his passion.
Hogg has been very outspoken since the shooting, criticizing the NRA and advocating for gun control legislation. He was one of the first students who was interviewed nationally about the horrific event. He told CNN that he hid in a closet during the shooting and pulled out his phone, interviewing people near him about what was happening. “I want to show these people exactly what’s going on when these children are facing bullets flying through classrooms and students are dying trying to get an education,” he said. While he was filming, he said that all he could think was: “Tell the story.”
“If I was going to die, I wanted to die doing what I love, and that’s storytelling. And this is a story that needed to be heard. … At least our echoes, our voices would carry on and possibly make some action.”
Some have said that Hogg appeared too calm in the videos he did inside the school during the shooting. But others have pointed out that how a person reacts in a situation can really depend on their proximity to danger. Hogg never personally encountered the shooter because he was hiding in a closet, so his reaction might be very different from another person who had actually seen the shooter. Here he is in another video where a group of students were interviewed:
He appeared again in this next video below, where he read an essay that he penned specifically for CBS. He said he was in his environmental science class when he heard the first gunshots. They never had an active shooter drill at the school, he said.
The allegations that Hogg and others were crisis actors may have partially originated from an email allegedly sent to journalist Alex Leary from Benjamin A. Kelly, along with Donald Trump Jr. liking two tweets about the conspiracy. (You can read more about Benjamin Kelly in Heavy’s story here.)
Florida State Representative Shawn Harrison later announced that Kelly had been fired from his position as Harrison’s District Secretary after the tweet was released:
Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Schools, told the Tampa Bay Times (and Alex Leary, whom Kelly reached out to) that Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg were, indeed, students at Stoneman. “These are absolutely students at Stoneman Douglas. They’ve been there. I can verify that,” he said. “Anything to disparage such brilliant and passionate youth who have the courage to stand up and do what they’re doing, I just think it’s outrageous and disrespectful for someone to make those allegations.”
2. He Appeared in a California Video that Went Viral While He Was on Vacation in August
Hogg’s appearance in a video that went viral in California caused some people to question his authenticity. In fact, the photo below is one of the many photos circulating on social media pointing out that he was interviewed in August 2017 in California before being interviewed this past week in Florida.
But back during the California trip, Hogg made it very clear that he was vacationing in California, not living there. And The Eagle Eye even published a story about his vacation and viral video, nothing that “In Redondo Beach, California, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior David Hogg and his friend Thomas decided to spend their summer afternoon at Topaz Jetty…”
Hogg, who has family and friends in California, often posted on social media about taking trips there for visits during the summer. Here’s just one Instagram photo that Hogg also shared talking about another vacation in 2015, which indicates this wasn’t the first time he went on vacation to California:
And a tweet about leaving for Los Angeles in August 2017:
The viral video showed an argument that started when his friend put a boogie board on a trashcan at the beach and a lifeguard got very angry. Hogg talked to CBS Los Angeles about the incident, saying it was his friend who put the board on a trash can on the beach. A lifeguard asked his friend to move the board, and his friend did, but then said, “I didn’t know it was a crime to put your board on a trash can.” Then the lifeguard approached angrily and Hogg recorded the interaction. His video later went viral. He said they felt threatened because the lifeguard seemed unpredictable. Here he is later, sharing a video on his YouTube channel about what happened.
The video caused some people to question whether Hogg was truly a student. But as Hogg explained in a previous video, he was visiting the Los Angeles area in August. In fact, it’s not uncommon for him to visit California — his YouTube channel also shows another video he made while visiting California on vacation last winter. He definitely wasn’t expecting all that attention:
3. Hogg Frequently Posted Videos and Updates about Stoneman Before the Shooting, and the ‘Yearbook’ Evidence Was Debunked
One of the rumors circulating is that Hogg was a “paid crisis actor,” since he appeared in both California and Florida. As stated in the previous section, he was in California on vacation in August. But he’s frequently posted about life at Stoneman Douglas High long before the shooting happened. Here’s just one example from his YouTube channel:
But there are more examples than this. He did a news story on January 20 about Stoneman Douglas High and shared it on his Twitter page:
In fact, he’s been very involved in newscast work at Stoneman Douglas.
In August he posted about seeing the solar eclipse in Broward County:
Here are a few more posts:
In addition to his time at Stoneman, some people are also talking about a photo of Hogg sitting at a CNN table. This may be a photo from a CNN tour, which would be a normal thing for an aspiring journalist to do. In fact, others have said that when they visited CNN in Atlanta, they got to role play being an anchor or take “fake photos” on set. Read some of the Yelp reviews here to get an idea of what happens on the tour. In a 2013 article posted on “Mom Voyage,” this was written about the CNN tour: “Start with a ride on the world’s longest escalator to the working studios of CNN. Then, from behind the glass, you’ll look into a live newsroom, complete with anchors, reporters, camera people…the works! At the end of the tour, future television stars will certainly appreciate the ability to sit behind an anchor desk and take their turn at reporting the news. It makes for a fun experience and a great photo opp!”
Some people are also questioning Hogg because of a mugshot taken of a David Guyton Hogg in South Carolina. This man doesn’t appear to resemble Hogg that much (the eyebrows and the shape of his eyes appear quite different, for example), and the photo was taken in December 2016, after Hogg had moved to Florida and was already posting from there on his social media. Here’s another photo of David Guyton Hogg from August 2016, for comparison. In fact, it appears that the same David Guyton Hogg was just arrested again on May 28, 2017, in South Carolina. There are hundreds of David Hoggs in the country.
Finally, a fake Antifa “parody” account shared a video of a yearbook with Hogg’s name in it, as “proof” that he wasn’t going to Stoneman Douglas High (you can watch the video below.) However, this video moves so fast that you can’t see a date or clearly read the yearbook’s full cover. A tweet shared later debunked this video.
Here’s the tweet debunking the video:
4. His Father, Kevin Hogg, Is a Retired FBI Agent Who Taught David Perseverance and Composure
David’s father, Kevin Hogg, is a retired FBI agent, which spurred more social media posts questioning Hogg’s authenticity. The Gateway Pundit ran a story about Hogg called “Exposed,” which started some of the rumors about him. The headline read: “School Shooting Survivor Turned Activist David Hogg’s Father in FBI, Appears To Have Been Coached On Anti-Trump Lines.” The story pointed out that in an interview with CNN, Hogg defended the FBI and blamed President Donald Trump, before he revealed that his father was a former FBI agent. “I think it’s disgusting, personally,” Hogg said. “My father’s a retired FBI agent and the FBI are some of the hardest working individuals I have ever seen in my life. It’s wrong that the president is blaming them for this.”
Some people said that Hogg was an attempt to “prop up the FBI” after the FBI failed to follow up on a tip about Nikolas Cruz’s plans for a school shooting. But in reality, it’s not surprising that a teen would defend an institution that employed their parent. Hogg once wrote on Reddit that his dad was training at Quantico and learning about future terrorist threats right before 9/11 happened. In fact, he’s written multiple appreciative posts about his family on Reddit and in other places. He wrote: “My dad has been saving since before I was born. I love my parents so much and am blessed to have their financial support. The reason they have saved so much for my college is because both were kicked out of there house at 18 basically and had to pay their way through college…”
The Daily Beast reported that David’s dad, Kevin Hogg, was assigned to the Los Angeles International Airport right before he retired in 2014 (which was also when his family moved from California to Florida.) Kevin Hogg was known for wanting to give stuffed animals to refugee children who were just arriving in America. Meanwhile, Kevin’s mom, Rebecca, is a teacher in the school district.
David said his dad worked long hours, often leaving at 6 a.m. and not getting home until midnight. Sometimes as soon as he got home, he had to immediately leave for an emergency. That was when David learned to admire his dad and all other FBI agents, which was reflected in his recent interviews. David told the Daily Beast that he admired his dad because Kevin’s not judgmental, but tries to see both sides of a situation. “He’s just a nice guy,” David said. David had dyslexia and ADHD growing up, the Daily Beast reported, and he learned the perseverance to deal with it from his dad.
David and Kevin are so close that David called his dad during the shooting. “I love you,” he told Kevin. “I’m on my way,” Kevin told his son. David said his calm composure during interviews was partially because of his Dad’s example. He can see both sides of an issue. And although he’s pro gun reform, he’s also pro Second Amendment, believing that anyone who’s not mentally unbalanced and doesn’t have a criminal record should be able to purchase and own a firearm.
5. He Had Trouble in an Interview, Which Spurred Allegations That He Was Coached
Hogg has appeared in a lot of videos, answering questions about the shooting. Behind-the-scenes clips were shown for one of these videos, which you can watch above. Hogg keeps asking for a chance to repeat his words after losing his train of thought. Some people believe this is a sign that he was coached. But remember, Hogg is only a senior in high school and just went through a very traumatic situation. It’s absolutely possible that he simply had trouble keeping this thoughts together and the videographer gave him retakes, so they could show a short clip of what he wanted to say rather than a longer clip full of repeated words and pauses. It’s not uncommon for a TV news interview to be “practiced” a time or two before the final taping, so the interviewee knows exactly what they want to say and can say it quickly and succinctly. You can hear the cameraman or reporter telling him when he pauses, “It’s OK. You’re fine David, you’re fine.” Since the video is cut in several places, it’s possibly some of the “coaching” lines are just helping Hogg remember what he last said or where they left off in the interview.
Hogg responded to the allegations against him by telling BuzzFeed News: “I just think it’s a testament to the sick immaturity and broken state of our government when these people feel the need to peddle conspiracy theories about people that were in a school shooting where 17 people died and it just makes me sick. It’s immature, rude, and inhuman for these people to destroy the people trying to prevent the death of the future of America because they won’t.”
Some people have also pointed to the following photo, which was taken for CBS show a few days after the shooting. They say it’s unusual for the group to be smiling for the camera, but it’s really not that strange to be smiling in a photo a few days after a tragedy, if you’re asked to smile:
Hogg also has a Reddit account and he’s been very open about sharing his identity there, including posting his full name and sharing the lifeguard video that went viral. His posts reflect a conscientious teen who’s concerned about others, such as when he wrote: “Im fine with breaking HOA rules but the problem it that first responders wont be able to get though if me and others park on the street [sic].” He also posted about how society should be more accepting of overweight people because they often can’t afford to eat healthier. When asked seven months ago what people have gotten too accustomed to, his response included politicians’ lies, lobbyists, and “the danger of party politics.”
Months ago, in answer to a question about why we need more love in the world, he talked on Reddit about how he helped a 94-year-old woman go online and see a neighborhood that she grew up in. He said she almost cried, then showed him New York City on Google Street View, and it was the most fun he had all summer.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this report stated that an Instagram photo from California was taken Hogg’s trip to Redondo Beach in August 2017, it was taken during a different trip in 2015.