‘We Get More Publicity That Way’

Parkland Teen Survivor David Hogg Welcomes the Conspiracy Theories

Not only is David Hogg full of pride for his father’s work at the FBI, but he also doesn’t mind the fringe theories about his gun-control support: ‘They’re only helping our cause.’

Mark Wilson/Getty

Until three and a half years ago, FBI agents of the Los Angeles field office knew just what to do with the stuffed animals their kids outgrew.

They had only to take the teddy bears and other unneeded stuffies to fellow agent Kevin Hogg, who was assigned to Los Angeles International Airport before his retirement to Florida in 2014.

In his time at LAX defending us against terrorists and smugglers and other evils, Hogg’s office was next to international arrivals and he saw a perpetual stream of refugee children arriving from distant lands with little or nothing besides the clothes they wore.

Hogg began welcoming youngsters to America with a happy surprise.

“He’d walk up and give the kid a stuffed animal,” Hogg’s son, David, told the Daily Beast.

Word spread through the field office, and soon agents were donating stuffed animals by the dozen for Kevin Hogg to distribute.

“He got a lot of stuffed animals, but he used them all,” David Hogg recalled.

Of course, Kevin Hogg also had his regular duties, which required him to leave home at 6 a.m. each day and usually not return until midnight. He sometimes finally got home only to turn around immediately and head back to attend to some urgent matter.

“Three times in a row he went back,” his son remembered. “To see him work that hard…”

The son came to understand that all the agents were similarly devoted to their calling. He also understood that they were ever at the ready to risk their lives for the sake of others.

“The hard work and dedication of the FBI agents of the Los Angeles field office,” the son said with enduring pride. “Passion and caring.”

David Hogg noted that his father kept an open mind as well an open heart. Kevin Hogg was not judgmental. He always sought to see both sides of a situation.

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“He’s just such a nice guy,” David Hogg said. “I’ve never heard a single bad thing about my dad until these right-wing websites came up.”

David Hogg meant the fringe websites that have suggested his father coached him to make anti-Trump and anti-gun pronouncements after he survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The son is a 17-year-old senior there. He suffers from dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and in earlier years had been in remedial courses. He had then followed his father’s example.

He said he welcomed the conspiracy theories and right-wing smears themselves. ‘It makes me know that what I’m doing is right,’ he said.

“I realized if I ever wanted to make an impact on the world, I’d have to work my ass off,” he told The Daily Beast.

He was now taking all honors classes, three of them Advanced Placement, with stellar grades. He was in AP environmental science just before dismissal time on the afternoon of Feb. 14 when he heard the gunshots.

Hogg fled the building and joined a crowd of students fleeing in one direction, when a custodian warned them they were running directly toward the shooter. The custodian placed himself at risk as he made sure they went the other way.

A culinary teacher then placed herself at risk as she opened a door and crammed many as 50 students into a small room. The staff had acted with such calm and proficiency that Hogg thought it was a drill. He later realized that he had been witnessing extraordinary bravery and calm.

“So much heroism that we found in the face of such terror and loss,” Hogg later told a TV reporter. “It was true. It was real.”

At one point, David Hogg telephoned his father.

“Dad, there’s an active shooter at my school,” he remembers saying. “I love you.”

“I‘m on the way now,” Kevin Hogg said.

In the aftermath, David Hogg was among the remarkably articulate teens who spoke out for meaningful gun control. Their words carried the moral authority of having witnessed the murder of 14 fellow students and three staff members.

“If you can’t get elected without taking money from child murderers, why are you running?” David Hogg asked of politicians who take cash from the NRA.

He was particularly effective because his outrage was tempered by the example of a father who tended to suspend judgment and sought to see the other person’s point of view.

“I’m not anti-Second Amendment,” David Hogg emphasized to The Daily Beast.

He said he thinks every person who is not mentally unbalanced and does not have a criminal record and is not bent on a terrorist attack should be able to purchase and own a firearm.

“That’s their Second Amendment right,” David Hogg said.

He added that seeking a gun ban would only further divide the county. He has a clear vision of the direction the nation needs to go.

“Where we come together as Americans to help save people’s lives,” he said.

David Hogg was nonetheless deeply offended when President Trump suggested the FBI had failed to act on a tip regarding the school shooter because the bureau was too busy investigating Russian meddling in the election.

“I think it’s disgusting,” Hogg told CNN. “My father is a retired FBI agent and the FBI are some of the hardest-working individuals I’ve ever seen in my life.”

David Hogg was also offended when Trump chose to go golfing on Monday, a few miles from where a family was preparing to bury one of the murdered students.

“This is atrocious, golf over children's blood?!?!,” David Hogg tweeted. “What does that say about our future. You are either for or against the children and right now you’re against them.  This is why we must take action because these politicians won’t.”

But he remained reasonable in his positions on gun control when The Daily Beast reached him by phone on Monday. He was out in Los Angeles, where he had just been on Dr. Phil. He spoke to The Daily Beast as he grabbed some lunch, for all his maturity still being just 17, with a teenage appetite.

“Did you hear about Oprah?” he asked.

He relayed word that Oprah Winfrey had matched the already $500,000 pledged by George and Amal Clooney to support the “March for Our Lives” demonstration in Washington, D.C. next month being organized by the school-shooting survivors.

“We have $1 million!” he exclaimed.  

His voice was alive with the possibly that along with loving his AP American history class, he might be in a position to help make American history. His father’s example had led to him becoming a precociously poised, principled, and purposeful young man. And that had led to him being recognized as a threat by another son, one whose father had set a very different kind of example.

In keeping with his own particular paternal role model, Donald Trump’s oldest son had acted precisely as you would expect. Donald Trump Jr. twice liked postings that suggested Kevin Hogg had coached his son as part of some deep state conspiracy.  

In what now became in small part a tale of two sons, David Hogg reacted as someone who had a worthy father to emulate.

“It’s really sad this is the state of America,” David Hogg told The Daily Beast. “It’s another reason why we all have to come together.”

Hogg was speaking as one of a group of remarkable kids who really are making America great again. He said he welcomed the conspiracy theories and right-wing smears themselves.

“It makes me know that what I’m doing is right,” he said.

He added, “We get more publicity that way. They’re only helping our cause.”

He was now in great demand, and he announced that he had to jump off the phone.

“There’s a producer I have to talk to!” he allowed.

He was later reached as he drove to another “live hit,” as a brief live TV appearance is called. Twitter was buzzing with news that Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg had also pledged $500,000 each toward the March 24 demonstration.

“It’s $2 million!” David Hogg said.

As for the retired FBI agent accused of being part of a deep state conspiracy in postings twice liked by the president’s son, Kevin Hogg has been enjoying a well-earned rest.  

The major activity of the man who once protected one of America's foremost points of entry is now taking a daily stroll with a Jack Russell terrier mix named Tater.

“He just walks our dog every day,” David Hogg said.

The son added, “Every time I come home pretty much he’s asleep on the couch with Tater just wrapped up next to him in a blanket with the AC blowing.”