Washington (CNN)A former Georgia Republican congressman suggested Tuesday that left-wing groups could exploit the grief and efforts of students who survived last week's school shooting in Florida and are taking political action to demand an end to gun violence.
Ex-GOP Rep.: Parkland student survivors could 'be hijacked by left-wing groups'
"Do we really think -- and I say this sincerely -- do we really think that 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?" said Jack Kingston, who is also a CNN commentator.
Kingston argued on CNN's "New Day" that the student survivors' sorrow "can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups" and Democratic mega-donor George Soros.
"I talked to these kids before they knew the body count of how many of their friends had been killed. No one had talked to them yet," "New Day" co-host Alisyn Camerota responded. "They hadn't been indoctrinated by some left-wing group. They were motivated from what they saw and what they endured."
Kingston responded that he doesn't doubt the students' sincerity.
He added, "But I also know they probably do not have the logistical ability to plan a nationwide rally without it being hijacked by groups that already had the preexisting anti-gun agenda."
CNN has reached out to Kingston asking if he had any factual basis for his suggestion.
Kingston had first questioned the students' organizing in a tweet Sunday.
"O really? "Students" are planning a nationwide rally? Not left wing gun control activists using 17yr kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy? #Soros #Resistance #Antifa #DNC," Kingston tweeted.
Later in Tuesday's show, Camerota interviewed two students who survived the shooting, both of whom sharply criticized Kingston's comments.
"I think it's very despicable that he would have the audacity to say that," said Brandon Abzug, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student who appeared on the show with his father.
"Young people all across this country and all over the world should feel that they have the power to make things right. And especially in the wake of a tragedy, we really show who we truly are," Abzug said.
Abzug also called on Kingston to apologize. "To say that just because we're young we can't make a difference is not right and he should apologize for that," he said.
Delaney Tarr, another survivor of the shooting, said that remarks like Kingston's should be expected during high-profile incidents like this.
"I think with any movement there comes this amount of hating and trolling and people telling you that you're just a little kid, you don't know what you're talking about, or you're a puppet," Tarr told Camerota.
But Tarr said that Kingston's remarks should be overlooked.
"Ultimately, we have to move past all of that because the amount of support that we're getting is so overwhelming compared to everything else," she said.
Dozens of students and staff who survived the Florida school shooting hope to speak with lawmakers this week about school safety and gun control.