The anti-gun violence group Change the Ref tricked former NRA president David Keene and author and gun rights advocate John Lott into giving graduation speeches to a field of more than 3,000 empty chairs that represented an estimated count of students who should have graduated high school this year but instead lost their lives to gun violence.
The fake graduation occurred on June 4, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada at a fake high school called James Madison Academy; the videos of the event began surfacing on Wednesday.
When Lott learned the graduation was fake and the whole event was a set-up, he whined that he drove 1,000 miles from Montana to deliver his speech: “I thought I was trying to help out a school there,” he told NBC News. He also claimed his comments on background checks were taken out of context.
“It’s just outrageous that somebody would do that,” he added.
Manuel and Patricia Oliver, who lost their son Joaquin “Guac” Oliver in the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead and 17 wounded, founded the organization Change the Ref.
Watch a short interview Manuel Oliver had with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday evening.