A day after the 2018 Parkland shooting, an NRA employee emailed a Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist, questioning what happened and suggesting that the Florida suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had not been alone in carrying out the massacre at the high school.
Mark Richardson, an NRA instructor program coordinator, exchanged emails with Wolfgang Halbig, who espouses false theories that the young victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School were not killed, and that their grieving families are paid actors.
The 2018 email exchange between Richardson, using his NRA email address, and Halbig was first reported by the Huffington Post.
In the email obtained by CNN, Richardson wrote to Halbig questions he had about the Parkland shooting.
“Concerning what happened in Florida yesterday, I have been asking the question and no one else seems to be asking it. How is it that Cruz was able gain access to a secured facility while in possession of a rifle, multiple magazines, smoke grenades and a gas mask?” Richardson wrote in the February 15, 2018, email. “To pull the fire alarm, he had to already be inside. Correct?”
Later in the email, Richardson went back to Cruz again.
“No longer a student, why was he allowed in the building at all? Where was all the equipment, in his back pocket?”
Then Richardson referenced Sandy Hook as “SH” and Halbig’s theories on the shooting.
“Just like SH, there is so much more to this story,” Richardson wrote to Halbig. “He was not alone. Just a few questions that have surfaced in the past 24 hours. Thank you for all the information And for what you do.”
Although Richardson didn’t explicitly ask Halbig to do anything, he expressed his appreciation for Halbig’s work on the Sandy Hook shooting.
“You have included me with a lot of information since the Sandy Hook Incident and I do appreciate it very much,” Richardson wrote.
The exchange between an NRA employee and a conspiracy theorist raised some eyebrows.
“The NRA literally drives conspiracies about school shootings to fear monger gun owners to buy more guns,” tweeted David Hogg, student activist and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor. ”
The NRA issued a statement, seeking to distance itself from Sandy Hook theories.
“Sandy Hook was a horrific tragedy and any suggestion that the unspeakable atrocities committed by an evil lunatic were faked as part of an elaborate hoax are insane,” said Jennifer Baker, NRA director of public affairs. “The men and women of the National Rifle Association grieve for the innocent people who were killed, the families ripped apart, and the entire Sandy Hook community.”
When asked how long Richardson has been with the NRA and what his current standing with the organization is, a spokesman with the organization Andrew Arulanandam said: “This personnel matter is under review.”
CNN’s efforts to reach Richardson directly have not been successful.
In a statement emailed to The Huffington Post, Richardson said he was asking Halbig a “legitimate question.”
“Since an individual who was prohibited from the school was aloud [sic] to pass through the front doors with a backpack containing a long gun, it is a legitimate question to ask if he had assistance concerning access to the school,” the statement read.
CNN also reached out to Halbig for comment, but didn’t hear back.
Halbig is one of the defendants along with Alex Jones of Infowars, in a defamation lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook parents.
The lawsuit accuses Halbig of creating conspiracy videos, harassing family members and others in Newtown and running websites about Sandy Hook. “Children did not die, teachers did not die, on December 14, 2012,” Halbig said on one of Alex Jones’ shows, according to the complaint.
Both Jones and Halbig deny the allegations in the defamation suit.