The sister of a teacher slain in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting has rejected an apology from actor Scott Baio over a Twitter message he posted alleging that the death of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer was a “false flag” operation carried out to smear the right.
The New York Daily News said Friday that the former “Happy Days” and “Joanie Loves Chachi” actor tweeted a conspiracy theorist meme alleging that Heyer’s mother and the mother of slain first grade teacher Vicki Soto are the same “crisis actor.”
Baio tweeted the message to his 218,000 followers to forward the idea that the U.S. government is staging fake incidents as part of a disinformation campaign to smear conservatives and limit gun ownership. The notion of “false flag” attacks and “crisis actors” is a bedrock belief of the conspiracy community, promulgated by provocateurs like InfoWars’ Alex Jones, “Pizzagate” blogger Mike Cernovich and fanatical Trump booster Jack Posobiec.
Jillian Soto — Vicki Soto’s sister — joined in the furious backlash against Baio’s tweet. The actor deleted the tweet and apologized, but also blocked Jillian Soto and all of her family members on Twitter.
“I can’t accept an apology from someone who spews hate. Whether he believes it or not, just sharing it has an impact,” she said. “His apology is not real. He personally chose to share this, then he chose to block my family when we tried to defend ourselves. That doesn’t feel like a sincere apology.”
Baio has since tweeted that he wished he’d “thought longer” before sending the offensive tweet, which Soto said is just another painful reminder of her sister’s death and the relentless threats and abuse her family has endured from angry right-wing revisionists seeking to make hay of the 2015 tragedy.
“To be honest, it’s heartbreaking,” Jillian told the Daily News on Friday. “My family has been attacked over and over. What people don’t understand is that no matter what they believe, every time this comes up, it rips my family apart to see my mom being attacked yet again.”
The cottage industry of right-wing paranoia and its distorted view of her sister’s death, Soto said, is a “never-ending low blow.”
Normally, she said, she strives to stay out of the fray, but when she saw Baio’s message accusing her mother of being a government-paid imposter, she hit the ceiling.
“I know it’s all a load of crap, but to have people attack my mom, that’s one of the hardest things for a child to see,” she said.
“We’re constantly being put on the defensive, having to defend Vicki, that she was a real person who was alive and we’re not these crisis actors,” she concluded. “We see people’s comments and see people supporting (Baio), it’s hard.”