March For Our Lives founder leaves the group, regrets trying to ‘embarrass’ Rubio

Cameron Kasky became one of the most recognizable faces of the March For Our Lives Movement after he helped raise millions of dollars in a matter of days for a gun-control rally and confronted Sen. Marco Rubio on television after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior spent weeks organizing a massive march in Washington that morphed into a nationwide movement and summer bus tour, with an eye toward the upcoming November election.

Now, Kasky is leaving the group.

“I’m proud of everything my friends have done, everything they’re doing, and my focus on opening these conversations to people who disagree with me makes me even more invested in just how important the work they’re doing is,” Kasky said in an email.

Kasky first announced his decision to leave March For Our Lives in an interview with Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson on Wednesday, where he also expressed regret for the way he talked to Rubio during a town hall event broadcast on CNN. At the town hall, Kasky said, “Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nikolas Cruz, but the point is you’re here and there are some people who are not.” He then grilled the Republican senator over accepting political contributions from the National Rifle Association.

“I look back on that and I say, you know what, there were people who had just been buried and when you’re looking at somebody that you find might in some way have been complicit in this murderer obtaining the weapon it’s hard not to say something like that,” Kasky said to Fox. “But, I went into that wanting less conversation and more to embarrass Rubio and that was my biggest flaw.”

Kasky also said he regrets referring to Cruz by name during the town hall and that he met people during the March For Our Lives bus tour this summer in Texas who share different political beliefs than his, but that he came away wanting to understand more about their differences.

“This summer when March For Our Lives went on the summer tour that we embarked on I met that person in Texas who got that semiautomatic weapon because that’s how they like to protect their family,” Kasky told Fox. “I met the 50-some-odd percent of women who are pro-life, even though I thought it was preposterous that a woman could be pro-life and not pro-choice at the time. I learned that a lot of our issues politically come from a lack of understanding of other perspectives and also the fact that so often young conservatives and young liberals will go into debate, like I said earlier, trying to beat the other one as oppose to come to an agreement. ... I’m working on some efforts to encourage bipartisanship or at least discussion that is productive and help a lot of people avoid the mistakes that I made.”

In recent weeks, Kasky helped raise about $50,000 for the families of Eli Clayton and Taylor Robertson, who were killed during a Madden NFL video game tournament in Jacksonville last month. He teamed up with Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans and professional video game player Shay Kivlen to stage a charity video game to raise money and awareness for Clayton and Robertson. He also sent messages of support for the Broward County school board candidacy of Ryan Petty, a Parkland parent whose daughter Alaina was one of the 17 people killed in the Valentine’s Day shooting. Petty ultimately lost the election for an at-large seat to incumbent Donna Korn.

Kasky’s father, Jeff, is also the head of a political action committee that plans to campaign against lawmakers who do not support increased gun-control measures.

Kasky said his decision to leave March For Our Lives was not due to philosophical differences or a change in his political views, but because he wanted to approach political disagreements differently than he did on stage at the CNN town hall in February.

“I left the organization and if I thought that my friends and the people I worked with couldn’t do it without me, I would not have done that. But alas, all of our efforts looking forward looked like they didn’t really need my involvement, and while I could have helped it wasn’t crucial,” Kasky said to Fox. “I thought it was my responsibility to take all the things I was kicking myself for and to encourage others to avoid it.”

Alex Daugherty, @alextdaugherty, 202-383-6049