A Florida shooting survivor has accused CNN of attempting to script his question for a town hall on gun laws. The network has denied the accusation. The student’s father said that the issue was that CNN told him that his original question was too long and that he would have to shorten it.
On Feb. 14, a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of the massacre, several student survivors called on lawmakers to legislate stricter gun regulations.
On Feb. 21, CNN hosted a town hall with members of the Parkland community, law enforcement, lawmakers and a representative from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to discuss gun laws.
That evening, Douglas High School student Colton Haab said that CNN had invited him to the town hall but that he had skipped the event because he believed the network tried to influence his question.
“CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions, and it ended up being all scripted,” Colton told WPLG-TV.
Colton, a Junior ROTC member, was praised following the shooting for thinking to shield fellow students in the classroom with kevlar sheets during the shooter’s onslaught.
On Feb. 22, Colton elaborated on his accusation against CNN during an interview. He said that he had been contacted by CNN executive producer Carrie Stevenson and invited to participate in a town hall. He alleged he was initially requested to give a speech but later asked to pose a question.
“So what they had actually done was wrote out a question for me because in my interview with CNN, I had talked about arming the teachers, if they were willing to arm themselves in the school to carry on campus,” Colton told Fox News.
“Originally I had thought that it was going to be more of my own question and my own say and then it turned out to be more of just a script,” the student added.
Colton said that he believed all of his fellow students were given “scripted” questions by the network.
That day, CNN responded to Colton’s accusation with a statement.
“There is absolutely no truth to this,” the network said. “CNN did not provide or script questions for anyone in last night’s town hall, nor have we ever.
“After seeing an interview with Colton Haab, we invited him to participate in our town hall along with other students and administrators from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” the statement continued. “Colton’s father withdrew his name from participation before the forum began, which we regretted but respected. We welcome Colton to join us on CNN today to discuss his views on school safety.”
U.S. President Donald Trump took to social media to share the allegation, indicating that he had watched the Fox News interview.
“Just like so much of CNN, Fake News,” Trump tweeted out. “That’s why their ratings are so bad! MSNBC may be worse.”
CNN responded to the president’s tweet.
“There is absolutely no truth to this story — and we can prove that,” the network tweeted. “CNN did not provide or script questions for anyone in last night’s town hall, nor have we ever. Those are the facts.”
A CNN employee who requested anonymity told the HuffPost that Colton was invited to provide a speech but that the producers found his submitted proposal to be too long for the town hall format. The source asserted that the student’s father, Glenn Haab, told the network he wasn’t attending after the network informed them that his question would have to be shortened.
Glenn disclosed that Colton planned to deliver an opening statement and three questions during the town hall but were told by CNN that he would have to pare it down to one concise question. The father said they found this unacceptable because Colton wanted to provide background information to his question.
The proposal of arming teachers to improve school safety was discussed during the town hall. Moderator Jake Tapper had asked GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida separately about the policy and both lawmakers said they would not support the idea.
Sources: CNN (2), CNN Communications/Twitter (2), Donald J. Trump/Twitter, Fox News/YouTube, HuffPost, WPLG-TV / Featured Image: Formulanone/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Jorge Milian/Twitter, Andrew Weinstein/Twitter