Colton Haab, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, accused CNN of scripting the questions at their town hall on Wednesday night. However, the news organization stated that they “did not provide or script questions for anyone in last night’s town hall, nor have we ever.”
No other students or participants have come forward to claim that CNN scripted their questions.
On Wednesday night, Haab, a member of his school’s JROTC program who managed to protect fellow students using Kevlar sheets, told local news outlet WPLG that he wanted to ask a question about schools hiring veterans and that he “expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions.” He also stated, “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted.”
CNN responded with a longer comment, stating, “There is absolutely no truth to this. 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. 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.”
Based off Haab’s statements, the divergence from what he and CNN wanted potentially becomes more clear. Haab says he was willing to give a “speech and questions” and also “give my opinion on my questions.” However, that presumably would have been a time-consuming process, especially as the main focus was on the answers and also trying to get as many questions in as time would permit. CNN, it seems, was also not looking to script his question, but rather have an understanding of what he was planning to say. This echoes former CNN and Fox News commentator Erick Erickson’s analysis on Twitter, where he said, in part, “One of the things I learned is that you never let someone go to a microphone without first knowing what they are going to say. Why? Because you’d be surprised at the number of people who get to a microphone and don’t want to surrender it.”
CNN has acknowledged in the past that they have questions submitted in advance and accept or decline them in order to have a variety. The question of arming teachers did come up during the town hall though.