CNN is continuing to push back against claims by Marjorie Stonemason Douglas High School junior Colton Haab that it tried to make him ask a “scripted question” at its town hall on guns on Wednesday evening, releasing a set of emails that it exchanged with Haab during the run-up to the event.
Haab told local Fort Lauderdale ABC News affiliate WPLG that CNN had invited him to speak at the town hall event, but the Junior ROTC member — who helped evacuate fellow students to safety during last week’s mass shooting at the school — withdrew after he was presented with a question that CNN had “scripted” and was not allowed to give his own opinions on the issue.
CNN responded on Thursday, claiming that none of the questions had been “scripted,” that Haab wanted to give a speech rather than asking a question, and that the subject of his question (arming teachers) was addressed by other participants in any case.
On Friday, CNN released — via the Washington Post — part of the email exchange with Haab, including correspondence with his father, Glenn Haab.
CNN alleges, via the Post, that versions of the email exchange that were provided to Fox News and the Huffington Post had been “doctored” to remove the words “that he submitted” to make it appear as though CNN wrote Haab’s question for him.
However, that dispute seems tangential to the core of Colton Haab’s claim.
Breitbart News obtained the original four-page document that Colton Haab submitted to the network, which includes an opening and closing statement as well as several questions. (This document does not appear to have been released by the Washington Post.)
In the document, Haab states his opinions as background to the questions he wishes to ask. Those opinions include: “I hope the much needed changes to Gun Laws can be made and implemented by the time the next generation (my kids) enters high school.”
Haab also stated, as background to his question about arming school employees (original emphasis):
Schools are defended with a sign that reads:
This is a gun free zone / it might as well also say:
(Call someone with a gun if there’s an emergency).
It is my opinion and the opinion of many – that this makes us an easy target for evil people to do their evil with little, if any resistance.
I personally would much rather see a sign that read:
“Please be aware that certain staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are legally armed and may use whatever force necessary to protect our students”.
We students should not have to beg to be kept safe.
Haab submitted three questions in the document, which were as follows (original emphasis):
What is being done to drastically improve the security of the school?
What measures are being taken to defend our school from future attacks? And how can we get select faculty trained and armed to give them a fighting chance, if GOD forbid, there is another attack?
What steps can be taken to utilize our select retired military in this [protective] capacity?
He later submitted a list of four questions via e-mail:
What actions can we as students and parents, expect to be done to protect us from evil and harm while attending school?
Have we thought about having a class for teachers who are willing to be armed trained [sic] to carry on campus?
As of 2016, there are 453,000 unemployed veterans living in the United States. Has there been any talk about retired military veterans who are willing and able to be trained and armed to protect schools across the nation?
Has there been any talk about making Douglas a single entry school, limiting the movement in and out of the 45 achar [sic] campus?
Later, CNN producer Carrie Stevenson sent Glenn Haab a single question for him to ask at the town hall, with the comment: “He needs to stick to this.” The question appears to have been based on Colton Haab’s earlier questions, and discussed over the telephone with him, but was not quite the same as those he had submitted in writing before:
Senator Nelson, if Coach Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe that he could have most likely stopped the threat. Have we thought about having a class for teachers who are willing to be armed trained [sic] to carry on campus?
Glenn Haab’s emailed response suggests that he wanted his son to read a “short background” before his question. “We are not actors nor do we read from a script. We are real people and a lot of thoughts [sic] went into these questions. The short background before each question is extremely relevant to each question.”
The dispute therefore seems to revolve around CNN’s refusal to allow Colton Haab to read a “short background” before his question, whether that question was prepared in consultation with the student or not.
CNN’s insistence that Colton Haab “stick” to the “script” seems to have exacerbated the disagreement to the point where Colton Haab and his parents refused to participate.
A CNN source acknowledged to Breitbart News that CNN wanted participants in the town hall to read from written questions, but stressed that these questions had originally been the participants’ own.
Several students made statements in addition to asking questions. Two attacked National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch as a poor mother, for example — and moderator Jake Tapper did not correct them.
Tapper — who took Donald Trump to task during the 2016 campaign for not criticizing objectionable statements made by people attending his rallies — explained his non-intervention to Variety:
“Normally at a debate or a town hall, I would be quick to say to someone ‘That was rude’ or ‘We’re going to try to keep it civil here,’ or ‘Let’s not have personal attacks,’” Tapper told Variety. “But in this situation, who am I to tell someone that just lost a daughter or a friend, ‘Don’t talk that way’?”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.