There was no moderation. I didn’t blame Jake—what could he do? Controlling the audience and encouraging reasoned discourse were impossible in the circus-like atmosphere the network had deliberately fostered. I won’t hold my tongue here; I don’t care about being a CNN contributor again, and I don’t care if they never invite me back. What the executives did that night was wrong. Tacky and wrong. Tone-deaf and wrong. An emotionless approach to understandably impassioned emotions.
Prior to the cameras going live, Sheriff Scott Israel, the Broward County Public Schools superintendent, Robert Runcie, and others were invited to the stage to give impassioned speeches. Israel electioneered and dodged responsibility, though he well knew, as was later widely reported, that his office had not followed up on numerous calls from the community, even the murderer’s own family, who, according to the Florida Sun Sentinel, once begged the Broward Sheriff’s Office to confiscate his guns. Runcie deflected. The bonfire was ignited before we were even miked.
As the event concluded, I stood to shake Jake’s hand and leave. The arena had burst into shouts of “Murderer!” and various expletives. Jake strode over, surveying the arena, and asked if I had an escort.
“You probably need to leave here immediately,” he said, concerned.