Was CNN scripting questions for their Florida school shooting town hall?

CNN’s town hall last night on gun-related issues following the school shooting in Florida turned out to be a lively event. But there was one person who didn’t wind up taking part in it. That was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Colton Haab. He had been invited to appear and be one of the students asking a question but canceled at the last moment. The reason? He claims that CNN wanted to give him a scripted question and not let him say what he wanted, primarily focusing on the possibility of putting armed adults in schools to protect students against future mass shooting incidents. T

This Fox News video give’s Colton’s side of the story.

Mediaite offers some of the additional details.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Colton Haab said he didn’t attend CNN’s town hall in his hometown because the network rejected his prepared questions and suggested he ask a scripted one instead.

Haab, a member of the Junior ROTC, protected his fellow students during the Parkland shooting last week, and he told local media that he wanted to ask about using veterans as armed security guards in schools. Even though Habb wrote out a speech and questions as CNN requested for last night’s forum on shootings, he claims that the network tried to censor him.

“CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions, and it ended up being all scripted,” Haab said.

“I don’t think that it’s going get anything accomplished,” he continued. “It’s not gonna ask the true questions that all the parents and teachers and students have.”

That’s a pretty inflammatory accusation coming from Colton. If CNN was insisting on scripting the dialogue it would sort of defeat the purpose of having a “town hall” on a pressing issue. But did they? First let’s get the statement from CNN. Here it is in its entirety.

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.

So we have something of a “he said/he said” situation here. But there’s one interesting point to consider about what CNN actually asked of Colton when he was invited and what the boy and his father had to say last night. CNN claims they invited him to ask a question. But Colton says he was asked to provide, “a speech and questions.” There’s a big disconnect here.

I spoke on background with a contact who was at the town hall and familiar with how it was organized. They told me that the only difficulty which arose was the fact that Colton had prepared an extensive speech, but that’s not what the town hall was designed for and there wouldn’t have been time to allow his entire presentation. They claim he was still invited to ask the question of his choice on the subject of armed guards in schools, but at that point, Colton and his father withdrew him from the event.

I realize it’s tempting to read something nefarious into this, blaming either CNN or Colton, but keep in mind that this was put together on fairly short notice. The town hall was covering a story which was still developing on an hourly basis. It’s entirely possible that this was simply a misunderstanding. Perhaps Colton believed he would be given a lengthy period of time for his presentation when that was never the intent of the show’s producers and was disappointed in his expected participation in that format.

We may never know for sure, but let’s consider the show itself. If you watched it, CNN probably had a good idea what people planned to ask in general terms so they could provide guests to comment appropriately. But it didn’t sound scripted. And it’s not as if they were shying away from any divisive subjects. They even had Dana Loesch on and she tore into CNN pretty harshly without being censored.

Personally, I’m leaning more toward there being nothing subversive going on in that town hall and writing it off as miscommunication between the production crew and Colton and his family. I’ve been informed that Colton is invited on Jake Tapper’s show today, though there’s no word yet as to whether they’ve connected and set anything up. If he does go on the show, Colton will no doubt be given more time to get his points across and possibly even clear up this “scripted question” business.