The "scripted town hall" story comes to an end

Last weekend I began digging into the question of whether or not CNN had “scripted” the questions for the town hall on gun control held in Florida after the school shooting there. At the heart of the dispute between Colton Haab’s father Glenn and the CNN staff (with Jake Tapper moderating) was one key phrase in an email. The version of the email exchange between CNN’s producer and Haab included the words “that he submitted.” The version sent to HuffPo and Fox News by Haab (copied into an MS Word document) was missing those words.

At the time I reached the following conclusion:

Sorry, but that just seems like a bridge too far. Producers are not necessarily professional writers and perhaps she was just dashing off notes in a hurry. The point is that the original email exists somewhere on the servers of both CNN and the Haab family’s provider. Would the network really risk something this ham-handed just to cover up a story like this if it could later be revealed as being bogus? Possible, but as I said, it’s a stretch. And why would Glenn Haab send the full email in a Word document if he was emailing it to Fox and HuffPo?

Sadly, the alternative is to think that the Haabs are bending the truth just to try to discredit CNN.

Last night we got our answer. While Colton Haab himself may not have been involved in these hijinks, his father has admitted to doctoring the email, though he claims it was not on purpose. (Washington Times, emphasis added)

The network says Glenn Haab, the father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior Colton Haab, doctored emails to push a claim that the network told his son what to say at the forum. Colton Haab backed out of the Feb. 21 event.

CNN denies scripting any remarks and released an email exchange between a CNN producer and Glenn Haab that it says Glenn Haab altered. The altered email was sent to other news outlets, including Fox News.

Haab acknowledges omitting some words from the email but says he didn’t do it on purpose.

I saw Jake Tapper catching a lot of flack on social media over this and I received some less than supportive feedback (to put it mildly) for questioning Glenn Haab. But let’s just admit that the alternative story never made any sense in the first place. As I said in the excerpted portion above, it would have been a colossally stupid attempt at fakery on the part of the CNN producer to begin with and likely would have cost her her career after she was exposed. (And she would have been eventually.) And for what? To challenge the claims of a high school kid who had just survived a mass shooting?

As to the boy’s father, given the trauma his family has been through there’s no sense dragging him out on camera for a mea culpa, but the idea that this was done unintentionally or without purpose is a bit of a stretch. Those were the three most critical words at the heart of what they were arguing about which disappeared. And not to beat a dead horse here, but once again we should ask ourselves why Glenn Haab pasted the email into a Word document and sent it out as an attachment. It’s an email. He could have just hit the forward button.

As I said, this question made no sense from the beginning. And what’s worse is that the elder Haab has undermined whatever it was that his son was hoping to say to begin with over a dispute regarding what could have been easily written off as a case of miscommunication with the producer.