Parkland shooting survivor Colton Haab caused a fierce media debate this week after he accused CNN of scripting questions for its town hall event on guns, something the network denies and has now released emails to counter.
Here’s everything we know about what transpired between Haab and the network.
Haab originally came into public view after he and a fellow Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) saved lives during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by shielding students from gunfire with Kevlar curtains.
He told ABC News, “I brought those curtains out because I knew exactly what they were made of.” (RELATED: JROTC Students Saved Peers By Building A Shield Out Of Kevlar Curtains)
“I never thought that we’d need them…but after yesterday, I’m glad that we had them.”
He then appeared on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, saying that if football coach Adam Fies — who died in the Parkland shooting — had his gun with him he could have possibly stopped the shooting.
Trump is basically saying what JROTC student Colton Haab said a few days ago, that Coach Feis could have stopped the shooter if he was armed pic.twitter.com/8bBpbmzVhs
— Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) February 21, 2018
Haab was absent from a CNN town hall event on guns Wednesday. He told Miami’s WPLG-TV, “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted.”
CNN Vice President of Communications and Digital Partnerships Matt Dornic denied that claim in a statement given to TheDC on Thursday, saying, “There is absolutely no truth” to Haab’s statement.
“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.” (RELATED: CNN Denies Student’s Claim The Network Planted ‘Scripted’ Questions At Gun Town Hall)
Haab then appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday night and explained how he felt a CNN producer had tried to control the question he was going to ask for the town hall.
He said, “They had taken what I had wrote and what I had briefed on and talked about and they actually wrote the question for me,” also saying that a CNN producer “had actually said that over the phone I needed to stick to the script.”
The Daily Caller, as well as several other outlets, reported on the segment.
After this appearance, President Trump tweeted about CNN being “Fake News,” explicitly mentioning the Tucker Carlson segment:
“School shooting survivor says he quit @CNN Town Hall after refusing scripted question.” @TuckerCarlson. Just like so much of CNN, Fake News. That’s why their ratings are so bad! MSNBC may be worse.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2018
This prompted CNN’s PR account to tweet back to Trump, “There is absolutely no truth to this story — and we can prove that. CNN did not provide or script questions for anyone in last night’s town hall, nor have we ever. Those are the facts.
On Friday, CNN released the emails between Colton Haab, his father Glenn Haab and network producer Carrie Stevenson.
Screenshots of the emails were published on The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Blog and on Mediaite.
The emails show Haab sending CNN producer Carrie Stevenson a number of questions, including the question: “Have we thought about having a class for teachers who are willing to be armed trained to carry on campus?”
Then, in another email from Stevenson to Glenn Haab, the producer says that she had talked on the phone with Colton and said, “He needs to stick to this.”
She then had a question in the body of the email that read, “Senator Nelson, if Coach Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe he could have most likely stopped the threat. Have we thought about having a class for teachers who are willing to be armed trained to carry on campus?”
The second sentence is one of the exact questions that Colton himself submitted to Stevenson.
Glenn Haab then wrote back, “We are not actors nor do we read from a script,” adding that if the only thing CNN wanted Colton for was to ask one quick question, then “we are not the right people for your town hall meeting.”
The most important part of the emails released by CNN is the network’s contention that a doctored version of the email was being sent around to media outlets.
A copy of the email from Stevenson to Glenn Haab, provided to Fox News and HuffPost, shows that a sentence of Stevenson’s appears to be edited.
The sentence that originally read, “This is what Colton and I discussed on the phone that he submitted. He needs to stick to this,” was edited to have “that he submitted” removed.
“This is what Colton and I discussed on the phone. He needs to stick to this,” the sentence ended up reading, an omission that had the effect of making CNN’s intentions look nefarious when they actually were not.
Carlson responded to CNN releasing the emails on his Friday show by pointing out the hypocrisy of the network going after Haab, saying, “This is journalism. We don’t know what’s actually true. So, we’re going to do our best to find out and we will tell you if we do.”
“Almost immediately after the show, CNN responded by claiming that Colton Haab is lying, even altering evidence. Tonight, CNN executives leaked an authorized release of what they claim are Colton’s personal emails. They are trying to claim that he or his family altered evidence of his exchange with a CNN producer,” he said.
“All of this surprised us because, as you will remember, it was just a few days ago that CNN was declaring that anyone who questioned the integrity of Parkland survivors–and Colton Haab is one of them–is a monster guilty of the most severe kind of moral crime.”
“And yet, CNN is doing the very same thing right now, questioning the integrity of a survivor because it suits them. So there is some irony there. But there is also the large and we think more important question of what’s actually true. This is journalism. We don’t know what’s actually true. So, we’re going to do our best to find out and we will tell you if we do.”
Business Insider reported Friday that CNN provided a statement to the outlet reading, “It is unfortunate that an effort to discredit CNN and the town hall with doctored emails has taken any attention away from the purpose of the event. However, when presented with doctored email exchanges, we felt the need to set the record straight.”
The article from BI also reports, “According to the metadata of the Word document containing the email that was provided to Fox, it appears that Glenn last edited it.”