Last week’s CNN town hall on gun violence featured strong calls for action from survivors of the Parkland shooting, a combative NRA spokesperson, and a nervous Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). It did not feature Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, Colton Haab, who had been set to attend the town hall.
The reason why Haab wasn’t there, according to what Haab told media in the days after the town hall, was because CNN tried to tell him what to say. But this argument fell apart on Tuesday after Haab’s father Glenn admitted he had doctored an email exchange with CNN which made it look as though CNN was directing what Colton could say at the town hall. This caused even Fox News to admit, grudgingly, that the Haabs’ initial claims were suspect and there was no evidence CNN tried to give him a scripted question.
But President Trump, who tweeted about Carlson’s initial segment must have missed the correction, because he still had yet to delete or correct an earlier tweet attacking CNN for this false infraction as of Wednesday afternoon.
Colton Haab was reportedly one of several JROTC students who helped protect dozens of classmates by hiding them in a JROTC classroom. He spoke about this to outlets such as Fox & Friends, and advocated arming trained teachers in schools.
CNN reached out to Haab about participating in the town hall, but he told the local ABC affiliate the day of the event that he refused to attend because “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted.” He showed two pieces of paper with the speech he had initially emailed to CNN, along with several questions.
Haab went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program the following evening, and said first someone from CNN asked for a speech, and then asked for “more questions” which Haab said he was fine with. Then he told Carlson, the day of the event, CNN “had taken what I had wrote, and what I had briefed on and talked about, and they actually wrote the question for me.” He said he believed that CNN had supplied other students who participated in the event with questions, and that he found the whole thing “shocking” and “upsetting.”
Donald Trump quoted Carlson in a tweet last week that attacked CNN for being “fake news” and having bad ratings.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2018
CNN replied directly to the president’s tweet, saying “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. #FactsFirst.”
On Tuesday, Haab’s father, who had helped facilitate his son’s communications with CNN, admitted that he had doctored an email sent to media to push the claim that CNN had told Colton what to say. He said he omitted some words, but did not do it on purpose, according to the AP. Both versions of the exchange have CNN asking Glenn Haab to make Colton’s questions shorter “so that we can get to as many people as possible.” Then the key sentence: “This is what Colton and I discussed on the phone that he submitted.” The version of the exchange Glenn Colton circulated to media after the event omitted the words “that he submitted.”
The family of a Parkland shooting survivor appears to have provided doctored emails to Fox and HuffPost in an attempt to support their claim that CNN "scripted" its Wednesday town hall. https://t.co/AdiXw2lmRz pic.twitter.com/3O5EneClcK
— Eliza Relman (@eliza_relman) February 24, 2018
Though Glenn Colton said he did not omit the words on purpose and “there was nothing malicious behind it,” the omission changed the basis of the conservative media’s freakout enough that even Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who had Colton Haab on his show the day after the town hall to make these claims, issued a brief correction on his Tuesday show.
Carlson reviewed the story, said that CNN and the Haabs had shared the differing emails with Fox the day after the Haab interview, and that the Haabs “said they were being slandered by CNN and that is where it stood, two sides telling contradictory stories…”
He then got to the news of the doctored email exchange:
The Haab family concedes that they did remove a line from out of their emails in a way that might make some think it its meaning had changed. Colton’s father said it was accidental. We don’t know, we can’t prove or disprove that. For the sake of honesty and full disclosure, to which we are committed, we have to tell your there is no evidence as of right now that CNN tried to give Colton Hobb a scripted question. And we wanted to do that.
Though the president seems to catch many shows on Fox, he either missed this one, or decided not to correct his tweet pushing the theory that CNN is fake news.