Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Colton Haab appeared on FOX News' Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about his saga with CNN and how they "scripted" a question for him to use at Wednesday night's town hall event hosted by the network and moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper.
Haab, a JROTC member who helped shepherd students to safety, was approached by the network to ask a question at the town hall. Haab showed CNN what he wanted to say but said Carrie Stevenson, an executive producer at CNN, ultimately rejected it and instead after several conversations "scripted" a question for him.
"CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted," Haab said to a local news outlet Wednesday night.
"Before we get into anything. I just want to make sure that everybody hasn't forgotten why we are actually here tonight. I mean, we lost 17 lives last week. I actually physically put two to rest. To me, that was the hardest thing in the world to endure. Nobody should have to go through this. As long as we are taking the right steps to move forward from this and make sure this doesn't happen again, I'm all for that," Haab said on the Thursday broadcast of FOX News' Tucker Carlson Tonight.
"We certainly haven't forgotten. Thank you for reminding us yet again. And we think that the only way to make the country better and maybe put a dent in this scourge is to have a rational, thoughtful conversation about what to do next. And with that in mind, you were planning to go to this event last night and tell me if I am mischaracterizing any of this and you said at the request of a CNN producer you sent in a number of questions, -- statements, questions you wanted to ask of the politicians on the stage and they rewrote one of your questions? Is that right?" Carlson asked.
Haab told Carlson he wanted to go "speak [his] part" and "open eyes" to a few things he thought could make the situation better. Haab said the network was dishonest and that is why he decided not to attend. He also said he was directed to "stick to the script."
"She had actually said that over the phone that I needed to stick to the script," Haab said of the CNN producer.
Haab said he believed all the questions asked at the town hall were scripted. Haab explained in detail what happened between him and the cable news network and what he thought of the town hall.
COLTON HAAB: So what had happened was four days ago I had gotten contacted by a lady named [State of the Union executive producer] Carrie Stevenson from CNN. She had asked me originally to just write a speech. It was going to be at the town hall at the BB&T Center [in Sunrise, Florida]. So I agreed. I felt like it would be the right thing to do. Be able to go speak my part as well as open eyes to a few things that I thought that can make this situation a little better. From there, three days ago, so the next day after that I had gotten an email back from her and she asked for more of questions rather than a speech. Which I was totally fine with so I wrote a little less of a speech and more of questions that I wanted to ask at the town hall. The day after that it was more of just questions. She asked for just questions that I would like to ask.
So, I gave her my questions and then yesterday, at about 5:15, I made contact with her. And she had asked if I had just asked her one question. So what they had actually done was wrote out a question for me because in my interview with CNN, I had talked about arming the teachers, if they were willing to arm themselves in the school to carry on campus. And they had -- she had taken that of what I had briefed on and actually wrote that question out for me. So I have that question here if you would like me to ask it for you.
"I just want to make sure I have this straight. So you sent them a long, in effect essay on what you thought but they put their own words in the question and they weren't the same as the words you had sent in? They were the producer's words?" Carlson asked.
"Absolutely," Haab answered. "They had taken what I had wrote and what I had briefed on and talked about and they actually wrote the question for me."
"But not with your -- they put their own words into their question, even after they asked to you send in questions," Carlson responded.
"Absolutely," Haab said.
"But that seems dishonest," Carlson reacted.
"It definitely did," Haab agreed. "That's kind of why I didn't go last night. Originally I had thought that it was going to be more of my own question and my own say and then it turned out to be more of just a script. And she had actually said that over the phone that I needed to stick to the script."
Haab said watched some of the CNN town hall but turned it off because he "knew" it was going to be "scripted."
"I watched a little bit of it. I kind of felt like I didn't really need to because I knew as soon as what had happened with me that it was going to be more scripted and wasn't actually going to be actual questions. Then I didn't feel the need to fully watch it," he told Carlson.
"So if CNN was willing to re-word your question, put their own words in your mouth, and as you said you didn't want to go along with that, do you think they did that to other people last night?" Carlson asked.
"Absolutely, from what I did see, I seen a couple people that had asked questions before I did leave my house. And it was a little piece of paper cut out. And I know for a fact that nobody cut their own paper out and wrote their own question. Especially when they were all based off the same topic. So, to me, it from right there it showed this isn't correct. Why do they all have the same size piece of paper with a short little question on it? So, to me it was a total waste of my time, honestly," Haab said.
"You're not just some person off the street," Carlson said. "You're a survivor of this shooting and the point was the listen to you -- to the survivors of the shooting."
"Were you surprised by the way they behaved?" Carlson asked about CNN.
"I mean, honestly, it was very shocking to me because we just went through such a horrific tragedy. For them to take that and now make such a big newscast over what they want to hear, it was very upsetting to me," Haab answered.
"It's shocking to us too, trust me, in the actual journalism business," Carlson responded.
CNN denied Haab's accusation that they gave him a scripted question. According to a CNN insider Haab wanted to give an extensive speech and not just ask a question, something the network said the forum was not designed for. When the family was told this they decided to pull out of the event. The CNNer also noted the subject Haab wanted to address, arming teachers, was discussed at length in the 2-hour long town hall.
Here is CNN's official statement:
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.