CNN on Friday released emails exchanged between producer Carrie Stevenson and a survivor from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, after the student backed out of participating in a CNN town hall event and accused the outlet of preparing “scripted” questions.
“The Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action Town Hall was intended to be a forum for students, parents and teachers to speak directly to the elected leaders and stakeholders that are at the center of this critical issue,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Other outlets had obtained copies of emails which purported to show student Colton Haab, 17, being pressed by CNN to ask a certain question, but CNN says the copies of those emails were misleading because they left out a key phrase.
As the Washington Post was the first to report Friday, CNN released their own copy of the correspondence between Stevenson and Haab.
The Post-obtained emails show that the misleading correspondence leaves out the words “that he submitted,” which CNN argues indicates Haab had already drafted the question.
The email was sent to Haab’s father, Glenn Haab, who had submitted several pages of “background” points that they wanted Colton Haab to include leading up to his question for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
But according to the email exchange, Stevenson said it was too long and Colton Haab should use a shorter question that he had already submitted.
In response, Glenn Haab said the family was not right for the town hall, if the background couldn’t be included.
“We are not actors nor do we read from a script. We are real people and a lot of thoughts went into these questions," Glenn Haab wrote. "The short background before each question is extremely relevant to each question. I [sic] you want Colton only to read this one short question — we are not the right people for your town hall meeting.”
The controversy began after the town hall on Wednesday, when Haab said he did not participate in the event because of “scripted questions.”
“I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinions on my questions,” Colton Haab told a local ABC affiliate, WPLG-TV. “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions, and it ended up being all scripted.”
CNN refuted Colton Haab’s claims.
“There is absolutely no truth to this,” CNN Communications tweeted Thursday. “CNN did not provide or script questions for anyone in last night’s town hall, nor have we ever.”
The emails released by CNN do not address accusations from a second accuser: a father of a survivor of the shooting. The father told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Thursday that a CNN producer "insinuated" that they were looking for people who would "espouse a certain narrative."