Colton Haab, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is accusing CNN of scripting questions for its Town Hall on guns and the Florida school shooting. He says the network did not allow him to ask a question about arming veterans to protect students from school shooters.
The network is denying Haab’s claims and produced emails to back up its side. Nikolas Cruz, an expelled student, is accused in the murder of 17 students and staff at the school in what was the third deadliest school shooting in the nation’s history. A movement for changes in gun policies has erupted among some of the students, plunging the school into the middle of the gun debate.
The students and parents at the Town Hall asked questions of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Haab, 17, is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Colton Haab Claims CNN Wouldn’t Let Him Ask a Question on Armed Veterans
In an interview with WPLG-TV in Miami after the Town Hall, Haab first made his claims against CNN. Haab said, “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted. I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions.”
“I don’t think that it’s going get anything accomplished. It’s not gonna ask the true questions that all the parents and teachers and students have,” Haab told the television station, adding that he declined to participate in the Town Hall as a result.
He is claiming that he wanted to ask a question about using veterans as armed security guards at schools, but that CNN wanted him to ask a scripted question in place of it.
However, The Hill and other media outlets say Haab allegedly provided emails to the news media that differ from the emails per CNN.
“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,” CNN told Business Insider. CNN’s perspective is that the student’s appearance fell apart when his father insisted on Colton being allowed to read a lengthy speech versus reading a single question.
According to The Tampa Bay Times, Colton’s father, Glenn Haab “acknowledges omitting some words from the email but says he didn’t do it on purpose.”
2. CNN Insists It Did Not Script the Town Hall
CNN is denying Haab’s claims. “There is absolutely no truth to this,” CNN said in a written statement posted on Twitter. “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.”
CNN claimed to the Daily Caller that Haab wanted to give a speech not ask a question. However, Daily Caller noted that Lori Alhadeff , the mother of a Stoneman victim, was allowed to read lengthy prepared remarks during the Town Hall versus being required to simply pose a question. Many of the comments at the Town Hall focused on support for gun control and challenges to Rubio for his gun policy stances and NRA donations.
3. Colton Haab Was Praised as a Hero After He Used ROTC Kevlar Sheets to Shield Students
Colton Haab was one of the students and staff members who was praised for his quick-thinking in the wake of the school shooting, which occurred when Cruz barged into the school, pulled a fire alarm, and opened fire randomly on students, authorities say.
Haab was previously featured in a positive story on CNN about his heroism. According to that article, Haab is a member of Junior ROTC. As the shooting broke out, “he ushered 60 to 70 people to shelter in an open Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps room,” CNN reported shortly after the mass shooting occurred in a story that described Haab’s “heroism.”
Haab then had the smart idea to use the program’s Kevlar sheets to protect students. “We took those sheets, and we put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen, because they were behind a solid object and the Kevlar would slow the bullet down,” Haab told CNN.
4. Haab Has Confederate Flag Graphics on His Facebook Page & Believes Armed Teachers Could Have Stopped the Threat
Several confederate flag graphics are on his Facebook page, including one posted twice in 2012 that says “NObama.” The other graphic shows the confederate flag turning into the word “rebel.”
Another photo on his page shows a person holding a gun next to a truck with stars on it. That photo was also posted in 2012.
Most of the other public posts on Colton’s page show him holding large fish or show him when he was a lot younger.
People filled Haab’s Facebook page with praise for the young man. “You are a very caring person. Miss YOU and I’m so very proud of you. You will BLESSED FOR LOOKING OUT FOR EVERYONE. YOU ARE AS I ALWAYS TELL EVERYONE…AN AMAZING AND RESPECTFUL YOUNG MAN. YOU AND YOUR BROTHER ARE VERY RARE IN THIS SOCIETY OF PEOPLE NOWADAYS. I’M SO RELIEVED YOU’RE OKAY AND PLEASE HUG YOUR FAMILY FROM ME TODAY,” wrote one woman. Wrote another man on the thread: “a fine outstanding young man.”
Wrote another man, “Heard you on the news you did wonderful helping keep people safe.”
Wearing his Junior ROTC Uniform, Haab has given other interviews in which he argues that arming teachers could alleviate future tragedies. President Donald Trump later pushed that angle in his reaction to the tragedy. That concept is hotly contested; during the CNN Town Hall, some participants spoke out against arming teachers.
Haab told Fox News, “If Coach Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe that he could have… stopped the threat.” Aaron Feis was one of the other heroes that day. He gave his life and was widely credited with intervening to protect other students from the school shooter.
5. Conspiracy Theories Surrounding Other Students Were Debunked
The debate around the school shooting is growing tense and mirroring some of the nation’s political divides. Some people have falsely accused various Stoneman Douglas students who have spoken out on gun control of being crisis actors. That is not true. Like Colton Haab, they are students at the school. Some of the false conspiracy theories surround a student, David Hogg, whose father is a retired FBI agent and who filmed a viral video while in California on vacation.
Hogg, as with the other students, is a real person and not a crisis actor. An aide to a Florida lawmaker was fired for raising the conspiracy theories to a journalist. Benjamin Kelly was fired from his position as a District Secretary for Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa). A Tampa Bay Times journalist had written on Twitter: “An aide to state Rep. Shawn Harrison, using state email, sent me this: ‘Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.’’
You can read more about David Hogg here: