The teenaged survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida have the GOP desperately playing defense. They’ve stooped to smearing the kids as “crisis actors” in a “deep state” plot, shaming them for daring to demand more from their elected officials, and accusing them of being pawns of the media. The pathetic attack campaign caught the attention of the president, who gleefully tweeted out a story from Tucker Carlson last night accusing CNN of putting their words in the students’ mouths. Surprise, bluffer Tucker! It’s all fake news.
Last night, Tucker Carlson breathlessly squinted in shock as he listened to one of the teenage survivors of the Parkland massacre accuse CNN of attempting to put “their own words” in his mouth.
Scripted town hall? Check out part of my interview with a student who claims CNN rewrote and scripted his question. CNN pushed back against the initial claim. Take a listen #Tucker @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/8uDuH6rBIv— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 23, 2018
Trump wasn’t going to let a chance to bash CNN AND discredit the school shooting survivors who’ve been dunking on Republicans all week slip by so he tweeted it out:
Colton Haab, a 17 year-old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas who shielded classmates from gunfire, claimed a CNN producer demanded he stick to a scripted question that CNN had written instead of the questions he wanted to ask, which caused him to pull out of the town hall event. According to Haab, he was asked to
“just write a speech,” which he emailed to the producer who brushed him off, asking him what questions he wanted to ask. After that, he claims a CNN producer wrote a question for him and demanded he “stick to the script.”
“That seems dishonest,” a scandalized Carlson replied. Haab agreed and said that’s what caused him to pull out of the event. Colton Haab went even further in a statement to a local news station, saying, “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions, and it ended up being all scripted.”
You could practically feel the tentative sigh of relief coming from right-wing gun fanatics, who were afraid they might have to keep paying attention to the activist teens pushing for gun control.
Unfortunately, emails released by CNN indicate Carlson, Fox News, and everyone else who pushed the story has been taken in by a hoax.
Emails released by CNN indicate that other emails being shopped around to various media outlets, including Fox News, were doctored. Here’s what Washington Post fact-checker Erik Wemple had to say:
According to a CNN spokesman, those two outlets had received a "doctored" version of the correspondence that made it appear as if CNN had dictated a question to 17-year-old Colton Haab.— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2018
As part of their due diligence efforts, Fox News and HuffPost presented CNN with the exchanges. CNN alleges that one of the emails forwarded by these outlets cuts off a few words that are critical to understanding the back-and-forth.— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2018
CNN has maintained that it paired a question submitted by Colton Haab with a prefatory statement that he'd made previously on a "Fox & Friends" appearance. Which is to say, they wanted Haab to merely recite what he'd already said.— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2018
Here's the email released by CNN that represents that interaction. Note the part that indicates "that he submitted": pic.twitter.com/ajHOBU1V8T— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2018
Now have a look at the email that CNN was asked to comment upon Friday afternoon. "that he submitted" isn't there : pic.twitter.com/pz4dr841ov— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2018
Oops! It seems like what happened was CNN rejected a long “multi-page speech” of questions and comments that Haab’s father Glenn said Colton preferred to read (which makes sense if they were trying to cram in as many questions as possible). To try to salvage things, the producer smashed together a verbatim statement he made to Fox & Friends with one of his submitted questions. So CNN is guilty of concise editing and stagecraft and not trying to force their words into a teenage survivor’s mouth.
The CNN producer did say Haab needed to “stick to this” in an email to the teen’s father, who emailed back saying that the child wasn’t an actor and wouldn’t read lines. Totally fine! But don’t accuse CNN of putting their words in the kid’s mouth when they were his words. In the words of Tucker Carlson “that seems dishonest.”
We’re still left with the mystery of who deleted the “that he submitted” from the email exchange and who shopped the doctored emails around. Fox News and HuffPo know the answers to at least one of those questions, but I won’t hold my breath for the answer.
Instead, I’ll furrow my brow and meaningfully squint while I wait for everyone involved to correct the record.