It didn't take long for President Trump to comment on the CNN Town Hall discussion that happened Wednesday night. On Thursday, Trump blasted CNN for supposedly giving a Parkland student scripted questions. And the network promptly shut down that claim with a candid tweet of its own.
The town hall took place one week after the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Joining the discussion, or debate as it turned into, were survivors of the Parkland shooting, parents of shooting victims, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, and Florida lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Bill Nelson, and Rep. Ted Deutch. Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott were invited but declined the invite.
The televised town hall was an emotionally charged event, which saw teenage students calling out both Congress and the NRA in the wake of their peers' deaths. Earlier that day in Washington, D.C., Trump held a listening session with survivors and victims' families. Trump's handwritten crib sheet of talking points included a reminder to show empathy, (Point 5: "I hear you"), which invited scorn on social media.
Following the town hall, Trump tweeted:
"School shooting survivor says he quit @CNN Town Hall after refusing scripted question." @TuckerCarlson. Just like so much of CNN, Fake News. That’s why their ratings are so bad! MSNBC may be worse.
CNN tweeted its rebuttal with this clap back:
Although the network has disputed the claim, the accusation that CNN gave a Parkland student scripted questions is not entirely unfounded.
Colton Haab, a junior at Stoneman Douglas, told local news station WPLG-TV that he withdrew from the CNN town hall, which focused on gun control, because “CNN had originally asked [him] to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted.” A typed document with Haab's original questions appear on camera. Haab wanted to suggest that military veterans be employed as school security guards, according to WPLG. "I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions," Haab said.
Trump's critical tweet came after Fox News' Tucker Carlson interviewed Haab on Thursday evening. The student reiterated his claim and remarked that attending the event would have been a "total waste of time."
No other students have said CNN gave them scripted questions. In a response to Haab, the network refuted Haab's claim, saying his father withdrew Haab from participation, and invited the student to CNN to discuss his opinions on improving school safety. Their full statement reads:
Haab, a member of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), had given an interview to CNN days after the Parkland shooting where he recounted how he used his training to save lives. When he head there was a gunman on campus, the 17-year-old led 60 to 70 people to shelter in a JROTC room. He then covered them with Kevlar sheets, which are used for marksmanship practice and are made of a similar material used for bulletproof vests. "I didn't think it was going to stop [a bullet], but it would definitely slow it down to make it from a catastrophic to a lifesaving thing," Haab told CNN.
Haab appeared in uniform in another interview, this time on Fox News, where he suggested that teachers with appropriate training who are willing to carry firearms could also makes school safer. Coach Feis, who died by putting himself in front of bullets for his students, could have stopped the threat if he was armed, Haab guessed.
Training teachers to use guns is one of the controversial solution Trump has proposed to increase school safety. He added that armed teachers should get a bonus pay as an incentive. Many school districts and teachers have dismissed Trump's idea to arm teachers as impractical.