CNN Chris Cuomo Colton Haab

Opinion: CNN Had a Bad Week


Over the past week, CNN has been battling allegations of scripting a town hall event, spreading fake news, and exposing the identity and location of a woman during an interview. These accusations have been claimed by some as proof that the network fails to live up to its “Facts First” credo, while others view CNN as being unfairly targeted by phony accusations. The network’s most recent faux pas, described by some as harassment of a private citizen, drew particularly strong criticism from prominent media figures. 

Chris Cuomo Retweeted Fake News and Defended It

Earlier this week, CNN host Chris Cuomo retweeted an article written by 20-year old Cody Davis who claimed he was “able to buy a gun in five minutes” in his headline. The article itself proved nothing of the sort; the author admitted that he was given five pages of paperwork to fill out and instead, he abruptly left- contradicting his claim that he “was able to buy” a gun. A few days later Twitter users criticized Cuomo for retweeting fake news. Rather than discuss the content of the article— particularly the detail that many of Cuomo’s detractors found most crucial, which was that the author left before filling out required paperwork for the gun purchase— Cuomo argued that he shared the article because he felt the “system should be better.”

Colton Haab Claims CNN “Scripted” His Town Hall Question

Update, February 24, 2018, 1:25pm:

A CNN source has released emails to address the Haab family’s claims of the network putting forward “scripted” material. According to Business Insider, Fox News and the Huffington Post received CNN-related email exchanges from the Haabs on Friday afternoon, and CNN later “provided Colton’s version of the emails, as well as their versions of all of the communications between the Haabs and CNN.”

Business Insider reports that CNN opted to release their communications upon the revelation that the emails received by Fox and HuffPo were missing a portion of text. CNN’s version of one particular email shows that producer Carrie Stevenson told Colton’s father, Glenn, that Colton needed to “stick to” one question that he and Stevenson “discussed on the phone that he submitted”; the version of the email reportedly provided by the Haabs to Fox and HuffPost is missing the phrase “that he submitted.”

Original report:

Colton Haab, a Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor, was among a number of survivors invited to a special CNN town hall event. Haab said that he was asked to prepare questions and commentary for the event, and went on to claim that CNN attempted to replace his proposed material with the network’s suggested material. Haab accused CNN of turning his remarks into a “scripted” question, an allegation that CNN quickly denied.

Since Haab’s initial accusation, more details have been revealed and both Haab and CNN have doubled down on their positions, with Haab appearing on Fox News to share further context and CNN standing firm in their refutation.

Haab’s father, Glenn Haab, told the Huffington Post that his son had been informed that his prepared material was too long and was directed to cut his proposed remarks to one question. Haab’s father went on to say that his son could not properly convey one question with no context, so he chose not to attend the town hall.

According to the Daily Caller, Matt Dornic, CNN’s Vice President of Communications and Digital Partnerships, claimed that CNN “gave Haab the opportunity to expand on the idea of arming teachers, a topic which was brought up multiple times during the town hall, as opposed to delivering a prepared speech.” The Daily Caller noted that “Haab reportedly declined to reframe his remarks, and his father subsequently prevented him from taking part in the program. Despite CNN’s explanation, the network did in fact let multiple participants deliver lengthy remarks which went beyond the pale of simple questions.”

When President Trump waded into the controversy, CNN’s Drew Griffin dismissed the situation as a lie “repeated over and over again.”

Haab went on to appear on Fox News, going into further detail with Tucker Carlson and went into further detail about the incident:

So what had happened was four days ago I had gotten contacted by a lady named 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. 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.

“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.”

Andrew Klein, the father of a survivor of the Stoneham Douglas shooting, told Laura Ingraham that he had been approached by a CNN producer the day after the shooting, and “the producer insinuated to me they were looking for people who were willing to espouse a certain narrative which was taking a tragedy and turning it into a policy debate and I read that as being a gun control debate.” When Ingraham pressed for clarification, Klein said “the producer said we’re looking for people who want to talk about the policy implications about what happened in terms of— she didn’t mention guns but in terms of the policy implications for preventing future mass shootings and if you know folks who want to talk about that, we’d like to speak to those people.”

At this point, CNN and Haab have yet to provide proof to fully substantiate their respective claims, but both are staunch in their convictions. CNN’s most recent rebuttal on Twitter noted that “we can prove” Haab’s statements are untrue.

The Latest: CNN Confronted a Woman at Her Home and Exposed Her Identity

CNN’s Drew Griffin tracked down and confronted a woman at her home as part of Griffin’s reporting on “unwitting” American participants in Russian interference related to the 2016 election. Griffin described the woman to viewers as an individual helping “Russian internet trolls infiltrate U.S. communities by spreading Russian made messages without knowing it.”

The woman reportedly used her Facebook page to promote purported Pro-Trump rallies, which were allegedly organized by a “front group” tracing back to a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency. Griffin repeatedly questioned her outside of her home about her level of involvement with Russians regarding her pro-Trump Facebook group’s promotion of the rally:

In publishing the woman’s first, middle, and last name, as well as her county and state of residence, she was quickly discovered online and has reportedly been subjected to a high volume of harassment.

CNN’s report was widely rebuked by a number of public figures.

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted last week following the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations. “There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

This is not the first time CNN has shown affinity to exposing identities of citizens; last summer, the network had reported how it identified a Reddit user who crafted a GIF depicting President Trump beating a man whose head had been replaced by a CNN logo. The network reported that while it would not disclose the user’s identity at the time because the Reddit user submitted an apology to CNN’s satisfaction, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”