Actually, CNN did not attempt to impose some “scripted” questions on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Colton Haab. Such was the message on Tuesday night issued from Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity in corrections to the bogus media story of last week.
“For the sake of honesty and full disclosure, to which we are committed, we have to tell you there is no evidence as of right now that CNN tried to give Colton Haab a scripted question. And we want you to know that,” said Carlson on his eponymous show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” That admission followed an extensive summary of the events as Carlson had reported them.
For his part, Hannity stuck with a smaller disclosure:
“We have a quick update on a story we told you about last week. Colton Haab is a Stoneman Douglas High School student. He was supposed to appear on CNN’s gun-control town hall. He said the network tried to script his question. Both he and his father said they had emails to prove that, told the entire media. Tonight Glenn Haab told the AP that he omitted some words from the email; he says he didn’t do it on purpose. Therefore, what Haabs told all news outlets last week was inaccurate. Our job is always to strive for the truth, and we want to correct the record.”
Both corrections were prompted by an Associated Press story reporting that Glenn Haab, father of Colton Haab, had admitted to altering an email that was part of a back-and-forth between the Haab family and a CNN producer. The alteration left some ambiguity as to whether CNN may have imposed a question on the 17-year-old Colton Haab. CNN on Friday released its own email records of the correspondence after two news outlets – Fox News and HuffPost – had forwarded allegedly doctored correspondence as part of an effort to authenticate the records.
The Washington Post and other outlets last Friday night published the side-by-side emails indicating a discrepancy between CNN’s emails and the ones that Fox News and HuffPost had obtained, presumably from the Haab family. Even with the discrepancy, the email chain made quite clear that CNN had tried to assist Colton Haab in deciding on one powerful question that he himself had drafted.
Yet Carlson, in Tuesday night’s correction, hinted that this was all a factual tossup. Here’s his entire spiel:
“We’ve got an update on that gun-control rally that CNN held last week. After the event, a high school student called Colton Haab claimed that CNN tried to give him a scripted question to ask on camera. Colton came on this show last week on Thursday to tell his story. CNN denied the account. Now, Colton and his parents sent us their email correspondence with CNN, which seemed to confirm Colton’s claim that his question had been altered by a CNN producer.
“On Friday, we asked CNN to verify and comment on those emails. Because that was our journalistic duty, so we did it. A short time before air, CNN provided us a different set of emails. We immediately asked the Haabs about those. They said they were being slandered by CNN and that is where it stood. Two sides telling contradictory stories. Without access to their email accounts, we could only guess which one was telling the truth, and guessing is not enough.
“Tonight, we have more. We have an update. The Haab family concedes that they did remove a line from one of their emails in a way that might make some think its meaning had changed. Colton’s father says it was accidental. We don’t know. We can’t prove or disprove that. But for the sake of honesty and full disclosure, to which we are committed, we have to tell you there is no evidence as of right now that CNN tried to give Colton Haab a scripted question. And we want you to know that.”
What’s remarkable about Carlson’s correction is the stuff that preceded it. From the moment this story line surfaced – that CNN had somehow “censored” this student and steered him toward its institutional bias – CNN forcefully denied any such misfeasance.
That night, Carlson welcomed Colton Haab onto his show, though he didn’t appear to lend much credence to the network’s position. After highlighting the anti-media remarks of a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, Carlson introduced his interview with the student:
“She is certainly right about the deep corruption of the news media. How corrupt? Well, Colton Haab, a JROTC cadet, who helped lead students to safety during the shootings in Florida last week, went to the CNN event last night, or wanted to.
“He said CNN producers rewrote the question he wanted to ask. CNN denies scripting anything. In other words, they’re claiming that Colton Haab is a liar. Colton Haab joins us tonight. Colton, thanks for coming on.”
After his one-sided, beat-on-CNN interview with Colton Haab, Carlson said this: “It’s shocking to us, too – trust me – in the actual journalism business.” That remark showed just how willing was this Fox News host to believe the very worst about a competitor based on disputed evidence – a willingness that he shares with several colleagues.
On Tuesday night, Carlson got around to embracing “actual journalism” by correcting the record. That was a good moment for “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”