Colton Haab, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were gunned down last week, told local media Wednesday that he declined an invitation to appear on CNN’s program. He said he’d wanted to speak about the possibility of putting more armed guards in schools to protect students ― but, he said, CNN squelched his proposed remarks.
“CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions, and it ended up being all scripted,” Haab told local ABC affiliate WPLG. “I don’t think that it’s going to get anything accomplished. It’s not gonna ask the true questions that all the parents and teachers and students have.”
The network on Thursday vehemently denied Haab’s accusation.
“There is absolutely no truth to this,” CNN said in a statement. “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,” the statement says. “Colton’s father withdrew his name from participation before the forum began, which we regretted but respected.”
CNN invited Haab to appear on the network Thursday “to discuss his views on school safety,” according to the network’s statement. Colton Haab did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
A CNN source told HuffPost that the town hall was intended to give participants a chance to ask a question, but Haab wanted to read an “extensive” speech. Colton’s father, Glenn Haab, declined to have his son participate after the network refused to let his son read the full speech, according to the source.
Glenn Haab told HuffPost that a CNN producer told him Colton’s speech ― which consisted of an opening statement, three questions and closing remarks ― was “too long,” and that Colton would have to stick to asking one question.
The elder Haab said he told the producer that Colton wouldn’t read “one short question” without the option of first presenting the audience with “extremely relevant” background information.
Colton, a member of the high school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, helped usher dozens of students to safety during last week’s shooting. He told Fox News on Saturday that he believed the high school’s assistant football coach, Aaron Feis, who was killed in the massacre, could have stopped the shooter if he’d been armed.
“Unfortunately, gun control, it’s definitely needed a little bit more,” Haab told Fox News on Saturday. “I believe that if we did bring firearms on campus to teachers that are willing to carry their firearm... if they got their correct training for it, I think that would be a big beneficial factor into school safety.”