Did the NRA Try to Hijack the CNN Town Hall on the Parkland Shootings?

Most people aren’t really familiar with how radio and television works, and especially in the case of a ‘town hall’ broadcast.  Please allow me to do what teachers do, and explain.

You already know that all programming is allotted to certain time frames. You may not realize how tight that timing is on a national level. Live sporting events and breaking news coverage are essentially the ONLY types of broadcast that are allowed to go over a specifically allotted time, even by a second or two.

Please don’t let the words “scripted questions” throw you. ALL PROGRAMMING is essentially scripted. In the case of a town hall, this means the following, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. A certain amount of time is allowed for questions, and for answers. Members of the questioning group ALWAYS submit questions they want to ask. This ensures that two people don’t ask the same question, also that the questioners don’t embarrass themselves with bad grammar, perhaps foul language, and that the questions are succinct, that is, without rambling, which really skews the time factor and can cloud the focus of the question. It’s normal for the presenter, CNN in this case, to work with the questioners (who in most cases aren’t professional writers/speakers) in order to help them get the best phrasing. There is nothing wrong with this. It is still the question John Doe, or in this case Colton Haab, wanted to ask.

Questioners are not allowed to make speeches. If Colton Haab gets to make a thirty or forty or sixty second speech, then every other questioner has to be allotted the same opportunity, in the name of fairness.

I look at the email exchange, and I see a young man (assisted and influenced by his father, don’t forget that part) with a question which the network helped him phrase. No problem there. As I said, it’s standard procedure. I also see that the young man then wanted to make a bit of a speech, which is simply not going to work. I also see that a key phrase has been omitted from those emails by the father’s version, which he has advertised.

My conclusion is that the network is not at fault. This is the father trying to advance an agenda, and I have to wonder if perhaps someone else, most likely the NRA itself, was in the father’s ear. To me, this is the NRA and gun lobby attempting to hijack the town hall, and when not being allowed to do so, creating a very deceptive version of what actually transpired.


“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!”

Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17