CNN’s Jake Tapper was thrown off kilter during an anti-gun town hall Wednesday night when a student went off script and attacked a Democrat senator instead of a spokesman for the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The student had prepared a question she was supposed to ask Dana Loesch, who spoke at the town hall on behalf of the NRA, but aimed her question at Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) instead.
“I had a question for Ms. Loesch but she’s not here yet, so, for her and the NRA, which she’s probably watching, and all of you puppet politicians that they are backing: was the the blood of my classmates and my teachers worth your blood money?”
Rather than chide the questioner for such a dishonest, partisan screed, Tapper immediately jumped to Nelson’s defense.
“Senator Nelson, you don’t have to answer that question,” he said. “Let’s move on to the next question.”
The crowd jeered, and the student was not happy. “Excuse me? I’m a student. I should –”
“I understand that,” Tapper interrupted. “But your question, I thought you were going to ask Senator Nelson a question. Your question sounds like you want to ask Dana Loesch a question in the next segment. And I’m happy to do that, if you want.”
The reaction of both Tapper and Nelson indicates that the scripted event went awry, as Tapper was clearly expecting an approved question for Nelson, not a premature rant aimed at a woman who had not even been brought on stage by the network yet.
Colton Haab, one of the students who survived last week’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, told the media he chose not to attend the town hall, because CNN tried to give him written questions to ask at the event. Haab is a Junior ROTC enlistee who personally helped dozens of students stay safe during the shooting by moving them to a more secure classroom and setting up Kevlar screens to shield students from bullets.
“CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted,” he told a local news outlet. “I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions.”
Loesch’s husband Chris also addressed the scripted nature of the event at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“The questions were chosen in advance,” Loesch said. “That was obvious because they were able to hand the microphone to the next person that was going to speak or ask a question. I think at one point it got a little messed up cause one of the young [women] asked Dana a question when she wasn’t even on stage yet, which I thought was a little odd.”
CNN issued a statement onThursday morning denying that it had scripted the show in advance.