CNN Honored For Town Hall That Whitewashed Corrupt Broward Sheriff’s Failure At Parkland

CNN Honored For Town Hall That Whitewashed Corrupt Broward Sheriff’s Failure At Parkland

The Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism was awarded to CNN on Tuesday for their 2018 “Parkland Town Hall.” It pitted National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch against the now fired Broward County sheriff Scott Israel in front of an arena of Parkland residents soon after a horrific school shooting in town.

The USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center’s jury judging the awards called the town hall, in which crowds booed and shouted “murderer” at participants, a “compelling and powerful forum” that “helped advance the national conversation on gun control and violence.”

Over the course of the last year since the slaughter of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, investigators have uncovered numerous accounts of incompetence, corruption, and mishandling of police response under Israel’s leadership. Just seven days after the mass shooting, CNN gave Israel a platform without any questioning of his or his department’s responsibility for the lives lost. He received a wild standing ovation from the town hall audience after interrupting Loesch to tell her she didn’t speak for them, something she never claimed.

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he was firing Israel in January this year, he acknowledged that, “the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”

After the award was announced on Tuesday, Loesch responded on Twitter, noting that this award-winning event exploited the pain of Parkland students to “put on a show.”

The day after the town hall, Loesch told the Federalist Radio Hour that she wasn’t informed until hours before of the event’s format or that students would be asking questions. Loesch described how, before the cameras were even turned on, the audience was amped up for hours while montages were flashed on screens around the arena, and members from the community, including Israel, spoke on stage about “special interest groups” like the NRA.

“After all of this was already happening, after emotions were already running high, and after CNN put everyone together and cranked up, really trying to wind people up even more,” she said. “It was like entering like you were a boxer or like WWE. You were walking up to the stage and they had music playing. You had to walk in aisles with all these people screaming and you had to walk toward the stage.”

“When the producers cued me to walk into the arena it was to the Black Eyed Peas’ song “Let’s Get It Started,” Loesch tweeted on Tuesday.

CNN’s Jake Tapper moderated the event, and at one point lost control of the scripted conversation when a student asked Sen. Bill Nelson a question that was apparently supposed to be directed to Loesch.

“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?”

Tapper 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.”

As the crowd yelled, the student became upset. “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.”

One of the students who was on campus during the shooting, Colton Haab, told a local news outlet that he chose not to participate in the event because CNN tried to give him written questions to ask. “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted,” he said. “I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions.”

After the award was announced on Tuesday, Loesch shared videos of the audience harassing her and shouting “Shame on you!” Truly a “compelling and powerful forum” by CNN.

“Look at the great conversation taking place,” Loesch said.

Madeline is a staff editor at the Federalist and the producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. Follow her on Twitter.
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