CNN's Long History of Planting Town Hall Questions

Colton Haab, a survivor and hero of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, says CNN would not allow him to ask the question he wanted at the network's town hall event Wednesday night.

 

"Colton wrote questions about school safety, suggested using veterans as armed school security guards but claims CNN wanted him to ask a scripted question instead so he decided not to go," WPLG-TV's Janine Stanwood reported.

"CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted," Haab said during Stanwood's report. "I don't think that it's going get anything accomplished. It's not gonna ask the true questions that all the parents and teachers and students have."

CNN vehemently denied scripting questions, saying in a statement that "did not, and does not, script any questions for town hall meetings, ever."

This, however, flies in the face of the decade-long history of CNN rather transparently planting town hall questions designed to aid Democratic presidential candidates, most notably Hillary Clinton.

 

In October of 2016, the very first question for Clinton during a CNN town hall fit in perfectly with her narrative about then-opponent Donald Trump's treatment of women...and it came from a teenage girl purported to be a random questioner but who was in fact the daughter of a Democratic Pennsylvania State Senator who served as the Chair of the Democratic Campaign Committee, which endorsed Clinton.  

During the primary, a young boy asked Clinton a question during a CNN town hall and, when he became flustered, told her "I can see why they gave you this question."

Wait, they gave you this question?  CNN presented all of its questions as coming from the audience members themselves.  Why did this kid reference someone else giving Clinton the question that he was asking? 

Even liberal commentators like Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks noticed:

 

None of this was new for CNN, however, as Michelle Malkin noted in The New York Post:

At the cable station’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas in 2007, moderator Wolf Blitzer introduced several citizen questioners as “ordinary people, undecided voters.” But they later turned out to include a former Arkansas Democratic director of political affairs, the president of the Islamic Society of Nevada, and a far left anti-war activist who’d been quoted in newspapers lambasting Harry Reid for his failure to pull out of Iraq.

Malkin further identified a long list of Democrat plants during a CNN/YouTube town hall just a few weeks later:

A member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Americans For Hillary Clinton Steering Committee.

A young woman named “Journey” who questioned the candidates on abortion and whom CNN failed to properly identify as an outspoken John Edwards supporter.

A supposed “Log Cabin Republican” who had declared his support for Obama on an Obama ‘08 campaign blog.

A supposedly unaffiliated “concerned mother” who was actually a staffer and prominent Pittsburgh union activist for the United Steelworkers — which had endorsed Edwards for president.

A supposed “undecided” voter who urged Ron Paul to run as an independent, but who had already publicly declared his support for former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s Democratic presidential bid.

A staffer for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; a former intern for Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., and a former intern for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Ironically, CNN itself reported in 2007 on the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign's highly unethical use of staged questions during a town hall event in Iowa. 

 

"The Hillary Campaign...asked me if I would ask the Senator a question," explained Grinnell College student Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff.  "They brought me to one of the senior staffers and he asked me if there was anything I wanted to ask."

Gallo-Chasanoff said she thought about it and then told the staffer she wanted to ask a question about Clinton's energy plan as it compared with other candidates' plans.

"He said, 'Well, I don't think that's a good idea because I'm not sure how familiar she is with their plans,'" she recalled.  "And then he showed me in his binder a piece of paper that had typed out questions on it and the top one was planned specifically for a college student.

"The question was: 'As a young person, I am concerned about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?'"

Gallo-Chasanoff said Clinton answered her question well enough, but that she was disappointed that she couldn't ask the question she really wanted to ask.

"That's why I was really curious to hear how her [energy] plan compares to other candidates' as an undecided voter as I'm trying to decide who I want representing me."

Ultimately, she didn't have the chance, because Clinton's event was so heavily scripted, just as CNN's Democratic town halls were just weeks later.  In November of 2007, CNN considered staged questions a scandal for Clinton, but by January of 2008, CNN itself was planting activists in its town halls and pretending they were simply undecided voters.

By 2016, the network wasn't just planting questions from audience members, one of its debate moderators, Donna Brazile, was caught actually feeding a question to Clinton ahead of time.  

Today, however, CNN is insisting that it didn't force Colton Haab to ask a question he didn't want to, claiming that it has never scripted town hall questions.

After more than a decade of doing just that, though, CNN's denials are rather difficult to believe. 

Dan O'Donnell

Dan O'Donnell

Common Sense Central is edited by WISN's Dan O'Donnell. Dan provides unique conservative commentary and analysis of stories that the mainstream media often overlooks. Read more

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