CNN has released emails that contradict claims it concocted a "scripted" question to be asked during its recent town hall by a student who survived the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The network on Friday released emails sent and received by a producer, Carrie Stevenson, after being approached by news outlets over comments made this week by Colton Haab, a 17-year-old Stoneman Douglas student who claimed that he declined to participate in Wednesday's event on gun violence in lieu of reading a question written for him by CNN.
"CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted," Colton told an ABC affiliate in Miami on Wednesday. His comment was quickly picked up by conservative media and pounced upon by CNN's critics, President Trump included.
Colton doubled down on his claim afterwards and subsequently provided news outlets including Fox News and the Huffington Post with a Microsoft Word document purportedly containing copies of the emails he sent to Ms. Stevenson prior to Wednesday's event, including the producer's replies, Business Insider reported Friday.
CNN was asked to verify the emails Friday, prompting the network to release its own copies containing text omitted from Colton's version, the report said.
In CNN's version, Ms. Stevenson wrote the student's father, Glenn Haab, and told him that his son needed to read a question that they had "discussed on the phone that he submitted." The words "that he submitted" don't appear in Colton's version, however, making it appear as if the student wouldn't have been allowed to read the question he wrote.
"It is unfortunate that an effort to discredit CNN and the town hall with doctored emails has taken any attention away from the purpose of the event. However, when presented with doctored email exchanges, we felt the need to set the record straight," CNN said in a statement.
Metadata included in the Word document provided to Fox suggest it was last edited by software registered to the student's father, Business Insider reported.
Mr. Haab did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the report said.
A fervent critic of CNN, Mr. Trump touted Colton's claim after the student was interviewed Thursday evening by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
"'School shooting survivor says he quit @CNN Town Hall after refusing scripted question.' @TuckerCarlson. Just like so much of CNN, Fake News. That's why their ratings are so bad! MSNBC may be worse," Mr. Trump tweeted afterward.
Nikolas Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas, opened fire inside the school last Wednesday using a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle, killing 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others, according to police. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and is currently being held without bond.