Thursday, 24 May 2018
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Today slammed for segment with Columbine survivor

Today slammed for segment with Columbine survivor
23 Apr
12:33

THE survivor of the Columbine High School shootings who was subjected to an awkward interview on Weekend Today has responded to the backlash towards the show.

Earlier, Weekend Today defended itself after an interview with Evan Todd “backfired” and went horribly wrong.

Worse, during the interview, Weekend Today host Allison Langdon referred to Mr Todd as “Eric” twice. Eric Harris was one of the two shooters in the Columbine attacks. During the 1999 massacre, he and Dylan Klebold approached Mr Todd in the school library, forcing him to beg for his life.

The segment turned when host Allison Langdon questioned Mr Todd over the student-led anti-gun movement, March For Your Lives, which has grown from this year’s Valentine’s Day school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

News.com.au recently spoke to Mr Todd over his controversial views that teachers in schools should be armed and while the Weekend Today interview started innocently enough, it ended by cutting Mr Todd off and “agreeing to disagree” over his views.

“There definitely seems like there is a lot of backlash. Personally I don’t care about the disrespect. I’m a big boy, in more ways than one. I’ve handled worse,” Mr Todd told news.com.au after the interview.

“I just appreciate the opportunity to promote liberty for all. I’m also overwhelmed with so many kind and encouraging comments coming from quite a few of Australian citizens. Awesome people.”

That day at Columbine High School, in Colorado, US, 13 people didn’t make it out alive, and after years of deliberating, Mr Todd has come to the conclusion that teachers should be allowed to carry guns in schools as a preventive measure.

“I did have a period after Columbine where I greatly questioned whether guns were the problem. I really truly wanted to find some kind of answer to what happened, some kind of way to help prevent it,” he told news.com.au earlier this month.

“I looked at all the angles and I guess I don’t think guns are the issue. I look at my upbringing, all my friends — we had more access to guns than Eric and Dylan and we didn’t murder anybody. They didn’t have any guns in their homes whereas I was raised with guns.”

Mr Todd doesn’t believe teachers should be forced to carry a gun, but if they already carry a concealed-weapons permit, why not use the opportunity to use it in a school shooting scenario?

As the anniversary of the school shooting approached on Saturday, Mr Todd was asked to appear on Today from his home in Denver, Colorado, to engage in a lively discussion over his views and experience.

But instead, hosts Langdon and Peter Stefanovic have been accused of insensitivity as Australian viewers apologise to Mr Todd for the awkward segment, with Langdon referring to Mr Todd as “Eric” twice in the interview to a visibly shocked interview subject.

Meanwhile, today the Nine breakfast show defended accusations from viewers over cutting the segment’s conversation over gun laws on social media. The nine-minute interview on air was cut to one minute on social media.

“What a disgraceful effort Today show! Evan Todd survived the horror of Columbine and has had to live with it every day of his life since. Not only were you incredibly rude to him during the interview when you realised it wasn’t going the way you had planned, but to only post a tiny cherrypicked snippet in order to spin it in your favour is shameful journalism,” posted Sue Hammond.

“You invited him onto your show, you specifically asked him to share his thoughts and opinions, and when those thoughts and opinions didn’t match yours, you interrupted him, talked over him, cut him off and eventually shut the interview down.”

Today told news.com.au: “It’s standard for all social media clips on Today’s Facebook page to sit around 60 seconds, mainly beginning from the introduction of the guest. There was no directive or discussion to cut Evan’s grab about guns.”

The segment turned when Langdon questioned Mr Todd over the student-led anti-gun movement, March For Your Lives, which has grown from this year’s Valentine’s Day school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“It’s not a movement that I stand behind or support. I question whether it’s being run by students because I’ve been doing this for 19 years trying to get the message out that the heart and the soul is the real issue here, not guns,” Mr Todd said on the program.

“I know how hard it is to organise a movement. There’s a lot of money and a lot of people helping them and it’s frustrating to see that they’re going after a political point.”

Langdon interrupted Mr Todd: “But you can’t deny that the anger of these students is real Eric?”

“I don’t doubt their anger is real …” Mr Todd replied.

“This is what they were raised (to be); how to react to a situation like this. I don’t discount their anger or sadness or what they went through, because I know what they went through. I discount their position and their ideology.”

The interview didn’t get any better after Mr Todd suggested that America repeal the Gun Free Zone Act and allow teachers to carry guns on campus.

“They’re not disarmed when they go to the grocery store. They’re not disarmed when they go to church. But when they go to school they have to disarm themselves …”

Langdon interrupted Mr Todd again and questioned if this is the world he would want his three-month-old son growing up in.

“I wouldn’t ask a teacher who wasn’t comfortable to carry,” Mr Todd replied, referring to his view that if a teacher already carries a concealed-weapons permit, why not use the opportunity to use it in a school shooting scenario?

After a statement by Stefanovic that there “are too many guns out there” and that research has shown more guns equals more violence, Langdon cut Mr Todd off again after he claimed America had seen a similar reduction in crime rates despite doubling gun ownership in the United States.

“Evan, I think we have to agree to disagree,” Langdon said, before wrapping the interview up.

Mr Todd’s Facebook post has since received more than 300 shares and he said he has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyday Australians apologising for the interview.

“Saw this this morning live Evan … I 100 per cent agree with everything you said mate. “Please be assured that not all of us Aussies are the pack of w**kers that you came across this morning that feel the need to sanctimoniously lecture Americans on firearm laws,” posted Daniel Sutcliffe.

Bradley Youngberry wrote: “Sir you are awesome. All you’ve been through to present yourself calm and to the point while being overruled and badgered by two presenters who had no want to listen to someone wanting a calm discussion over a topic that’s affects you personally. They only wanted to push their agenda. I tip my hat to you.”

Mr Todd escaped with his life during the Columbine High School shooting, but he still doesn’t know why. Find out more about his story here.

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