Swann in 2013
July 17, 1978
|Alma mater||Brigham Young University|
California State University, Dominguez Hills
|Television||KDBC-TV/El Paso (by 1998)|
KFOX-TV/El Paso (1998–2007)
KTSM-TV/El Paso (2008–2010)
WXIX-TV/Newport, KY-Cincinnati (2010–2013)
RT America (2014–2015 and 2018–present)
Benjamin Swann (born July 17, 1978) is an American television news anchor, investigative journalist, and political commentator. He became a TV sports producer, and later a news journalist and producer, and managing editor on network affiliates, FOX, and RT America of the Russian state-owned TV network RT.
Swann created a news segment called Reality Check in association with Fox 19 in Cincinnati and CBS46 in Atlanta, in which he covered "issues other media is not looking at" and uncritically presented alt-right conspiracy theories. He garnered praise for a 2012 in-person interview with President Barack Obama about the so-called "kill list" which is used to direct drone strikes against American citizens, like Anwar al-Awlaki. Swann reported on conspiracy theories about the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting, questioned the truth of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, presented 9/11 conspiracy theories, and the false claims of a cover-up by the CDC of data related to the MMR vaccine and autism. He has also questioned the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War, whether United States had a role in the development of the Islamic State, and other controversial topics.
In 2017, after his employer, CBS affiliate 46 in Atlanta, aired a Reality Check which presented the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory as potentially true, Swann was forced by WGCL to bring down his Truth in Media website and all of his social media. About a year later, he was fired when WGCL learned that Swann was planning to relaunch Truth in Media.
Swann was homeschooled with nine brothers and sisters in El Paso, Texas, and earned a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts from Brigham Young University in 1993, at the age of 15, and a master's degree in History from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1994, at the age of 16.
Swann's initial and ongoing interest has been to be a church leader. At the age of 15 he became a youth pastor at his local Baptist Church in Canutillo in El Paso County, Texas. At the age of 19, he began preaching at revivals in Texas. Unable to find a position as a pastor in El Paso, he followed a suggestion from one of his brothers to gain a job in TV news. At that time, four of his brothers worked in television. Three were news cameramen. He worked for a period of time for KDBC-TV. In 1998, he moved to KFOX-TV to work as a news cameraman.
After working in Portland, Oregon, as an assistant pastor, Swann returned to the Fox station KFOX in El Paso as a sports producer. He then filmed, edited, and reported his own news and sports stories. Swan became a morning co-anchor and managing editor at the station. In 2008, he became an evening news anchor for the NBC affiliate KTSM-TV. He won regional Emmy Awards in 2005 and 2009, as well as a national Edward R. Murrow Award in 2002 for Continuing Coverage of Alexandra Flores. During this period, Swann was an investigative journalist for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN News), writing about Mexico's drug wars on the Texas border.
WXIX-TV in Cincinnati (FOX19)
He left El Paso in December 2010 to become an evening TV news presenter at Cincinnati, Ohio's Fox affiliate WXIX-TV, co-anchoring with Tricia Macke. He produced a thrice-weekly news segment series entitled Reality Check shortly after joining the station which he described as investigating "issues other media is not looking at". The series reflected Swann's libertarian views and his advocacy of Ron Paul's positions. One theme of Swann's Reality Check was Ron Paul's presidential campaign, with his goal of providing fairer coverage for Paul than the conservative or liberal national press, including an episode about the racist "Ron Paul newsletters" which contradicted the findings of The New Republic columnist James Kirchick who broke the story.
In September 2012, one segment of Reality Check in particular went viral and received a great deal of media attention. In it, Swann was able to obtain a 7-minute one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama while on an election campaign stop in Ohio - a rare opportunity for a local news reporter. Swann asked the President direct questions about the so-called presidential "kill list" which had been used to direct drone strikes against terrorism suspects, and the legality of the list including U.S. citizens, like Anwar al-Awlaki and teenage son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Answering Swann's questions, Obama responded by saying news reports about the list have never been confirmed by him and that drone strikes in Yemen would help bring U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan home sooner. Several journalism and civil liberties watchdogs praised Swann's fact-checking work on the segment, such as Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, Byron Tau of Politico, The Huffington Post, and the Columbia Journalism Review.
Swann broke several details about local officials at the Cincinnati IRS office involved in the IRS targeting controversy which were picked up in national news media and led to Swann making brief appearances on Fox News.
In April 2013, Swann announced he would be leaving WXIX-TV Fox 19 at the end of May.
Truth in Media and other projects
While working at WXIX-TV, Swann started a Facebook page called "Full Disclosure" where, according to Adweek, he asked "questions about controversial subjects he says are ignored by the national media". On October 23, 2012, Swann served as a panel member on a third-party presidential candidates debate hosted by Larry King in Chicago, Illinois, and broadcast on C-SPAN, Al Jazeera America, and online through the sponsorship of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation.
After leaving WXIX-TV, Swann started a social media channel called "Truth in Media" to continue production of his show Reality Check. Truth in Media was a collaboration with Republican Liberty Caucus and Joshua Cook. His Reality Check, according to The Daily Beast, echoes talking points from media outlets such as RT and InfoWars. Swann's Reality Check segments were uploaded to his YouTube channel and garnered 10,376,570 views and over 73,500 subscribers before he took his channel offline. In 2017, Swann has sought crowdfunding via his 419,000 Facebook followers for an episode titled, "U.S. and partners intentionally created ISIS".
From May 2013 until June 2015, Swann appeared regularly on RT America in Washington, D.C. For three months in 2014 he hosted the Ben Swann Radio Show on the Republic Broadcasting Network which is, according to the media watchdog Media Matters for America, a far-right network which has aired Holocaust denial and other antisemitic conspiracy theories.[failed verification][relevant? ]
WGCL-TV in Atlanta (CBS46)
In June 2015, he was hired by CBS-46 affiliate WGCL-TV in Atlanta, Georgia where he revived his fact-checking segment under the title Reality Check With Ben Swann and was made part of the station's new investigative unit.
He was suspended in January 2017 for running a story attempting to revive the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, in which Swann called for an "investigation" into the months-old false claims that a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant was hiding a child sex trafficking ring in its non-existent basement, citing anonymous Internet users as his sources; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that it appeared Swann had done no independent reporting on the topic. He was reinstated after he took down his Truth in Media and Reality Check sites. He was fired on January 29, 2018, after the station learned that he had been trying to revive Truth in Media without their knowledge and permission. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Swann's Reality Check program had "often veered into alt-right conspiracy theories".
Swann relaunched Truth in Media in 2018 after he was fired by WGCL-TV. Starting in 2018 he began publishing pieces for the Liberty Nation website. Swann launched the Isegoria social media platform, named from the ancient Greek meaning "Equality of all in freedom of speech". He later returned to RT America in 2018.
Views and claims
Swann has reported on many conspiracy theories and false claims, several of which are aligned with narratives pushed by his former employer, the Russian state-run RT. On his personal YouTube channel, Swann posted videos discussing debunked conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, including a conspiracy theory that shooter did not commit the act alone. He also discounted the conclusion that 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting was conducted by a lone gunman. There is no evidence that any additional shooters were present at the shootings. The theory of multiple gunmen may have been influenced by early news reports of the events. Swann also has questioned whether 7 World Trade Center collapsed the way authorities said it did on September 11, 2001.
In December 2016, one of Swann's CBS 46 Reality Check segments on the Syrian Civil War titled "If [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad is Committing Genocide in Aleppo, Why Are People Celebrating in the Streets?" went viral on Facebook. Ben Collins of The Daily Beast said this "mirrors a narrative within several stories written by Kremlin state media outfit RT in the past several weeks".[additional citation(s) needed]
In an appearance in 2015 RT America, Swann said that "any credible evidence does not seem to exist" that Russia shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The plane's crash was investigated by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) and the Dutch-led joint investigation team (JIT), who concluded that the airliner was downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile launched from pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine.
Swann was described by David Gorski as "antivaccine-sympathetic" for reporting on "CDC whistleblower" documents from William Thompson, a doctor working for the Centers for Disease Control – documents that have not shown evidence that the CDC covered-up a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.
He later dedicated a Reality Check segment to the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory that emerged during the 2016 United States presidential election cycle, contending that Pizzagate may have been true, and called for a police investigation of the allegations. Misinformation regarding Pizzagate was spread through social media and websites. The story was discredited by a wide array of organizations, including the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, fact-checking sites, and reputable news organizations. After the Pizzagate segment aired, Swann was briefly suspended from WGCL-TV and he later closed some of his social media accounts, but he left one Facebook account where he continued to post conspiracy-related and anti-government memes.
Swann married his wife, Jasmine, in 1999. He lived in Portland, Oregon, where he was an assistant pastor at a Presbyterian church. After six or 18 months, he moved back to El Paso. Swann and his wife have five children, who have been home-schooled by Jasmine. He was ordained in 2000 in the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2001, he was hired as the youth minister for the Trinity First United Methodist Church in El Paso. As of 2014, he has been a youth pastor for 17 years.
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'Reality Check'’s probing of national political issues is working for Fox 19.... [The stories] consistently fill out four of the top five traffic-generators for the Fox 19 site.
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The Daily Beast also noted that he had worked for Russia Today, a Russian government funded media operation...
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One might think that police calling the motive a 'fictitious conspiracy theory' would put an end to the claim that inspired a gunman from North Carolina to attack a family pizzeria in Washington over the weekend
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