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)
Benjamin Swann (born July 17, 1978) is an American television news anchor, political commentator and journalist. Initially a Baptist pastor, he became a sports producer for TV, 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. He received a National Edward R. Murrow Award in 2002.
Swann created the series Reality Check (distributed online), which he used to espouse conspiracy theories, such as Pizzagate, and those surrounding the Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and the 9/11 attacks, and the false claim that vaccines cause 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 ISIL, and other controversial topics.
He was forced by his employer to bring down the internet media channel and most of his social media sites in 2017. He was fired in 2018 from CBS affiliate WGCL-TV in Atlanta, Georgia for pursuing his Reality Check show and alt-right theories, particularly Pizzagate.
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 one of his brother's suggestion to get 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 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.
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 series entitled Reality Check that garnered media attention for his advocacy of Ron Paul's positions. While he was at WXIX-TV, he 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.
In April 2013, Swann announced he would be leaving WXIX-TV Fox 19 at the end of May, and then 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 The Daily Beast, echo talking points from media outlets such as RT and InfoWars that are rarely seen in more mainstream news media. Swann's Reality Check segments were uploaded to his YouTube channel and had garnered 10,376,570 views and over 73,500 subscribers before he took his channel offline. One theme of Swann's Reality Check has been his support of Ron Paul's presidential campaigns, with his goal of providing fairer coverage for Paul than the conservative or liberal national press. However, he provided more misinformation, particularly regarding the authorship and the veracity of questionable content in the newsletters put out by the campaign.
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, a far-right network that has aired holocaust denial and other antisemitic conspiracy theories.
In 2015, he was hired by CBS affiliate WGCL-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. He was suspended in January 2017 for running a story attempting to revive the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, and 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 Reality Check without their knowledge and permission. The station's general manager said that Swann's Reality Check program had "often veered into alt-right conspiracy theories."
Controversial views and claims
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 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 2013, Swann questioned whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War. In December 2016, Swann aired a segment titled "If (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad is Committing Genocide in Aleppo, Why Are People Celebrating in the Streets?" The piece used language that was similar to Russian propaganda about Syria. There is overwhelming evidence that Assad's forces were responsible for chemical attacks in Syria according to a fact-finding article that examined information from Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, Human Rights Watch, intelligence gained by world leaders, and an investigative report by Bellingcat. This conclusion is based upon the Assad regime's track record for use of chemical weapons, sightings of helicopters, and footage of gas cylinders. While evidence of chemical use by Assad's forces is clear, use of chemical weapons by rebel forces has not been ruled out.
Swann has also sought crowdfunding for an episode titled, “U.S and partners intentionally created ISIS”. According to national security analyst Peter Bergen, there are four key factors in the development of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. One is the repressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad that resulted in the Syrian Civil War in 2011, and ISIS forces gaining strength in Syria in 2013. Saddam Hussein's former commanders supporting ISIS in its victories. Incompetent rule of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki which resulted in Sunnis preferring ISIS to the Shia government. Lastly, the Iraqi army did not effectively manage the threat by ISIS in Iraq.
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 has hosted on his personal website posts with headlines about the public image of Vladimir Putin, such as "Putin: Russian military not threatening anybody, we are protecting our borders" and "Putin demonized for thwarting neocon plan for global domination." He started out the latter post, "For it is a rule which invariably holds true – if the Western elites praise the leader of a foreign country it means he is doing something which is good for those elites and bad for his country. If he's demonized, as Putin is, it's the other way round." By western commentators and the Russian opposition, Putin has been described as a dictator. American diplomats said Putin's Russia had become "a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state." The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project named Putin as the 2014 Person of the Year, recognizing "the person who does the most to enable and promote organized criminal activity." The Dalai Lama criticized Putin's foreign policy practices, claiming it to be responsible for isolating Russia from the rest of the world.
Regarding Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, Swann hosted a segment on WGCL-TV titled “5 Problems with CIA Claim That Russia Hacked DNC/Podesta Emails.” It is the consensus of the US and Western intelligence agencies that Russian agents hacked the emails, and in July 2018, 12 Russian military intelligence agents were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly hacking the email accounts and networks of Democratic Party officials.
Also while working for WGCL in Atlanta, Swann has covered false and scientifically-disproven conspiracy theories about vaccines and autism, including a segment repeating misattributed or misstated claims to William Thompson, a doctor working for the Centers for Disease Control.
He later dedicated a Reality Check segment to the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory that emerged during the 2016 United States presidential election cycle, contended 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.
He was married in 1999 to his wife, Jasmine. 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 at 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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- Leonard Martinez (July 25, 2003). "Preaching the Good News". El Paso Times. pp. D1–D2. Retrieved July 27, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. second page
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- Seitz-Wald, Alex (January 14, 2013). "Sandy Hook truther-reporter?". Salon.
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- Groer, Annie (October 24, 2012). "Third-party candidates finally get their own presidential debate". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
- Eck, Kevin (January 19, 2017). "WGCL Anchor Tries to Prove Pizzagate is Real Without Any Evidence". Adweek.
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- Wemple, Erik (January 19, 2012). "Cincinnati anchor goes deep on Paul campaign". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
'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.
- Johnson, Timothy (January 19, 2017). "CBS Atlanta Anchor Who Gave "Pizzagate" Conspiracy Theory Credence Previously Worked With Anti-Semitic Outlet". Media Matters for America.
- Ho, Rodney (June 15, 2015). "CBS46 management explains radical changes including five new anchors June 15". Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- Ho, Rodney (January 29, 2018). "CBS46's Ben Swann fired after attempt to bring back Reality Check". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on June 30, 2018.
- Ho, Rodney (January 27, 2017). "CBS46's Ben Swann returning Monday January 30 after post-'Pizzagate' hiatus". Atlantic Journal-Constitution.
The Daily Beast also noted that he had worked for Russia Today, a Russian government funded media operation...
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- Warren, James (January 30, 2018). "How a bulldog TV host turned lapdog in Trump interview". Poynter Institute.
- Ho, Rodney (January 31, 2018). "Ben Swann reintroduces his Truth in Media site and Reality Check program". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- "Ben Swann". Liberty Nation. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
- Tripoli, Sam (2019-01-28). "Tin Foil Hat With Sam Tripoli #161: Your Reality Check With Ben Swann". YouTube. Sam Tripoli. Retrieved 2019-01-29. @ 1 hour 09 minutes
- Isegoria.com. Isegoria https://isegoria.com/. Retrieved 2019-01-29. Missing or empty
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- Haberman, Maggie (January 13, 2016). "'Super PAC' Backing Jeb Bush Uses Conspiracy-Minded Journalist in Ad". The New York Times.
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- Sieczkowski, Cavan (January 16, 2013). "Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory Video Debunked By Experts". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
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- "The Two Major Problems With President Obama's Syria Address". Ben Swann. September 11, 2013. Archived from the original on September 13, 2013.
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- Weaver, Matthew. "MH17 crash report: Dutch investigators confirm Buk missile hit plane – live updates". the Guardian. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
- Swann, Ben (November 8, 2014). "Putin demonized for thwarting neocon plan for global domination". Archived from the original on August 18, 2015.
- "Putin: Russian military not threatening anybody, we are protecting our borders". Ben Swann. November 12, 2016. Archived from the original on December 12, 2016.
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- "Putin is 'self-centred', Dalai Lama says". Times of India. September 7, 2014.
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- Gorski, David (July 11, 2016). "Reviewing Andrew Wakefield's VAXXED: Antivaccine propaganda at its most pernicious". Science-Based Medicine.
The transcripts of Thompson’s conversations with Hooker (and why they don’t show what antivaccine activists claim they show) are discussed in detail here
- MacDonald, Jessica (December 21, 2018). "Rep.-elect Green Wrong About Vaccines, CDC Fraud".
- Wemple, Erik; Wemple, Erik (January 18, 2017). "CBS affiliate's 'big question': Why no law enforcement investigation of 'Pizzagate' allegations?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
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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
- Ho, Rodney (February 1, 2017). "Ben Swann's Truth in Media site down, Twitter, Instagram, FB accounts gone". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
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- John Kiesewetter (December 12, 2010). "Precocious Texan climbed ranks to anchor". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. 27. Retrieved July 26, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.