Ben Swann, anchor for Cincinnati FOX affiliate WXIX, is no stranger to controversy. With both a local news platform and an internet reporting franchise, Swann has stirred the media pot with stories challenging the way police handled investigations at Sandy Hook Elementary, Aurora, Colorado and the Sikh Temple shootings in Wisconsin.
In his latest report, Swann questions whether the FBI knew about the bombings at the Boston Marathon beforehand and goes as far as to speculate they may have planned them — a “false flag” attack, as some conspiracy theorists have called it. He cites a 10-year-old story of alleged FBI involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombings and the observations of a cross country coach from Alabama who ran in this year’s marathon (watch the report after the jump).
Swann starts off his story by referencing a 1993 New York Times report in which the Times reported the FBI used an informant, Emad A. Salem, to help terrorists build explosives that were later used in the first World Trade Center bombing. The informant alleges the FBI knew about the bombin beforehand but did nothing to stop them. The Times later walked back the report, issuing a correction that said the article “referred imprecisely in some copies to what Federal officials knew about the plan before the blast.” Swann did not mention the correction in his “Reality Check” segment.
Swann then talked about Alistair Stevenson, a cross country coach from Mobile, AL, who ran the marathon this year. Stevenson told his local NBC affiliate WPMI he was suspicious about what he saw at the race. ”He (Stevenson) said that he thought it was odd that there were bomb sniffing dogs at the start and at the finish lines,” said Swann. “He also said that law enforcement spotters were on the roofs at the start and the end of the race.”
But that’s where Swann stops, never saying in his report that he called the FBI or the Boston Police or even race organizers to ask about routine security measures for the race. He also never says he asked the FBI the million dollar question: did they know about the bombing and if so, why didn’t they stop it?
“Even if you accept his account of what happened in 1993,” said Greg Marx staff writer for the Columbia Journalism Review, “he doesn’t really offer much at all in the Boston case to present a reasonable argument that the events in Boston should be read in the way he’s trying to suggest. It would be surprising if there weren’t security measures in place.”
And while it’s OK to ask the tough questions, journalists also have a responsibility to follow up with sources to prove that what they’re telling their viewers is true. Swann doesn’t do that, said Marx.
“Obviously it’s not responsible journalism to ask those questions and raise these speculations without asking either the authorities in this particular instance or other folks that know about this stuff in general,” Marx said, adding Swann may be hiding behind the questions as a defense mechanism. “You’re not making claims, so you’re not exactly wrong if it all turns out to be unfounded.”
In early April, Swann announced he was leaving the station, though he has yet to say where he is headed.