Ben Swann of CBS46 brings back 'Pizzagate' conspiracy story

This was posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Just as so-called 'Pizzagate" was dying down, evening anchor Ben Swann of CBS46 stoked the fires again yesterday.

In his regular "Reality Check" segment during the 11 p.m. news, Swann questioned whether the debunked rumor that Hillary Clinton's campaign trafficked children through a Washington, D.C. pizzeria is actually "fake news."

"I spent the last month investigating," he said. He noted that "Pizzagate" stemmed from a Wikileaks release of  senior Clinton aide John Podesta's leaked emails. Someone online thought his reference to "cheese pizza" was code word for "child pornography." And away the conspiracy theorists went, seeking other code words that also led to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. Later, a man came to "investigate" and was arrested after shooting his gun.

Swann shows possible symbols of child pornography that resemble the logo of a neighboring pizza place. He alluded to dirty photos on the Comet Ping Pong owner's Instagram page and connections Podesta has with former House speaker Dennis Hastert, imprisoned for child molestation.

"Very strange stuff," Swann concluded. "There is no proof there is a child sex ring being operated out of a D.C. pizza parlor. Investigators have already proven there is nothing to this story , right? Actually no. That's what you need to know. For all that is here, there has not been a single investigation from local police, from the FBI, no one. That has to be the big question, not for Podesta or the pizza parlor owner of what may or may not be. The big question: why hasn't any investigation taken place?"

Journalists have certainly tried. Snopes was unable to substantiate it. Ditto Politifact. Even Fox News couldn't find any evidence.  The New York Times dissected how the story went mainstream.

The liberal media watchdog Media Matters wrote about Swann's report today, which references Media Matters founder David Brock, who is Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis' ex boyfriend.

Frank Volpicella, Swann's news director, said he discussed with Swann at length his fact finding and sources. "I know he was meticulous with his search for facts," he said.

Volpicella came to the station last summer. He did not hire Swann. Swann came in to the station in 2015.

As Media Matters notes, Swann likes to discuss conspiracies, having questioned the reality of Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings as well as issues related to 9/11.

On Twitter, a lot of outraged people are calling out CBS but this particular station WGCL-TV is owned by Meredith.

UPDATE: Several hours after I posted my story, The Daily Beast did a deeper dive into Swann, noting he had worked for Russian government-funded "Russia Today" before coming to CBS46 in 2015. The story also noted that Swann's separate website Truth in Media "shares a contact phone number with a prominent member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a tax-exempt 527 political committee."

Soon after 9 a.m. on Thursday, as the controversy has heated up, the story was removed from the CBS website: