Ben Swann, a local Fox anchor for WXIX-TV (Photo Credit: Ben Swann)
Ben Swann, a local Fox anchor for WXIX-TV in Cincinnati, recently delivered an excoriating fact-check of CNN's Piers Morgan and his anti-gun claims. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, many media outlets have essentially remained silent, while taking gun control advocates' talking points at face value.
However, Swann has embraced a very different approach. Last Wednesday, he delved deeply into the debate, intensely fact-checking -- in an on-air bit -- many of the statistics and statements that the CNN host has most-recently spouted. The segment quickly went viral, raising eyebrows and interest across the blogosphere. On Monday, the local journalist spoke with TheBlaze in detail about the segment.
For Swann, 34, this is nothing new. The journalist regularly does fact checks on statements and scenarios surrounding prominent national issues through WXIX's "Reality Check" segment (an undertaking that the anchor writes, produces and hosts). While his Morgan followed the same mold in terms of on-air practices at the station, it has gained the most national attention when compared to past clips.
"The segment that we do called 'Reality Check' -- we do this three times per week," he told TheBlaze. "We take things that are going on in the media...and we look to eliminate the bias and opinion out of them. We focus specifically on the facts of the story."
When it comes to Morgan's most recent on-air statements about firearms and gun violence, Swann said that he noticed that the CNN host had been "making a lot of statements that are not quite right." So, he set out to examine the facts, which led to the now-infamous, viral fact-check.
Swann said that he received a few negative e-mails about the segment and that the reaction among individuals who would likely advocate for increased gun control was "much more visceral." These individuals claimed that Swann's facts were wrong and that the segment he produced was incorrect at its core.
"There was a real hatefulness of people who opposed [the Morgan segment] as opposed to people [who stood in opposition to "Reality Check" segments] in the past," he noted.
The local reporter defended his facts and said that assembling the segment took three days of informational gathering. After reviewing critique and the material that followed its initial airing, he did note that there was one indicator that he mentioned that needs to be revisited -- so he's planning to do yet another fact check this week -- one that clarifies statistics on violent crime.
After the original segment aired, some British viewers informed Swann that the United Kingdom figures violent crime differently than the U.S. So, he's reproaching the numbers "to make more of an apples to apples comparison" to American crime data. In his discussion with TheBlaze, the anchor stressed the importance of being fair and he even advocated that the public fact-check him, too, along the way (which is why he's re-approaching these violent crime numbers).
Photo Credit: Ben Swann
In the original segment, while exploring the United Kingdom’s numbers (Great Britain is part of the UK), Swann noted that the UK has the second-highest overall crime rate in the European Union (EU); the EU has also named Britain the most violent country in the union.
"In the UK, there are 2,034 violent crimes per 100,000 people,” Swann said in the original clip, showcasing that fewer guns is certainly not indicative of a lower crime rate (the rate in the U.S. is 466 per 100,000 residents).
Even in re-approaching these numbers, the anchor claims that the U.S. still comes out with a more favorable rate. He will release his clarified results during one of this week's "Reality Checks."
"There's a disingenuous argument when you say this is about assault rifles," Swann said of the overarching debate. "For us, it's really an issue of getting into factual numbers so we can have an honest debate."
As for Morgan, Swann said that CNN producers have not yet contacted him, but he assumes they are more than aware of the segment. When asked to weigh in on Morgan's motivations for being so overt about his gun control views, Swann said that there are likely two issues at play. While Morgan seems to be genuine in his push to rid America of assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, there may also be some business elements at play, the journalist contends.
"From a business standpoint, it's an issue that could bring his numbers up -- that's not an attack," Swann said. "I also think that he's making a decision to go after people in a way that's not so much about finding solutions to problems, but argue with people about the issue."
Swann also noted that it's important for media and the public, alike, to question and explore the many issues surrounding gun violence. He noted that it's not just a firearms problem that society faces. Families, prescriptions drugs, fatherlessness and numerous related issues have been raised as problematic by some critics. While it's not his job, as a journalist, to definitively determine which issues are at play, Swann said that it's important for media to question "the bigger picture" and to facilitate an exploration.
We'll leave you with Swann's original fact-check clip, below: