A local Ohio reporter grilled President Obama forcefully about his controversial so-called "kill list" on Tuesday.
Obama has been making an aggressive effort to speak to local reporters during the 2012 campaign, and Ben Swann, a reporter for Fox 19 in Cincinnati, used some of his minutes to press him about the list, which has the names of people who the administration has selected for targeted drone strikes. Press reports about the program have been the subject of heated political arguments on Capitol Hill.
Swann was remarkably frank about the interview in a "Reality Check" segment. It was, in several ways, a tougher, more skeptical segment than viewers would find on many a national news program.
Noting that the administration has killed U.S. citizens such as Anwar Al-Awlaki, he played a clip of himself asking Obama, "How do you utilize that power ... to assassinate even US citizens?"
Obama replied that he had never even confirmed the existence of the list.
"What an answer," Swann said when the clip was finished playing. "The president won't confirm that list, but he won't deny the list. It didn't just get out because of hard-nosed journalists breaking the story. It was leaked by the administration ... the president acted like this is something secretive that he's never commented on but it is clear that members of his administration have no problem with talking about this list with reporters."
Swann then played another clip of Obama saying that the administration's "focus on Al Qaeda" was allowing the U.S. to "transition" out of Afghanistan.
"For the president to make the argument that killing those U.S. citizens without due process in Yemen means the end to the Afghan war is simply disingenuous," he said.
Swann then summed up his argument.
"The way the president played this issue with us is really quite telling," he said. "[A] constitutional lawyer turned president using the power that violates the most basic principle in the bill of rights leaking his use of it when it's politically expedient, then claiming it can't be discussed when it's not."
Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf praised Swann's work in a post on Wednesday. "What the reporter does in this segment is much harder than 'he said, she said' reporting or narrow fact-checking," he wrote. "It requires deep knowledge, reflection, logical analysis, and a willingness to challenge authority.