A CBS affiliate in Atlanta is feeding the Internet conspiracy mill with a new “investigation” into the so-called Pizzagate story.
Pizzagate was the false claim that the Comet Ping Pong pizza place in Washington D.C. was at the center of a pedophilia ring linked to the Hillary Clinton campaign. But on Tuesday night, Meredith-owned CBS46 ran a report full of recycled Internet rumors about the restaurant.
Reporter Ben Swann cited the WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta heavily throughout his segment.
“In all, WikiLeaks dumped around 50,000 email messages, and it was from those emails that the claims that John Podesta may be part of a child sex-trafficking ring come from,” Swann said.
However, moments later he added: “To be clear, not one single email in the Podesta emails discusses child sex trafficking or pedophilia.”
Swann claimed “strangely worded emails” could be “code language used by pedophiles,” and repeated much of the conspiracy theories featured by conservative radio host Alex Jones and various online forums.
“For all that is here, there has not been one single public investigation of any of this,” Swann said. “Not from local police, not from the FBI, no one. And that has to be the big question.”
Swann, who previously worked at Russia Today, has a history of “pseudo-investigative reports of elaborate conspiracies,” including coverage of the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado, The Daily Beast reported.
Swann’s boss defended his latest report.
“I know he was meticulous with his search for facts,” CBS46 news director Frank Volpicella told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
CBS News released a statement saying it had nothing to do with the report.
“WGCL-TV in Atlanta is not owned or operated by CBS,” the statement said. “As such, CBS News has no editorial control over the station’s news product.”
Last month, an armed man allegedly burst into Comet Ping Pong and fired several shots in an attempt to “self-investigate” the fake story. Bullets struck the walls, door and a computer, but no one was killed during the incident.
“The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” the gunman, 28-year-old Edgar M. Welch, later admitted to The New York Times.
He is now facing federal charges.
This article has been updated with comments from CBS News.