Note: Ben Swann began reporting on the problems in the vaccine program two years ago, and today on Age of Autism he discloses that Congressman Bill Posey has released to him the CDC documents turned over to Congress by Dr. William Thompson concerning the cover up of the links between the MMR and autism. Swann discusses Vaccine safety, vaccine choice, potential corruption at CDC and his plans for the #CDCwhistleblower documents in a video interview with Age of Autism Media Editor, Anne Dachel.
By Anne Dachel
A month ago vaccine safety advocates and members of the autism community witnessed some astonishing news coverage on CBS 46 in Atlanta. On the segment Reality Check, reporter Ben Swann presented a piece called, CDC Scientist Admits Data of Vaccines and Autism Was Trashed.
The story focused on the October protest held at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the claim being made about an agency whistleblower. For the ordinary viewer turning on the local news this report must have seemed a little unsettling.
Ben Swann: "Just days ago over a hundred protesters gathered outside of the CDC right here in Atlanta, demanding transparency when it comes to vaccines. . . .
"Those protesters... say that the information being provided to the public about vaccines is not completely honest, and all of it hinges on one man...a scientist you probably never heard of. That scientist's name is Dr. William Thompson, and it was on August 27, 2014 that Dr. Thompson made an admission that got very little media coverage but it was a major statement...."
Swann went on to quote Thompson regarding the findings of a 2004 MMR study published in Pediatrics. Thompson said that the agency concealed data showing African American males were at increased risk for autism if they received the MMR vaccine before 36 months of age. Viewers were told about thousands of CDC documents that were now in the hands of U.S. Rep. Bill Posey.
"Congressman Posey brought this information to the floor of Congress and what he read there was nothing short of stunning, that authors of the study not only hid the actual findings, but attempted to destroy evidence. ..."
Swann cautioned his audience that just because someone raises questions about vaccine safety, doesn't mean they are anti-vaccine. He then talked about the risks involved with vaccination and the compensation that's been paid to victims.
All of this was astonishing to those of us who follow the vaccine/autism controversy in the news. Reporters simply don't do this kind of thing. This was real investigative journalism. Swann raised serious questions about government oversight.
I was able to talk with Ben Swann about his story and about what he's learned. He are his comments on Skype.
I asked Ben how he became involved in the issue of vaccine safety.
Ben: "It was in 2014*, I was in Minneapolis for an event that I was asked to speak at. It was an event about liberty, and while I was there, I had a chance to meet really two people whose names I did not know: Jennifer Larson and Mark Blaxill. These were two people who came to this event that was in part sponsored by the Canary Party. And I didn't know what the Canary Party was either by the way, and while we were there, I had a chance to talk with them for a few minutes. They started explaining to me some of the issues with vaccines and concerns about vaccines. (*Correction: 2013)
"This is an issue I knew very little about, but the thing that really caught my attention as they were explaining a lot of different things at one time, was they mentioned something called vaccine court. Having never heard of vaccine court before, I asked, 'Well, what is that?' And they started to explain to me the process for vaccine court: how it works, the fact that this proxy court that's set up, and the fact that vaccine makers cannot be sued.
"Does that mean all vaccine makers should be sued? No, not necessarily, but the fact that you can't sue them, any of them, was kind of alarming to me. Why can't you do that? What kind of protection has been set up?
"And then they were beginning to explain about the vaccine schedule, how much it's increased over the past thirty years vs the number of cases that actually make it into vaccine court. It was really interesting. And so we decided to create a Truth in Media episode with Jennifer and Mark, and to interview Mark about this because the issue of vaccine court was so interesting to me.
"Now it was interesting, after we did this piece, that so many people came out and said, 'Oh, this means you're anti-vaccine. This means you're trying to link vaccines and autism.'
"It didn't mean any of that. We were just interested in a very specific portion of this story about vaccine court,... most people, I know I'd never heard of it--no one that I talked to after the fact, friends and colleagues, had ever heard of vaccine court. They had no idea that it existed.
"It was about informing the public and saying, listen, while this whole debate is going on about vaccines and autism, whether they're safe, whether they're not safe, and do parents have rights to choose, do parents have the ability to make this decision for their children, does the state have the ability to mandate it for everyone, as we have this debate, here's something that's not being debated. [What] probably should be front and center in this discussion is the fact that you have this ...law that was essentially created to shield all these vaccine makers. So that was how I first came into this discussion and from there it kind of snowballed."
From there, Ben began to pay close attention to the story, and reported on the #CDCwhistleblower case shortly after it came to light:
CDC Whistleblower Admits Suppressing Information Regarding Vaccines and Autism
I was curious why Ben made the effort to become so well-informed on this topic at the same time most journalists aren't. There seems to be this overriding attitude out there that the press should not look into issues of vaccine safety.
Here is his explanation.
Ben: "Well the process for me in terms of educating myself on vaccines really came through reading a lot of information, talking to people who've been in this fight and in this community for a long time. As a journalist, when you're trying to cover something like this it's very difficult for a number of reasons, and one of the reasons for that is 'group think.'
"Because there is this assumption that if you cover a certain subject you're obviously taking a position on it, you're taking a side on it. And as a journalist, that should never be true. No matter what issue you cover as a journalist, it should not be based on your own preference or your own opinion.
"As a lot of journalists would look at this story, ...they're told, 'Well listen, those people are crazy. There's all these anti-vaxxers out there. And if you do anything that indicates that you're among them, or you're one of them, it discredits you.'
"Now what's completely nonsensical about that is, if we cover terrorism, if we cover ISIS, that doesn't make us a part of ISIS. If we say, 'Hey, let's take a look at how ISIS formed in the first place,' that doesn't make you a terrorist or a suicide bomber. And yet if you say, 'Let's take a look at what these people are talking about when it comes to vaccination,' they'll say, 'Oh wait, that makes you anti-vax.' It's a very bizarre thing.
"I think what it really comes down to, it comes down to influence. There is a concerted effort to smear, demonize anyone who raises questions in this arena. It's been very effective. And it's combined between the smear campaign, but along with the ability of big pharma, which contributes enormous amounts of money in terms of ...advertising that goes to TV networks. They have a lot of influence. And they have influence with what makes the air and what doesn't. So ultimately I think as a journalist, yes, it's difficult. It's difficult to cover a story like this, but again, what we did with the Dr. Thompson piece wasn't about questioning the validity of vaccines, it wasn't questioning the validity of whether or not you should have your child vaccinated--we weren't even going there.
"The issue is, is what we're being told by the CDC true? Because if it's not true, then we need to question everything they've been telling us. And I think that comes down to a myriad of issues where we can look at and say, 'If government is lying to us about any of these things, then we have to question them on everything.'
Ben told me about what happened after his whistleblower coverage.
Ben: "The response to the Thompson piece was pretty interesting. We had a lot of supportive emails that came in, a lot of phone calls that came to us really from people saying how excited they were about it. They were so excited about the fact that we would talk about this and cover this issue, because we were really the only ones who have.
"This is by far the largest news organization that's ever covered this issue, and done it in a very public way. And I believe in a very responsible way, by the way.
"And of course we also got the emails from people who were saying, 'Why would you do this? You have an obligation to not tell people this because you will encourage people to not vaccinate their kids and that's dangerous.'
"Other people saying that the story's made up and it's all information that was made up.
"I’m very blessed that I have news managers, first of all, who care about facts. And so they essentially came back to me, everything you said in this piece you can back up, right? And I said, of course. And I was able to show them. And they went went back and watched it and reviewed it, and said everything you're saying is factual, you have evidence of everything you're talking about. And to that end, the conclusion again was not, by the way folks, vaccines will cause autism.
"The conclusion was you have the right to question these things. And if Dr. Thompson is coming forward and saying that the premier agency that tells you there is no problem was not honest with you, even if Dr. Thompson is wrong in his assessment, even if the work that was done--and it may have been--the research they did may be faulty. You may come back later on and say, actually everything that Thompson thought that they were hiding, that was wrong anyway. That doesn't matter. What matters is they believed they were right, and said we can't let the public know what we think we know.
"Even if they were wrong, to say we can't let them know what we think we know demonstrates an entire level of corruption within the agency that says that you don't matter and your kids don't matter, and that the public doesn't have a right to know.
"If the public doesn't have a right to know, in my humble opinion, then the agency doesn't need to exist. Because an agency that exists for the protection of the public that hides truth from the public, is not serving in the public's interest."
Ben explained his personal interest in the CDC documents.
Ben: "As a journalist, one of the things that's most important to me is transparency and information. My belief is that, ...I am beholding to no one in terms of what I share and what I don't share, and what I investigate--except for the public at large. I believe that as a journalist, my job is to provide information--whether people like it or don't like it. And there are some people who don't like what you do, and some people who love what you do. And the same people will swap spots depending on what the story is.
"One of the questions, one of the issues that was raised by people who were attacking the Thompson piece, was they were saying, 'Look, this Swann guy's been talking about these documents that were handed over by Dr. Thompson to William Posey, and--Congressman Posey--and saying, he says there are thousands of documents, even a hundred thousand documents that have been handed over, and yet no one's ever seen these documents. They've been out for over a year, and yet, where are they? They don't really exist.'
"One of the claims was that this whole thing was made up.
"As a journalist, that bothers me. It bothers me because, candidly, I haven't seen the documents either. Maybe they're right, maybe they don't exist.
"So the next step for me was to contact Congressman Posey and say I would like to have the documents. Please release to me all those documents. And I'll let your listeners know that Congressman Posey has complied with that request for the documents.
"So I now have copies of all of the information that Dr. Thompson handed over to Congress. We're going through that information right now. We're studying it and we'll be releasing that information at some point, to the public.
"Again, because it's not my information--it doesn't belong to me. It is my job, I believe, as a journalist, to share that information. I want to do it in a responsible way. But it will be shared with the public because I believe they have a right to know.
"And again, the CDC should have done this themselves a long time ago. They should have come clean with it. They didn't. Dr. Thompson could have come clean on his own, but he didn't. He's gone through the channels, based on what his attorneys have told him.
"But as a journalist, I have the ability to share that information. That's one of the reasons that we've established Truth in Media Project and TruthInMedia.com so that truth can reach the public.
"So stayed tuned for that because very soon...you're going to have access to those documents yourselves."
Finally, Ben Swann talked about his plans for worldwide activism
Ben: "So I do want to mention quickly also that we have this amazing project. It's probably a project closer to my heart than anything that we've done so far, and it's called, Global Activist. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/global-activist#/ It's a show that's dedicated to focusing on and showcasing the work of activists around the world, here in the United States and abroad.
"And what's so remarkable to me about activism right now is that right now, we are living in the largest global protest movement in human history.
"It's not all interrelated. They're not all protesting the same things, yet people globally are protesting everyday, and they're activating themselves everyday. So activism is a big umbrella. Protest is one vein of activism, but there are many veins of activism: education, business, art, music--so many things that kind of fit into activism.
"So one thing that we want to do is show people how there are generations of people who are no longer sitting around
waiting for the world to change. They are changing the world themselves, and I think that your audience knows all too well what that's like. [We] cannot sit and wait for someone to ride up on a white horse and say we're going to save the day. [We] say, you know what, we're going to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves. And that's what this show is about.
"And so right now we're actually crowd-funding the first episodes of this show. We have an Indiegogo set up. There's about two weeks left on it. We just want to encourage people to get involved and go out and say, let's contribute and let's support what's happening with this project, because it is giving a voice to people who don't have a voice right now.
"There's multiple ways that you can contribute, and I know you guys will have a link to the actual Indiegogo page, but one thing I'd actually encourage people in is that when you go to crowd-funding site like that, there's some things that you get--you get some swag and you get a few little things that we can send you. But the main thing that you get is that your name is in the credit as having contributed and helped to make this project a reality. And that's something that's been very important.
"We did a crowd-funding project for Truth In Media on the origins of ISIS and over the last two weeks, that video has been viewed 40 million times. It has an impact.
"When people see that and they say, 'Well I'm not sure if it's really going to reach people.'--40 million people watched one video that we put out about ISIS. And I know we can do the same thing with Global Activist. We can inform people on these subjects--subjects like what we're talking about today. And we can say, here are people who are working and they're fighting and they're changing things. They're not just going to sit around and wait.
"So I encourage people to get involved and to donate on December 5th; we're having a money bomb on December 5th to try and bring in that largest amount of money possible on that one day. So I want to encourage people on that day--but you don't have to wait until December 5th. If you're seeing this before then, you can go right now to our Indiegogo page and you can donate there now. And I hope you'll consider doing so."
During our conversation we discussed the role of the press in all this. Ben said, "We can't let the media define this issue." That's a very simple concept, but it's the center of what the public's being told about this controversy. Reporters almost without exemption present this debate in the most egregious and one-sided manner. They start from the premise that vaccines are universally safe. They tell us that all the science is in, and only misinformed, irrational parents question the official denials and they threaten the health of all of us.
Ben Swann's coverage is a wake up call for members of the press. There is a lot more to the debate over vaccine safety than most of them are willing to give us. We want the truth about an ever-expanding, mandated vaccination schedule. Those of us who've long called for oversight reform can all take heart from the fact that Ben will be following this story as it unfolds.