Following Monday’s shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, Fox News allowed two retired FBI agents to promote their private security companies and propose policies that could benefit them financially, including school security assessments and training.
Chris Swecker and Maureen O’Connell are retired FBI agents who have both appeared on Fox News multiple times since the Nashville shooting. Swecker is a former assistant director at the Bureau and currently runs a security consulting company bearing his name. O’Connell also runs an eponymous security consulting firm and previously served as the president of InfraGard National Members Alliance, a nonprofit organization that coordinates public-private partnerships between the FBI and security firms. She continues to serve on InfraGard’s board of directors, according to its official website.
As news of the Nashville shooting was breaking on March 27, Swecker appeared on Fox News to push for additional police in schools along with increased physical security measures, and referenced his own private consulting work to bolster his credentials.
“K-6 [elementary schools] like this, they don't have school resource officers, but they can hire off-duty police officers, armed security, if they're willing to spend the money,” Swecker said.
“I want somebody there, I want a visible presence,” he added. “I want doors locked. This is what I do during my security assessments of these types of institutions.”
Swecker pushed the same response several times on Fox’s continuing coverage of the shooting and repeatedly mentioned that his private consulting business offers “security assessments” for schools concerned about the threat of mass shootings.
In an appearance on Your World With Neil Cavuto, O’Connell echoed Swecker and promoted her personal firm implored viewers to spend more money on the type of training her firm and others like it can provide.
“Like Chris Swecker, my company does all of the security threat assessments,” O’Connell said, adding that for schools and churches, “If it's fresh air you want, raise some money and get transom windows put in where they’re above the door where people can't just, you know, walk right in.”
“There are so many small tools on the market right now that make it really hard for a shooter to get into a classroom,” O’Connell continued. “All kinds of locks, reverse locks, notification systems. All of these things.”
“If you’ve got enough money to turn the lights on, you should pump some money into security,” she added, suggesting that “retired officers would do it for probably a lesser cost than the actual police officers.”
O’Connell concluded with an appeal to her own business interests.
“Training is always the first thing that goes out the window,” she said. “Training is the last thing that should go out the window.” She added that the necessary “techniques” are “available to anyone through local, state, or federal law enforcement, or through a private company like mine or Chris Swecker’s.”
In another appearance, O’Connell alluded to InfraGard — the FBI public-private partnership organization — and similar ventures, telling viewers that “we’ve been banging on this drum for years and years and years. There are numerous entities, both state and local and private, that will come out and do a security threat assessment on your location and let you know what the vulnerabilities are and what you should do to address those vulnerabilities.”
O’Connell also promoted InfraGard during a Fox News appearance after the May 2021 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“There are ways to fortify schools. There are all kinds of programs that do this,” O’Connell said. “The FBI has a very large public-private sector outreach program called InfraGard and that program puts on all kinds of invaluable training where we shore up classrooms.”
Regardless of whether Swecker or O’Connell will immediately financially benefit from promoting their businesses on Fox, their industry stands to profit from their proposed solutions more broadly. The so-called school safety industrial complex is a massive, sprawling behemoth that brought in at least $2.7 billion annually as of 2018 and has almost certainly grown since then.
This field is dominated by former cops and federal law enforcement, such as O’Connell and Swecker, who have clear incentives to recommend police-based solutions at the expense of any other social interventions. Other, non-carceral approaches to community safety — like relocating funds away from law enforcement and toward investments in increasing mental health treatment capacity, public space, libraries, and after-school activities — are often crowded out by commentary from law enforcement-aligned security firms.
Fox’s response to the Nashville shooting isn’t the first time the network invited a guest on to promote their own business in the wake of a mass shooting. After the Uvalde shooting last year, host Jesse Watters invited Chad Ayers, vice president of the Proactive Response Group, on his show to respond to the news. Ayers’ company provides active shooter training to schools, offices, and religious establishments. Unsurprisingly, Ayers argued that schools need to “do a better job training,” while clearly advancing his own financial interests in providing that training.
“It’s time that we start investing in the lives of these students” and “get away from this check-the-box training that many districts across this country are doing,” Ayers said. “Showing a 5-minute video at the beginning of the school year to the teachers is not getting the job done,” he added.
Fox News has a long history of misleading, false, and dangerous coverage following mass shootings. After the shooting in Uvalde, the network offered 50 purported solutions to gun violence — none of them addressed easy access to guns. After a 2021 mass shooting in Atlanta targeting Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Fox’s coverage failed to include Asian American guests and ignored the broader context of anti-Asian racism in which the attack took place. After the May 2021 grocery store massacre in Buffalo, New York, Fox desperately attempted to shift coverage away from the network’s own culpability in pushing the same racist conspiracy theories embraced by the shooter. In a 2015 segment featuring two martial arts instructors, Fox & Friends advised that young children should rush active shooters, contrary to expert opinion that such measures should only be taken as a last resort.
If there is a through line to Fox’s coverage, it is that the answer to gun violence is more guns, and more people with guns. Under this logic, the gun is both disease and cure, tormentor and salvation. But they are always present, ready to be fired and begin another news cycle around the next shooting — an event that hasn't yet happened but one we already remember.