In early February 2023, NBC News Senior Reporter Brandy Zadrozny contacted me to see if I was available to discuss my reporting on the ongoing Utah County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) investigation into “ritualized child sexual abuse.” Mrs. Zadrozny is known as NBC’s “Misinformation Expert” and regularly reports on what she calls conspiracy theories.
I had been following the Utah investigation since summer 2022 and was one of the few journalists who approached the story with the respect it deserves. In short, in May 2022 the UCSO announced their investigation into child abuse. This announcement was quickly followed up by a press conference from Utah County Attorney David Leavitt where he claimed that he was potentially a target of the Sheriff’s investigation and wanted to make it clear that he and his wife were “not cannibals” or “child abusers.”
In September 2022, the UCSO arrested former therapist David Hamblin, who had been accused of abusing his own daughters as far back as 1999. Charges were brought against Hamblin in 2012 but were dropped in 2014 after prosecutors said they struggled to gain access to evidence they needed. It is in the 2012 case against Hamblin where his alleged victims also accuse David Leavitt of being involved in sexual abuse.
Hamblin is not currently being charged for the same alleged crimes in the 2012 case, but rather new charges brought about by former patients. In September of this year the USCO also arrested Hamblin’s ex-wife Roselle “Rosie” Anderson Stevenson on one count of sodomy on a child, for an offense against a girl under age 13.
In pursuit of the Hamblin story I have written 8 articles exploring the Sheriff’s investigation, as well as claims of sexual abuse throughout Utah’s history and within the Church of Latter day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.
When Zadrozny first reached out she said she was working on a “project about the David Hamblin case” and was not clear “what form this project will take.” She said she had seen my coverage of the Hamblin case and the allegations against him from the 2012 case. “Frankly, to experts I’ve spoken with, the allegations resemble those from the 1980’s “Satanic Panic” era. I’d be interested in hearing your perspective,” she wrote.
The mention of the “Satanic Panic” was not surprising given Zadrozny’s previous reporting on the David Hamblin case. I dissected Zadrozny’s one article on David Hamblin in my September 2022 piece, Are the Children Lying? Re-Examining the Satanic Panic. Zadrozny attempts to frame the UCSO investigation as a symptom of ongoing Qanon fantasies. She claims Qanon conspiracies are a part of the revival of what has often been deemed the “Satanic Panic”, a period in the 1980s and ’90s when people around the world began reporting instances of sexual abuse and murder of children involving rituals performed by cults often labeled “satanic.”
Zadrozny’s entire reporting is predicated on the idea that during the “satanic” or “moral panic” conservative and religious folk around the world bought into a mass hysteria where parents and children made up claims about participating in, or being victim of, ritual abuse by organized cults. The perpetrators and the cults they allegedly work with were often labeled Satanic. Whether or not the various cults and individuals were actually practicing worship of an entity called Satan is debatable, but the fact is that hundreds of reports were made across Europe, Australia, and the United States throughout the 1980s and ’90s.
Zadrozny‘s article, Satanic panic is making a comeback, fueled by QAnon believers and GOP influencers, follows a familiar pattern of belittling unconventional stories and controversial views as conspiracy theory, and playing guilty by association by mentioning Qanon.
Despite my misgivings about her reporting, I agreed to talk, and on February 8th, Brandy Zadrozny and I spoke for about forty-five minutes via the platform Riverside.fm. Due to my experiences speaking with mainstream journalists only to have my words taken out of context and selectively edited, I screen recorded the entire conversation for future use. I am grateful I did so because now this discussion offers the public a window into the mind of a “misinformation expert” or “fact checker.” I would like to examine a few of the most revealing statements made by Mrs. Zadrozny during our conversation.
My Conversation With A ‘Misinformation Expert’
Brandy Zadrozny said that after she wrote her dismissive piece regarding the Utah ritual abuse case she believed she was done. However, once David Hamblin was arrested, Zadrozny said that changes things because now there was a chance to see more evidence.
“I am extra interested now to see what happens here,” she told me at the beginning of our conversation.
Interestingly, Zadrozny spent the first few moments asking questions about my life and my journalism. When I mentioned that I was deleted off YouTube in October 2020 for allegedly spreading “COVID-19 Misinformation” that does not align with World Health Organization policy, she momentarily displayed a sense of self-awareness regarding the ridiculous misinformation policies. When I explained my banning was for an interview with Dr. Richard Cheng on intravenous Vitamin C treatments for COVID-19, Zadrozny expressed regret that I was deleted, stating, “R.I.P., sorry about that.” (She made no mention of how her labeling of certain stories as “misinformation” has likely lead to other people being unjustly banned as well.)
Regarding the case against David Hamblin, Zadrozny wanted to know what I thought of the allegations in the 2012 case and whether or not I had a theory about what actually took place. I explained that while there are many theories about what Hamblin was involved in in the 2012 case — especially regarding victims statements about Satanic abuse — I have done my best to remain objective by not focusing on the 2012 accusations and instead focus on Hamblin’s current charges.
I also noted that by his own admission David Hamblin is guilty of raping his own daughters and some of his former clients. I also mention my 2-part investigation into the alleged abuse of Kate Talley, a Utah woman whose ex-husband, Eldon Talley, was best friends with David Hamblin. Kate Talley was a witness to Hamblin’s manipulation as he coached her husband to physically and emotionally abuse Kate.
Zadrozny framed my 1st report on Kate Talley’s abuse as a legitimate report on her relationship to David Hamblin and Eldon Talley. She said my first report was “believable”, but my 2nd report she framed as being less believable because of Kate’s mention of alleged “Satanic” ritual abuse within the LDS.
“To an outsider, a normal person, someone like me, I read that and I’m like ‘ooh, that seems like – we’re talking about the CIA, talking about SRA – it sort of makes me a little bit skeptical,” Zadrozny stated.
At this point I pressed Zadrozny to elaborate on what specifically makes her skeptical.
“I think it’s the 80’s ‘Satanic Panic’, and the fact that the FBI, and another government study found literally no evidence,” she responded. “I think we’ve had such a wide and generally debunking of this stuff that for me, it makes me think, if you’re still beating the SRA drum, without any evidence, it’s hard for me to say I can believe that, but not this.”
At this point she redirected the conversation back to my beliefs, asking if I am a believer of so-called “Satanic Ritual Abuse” (SRA). I told her I do not typically use the term SRA and at the same time I don’t believe every story of ritualistic child abuse from the 1980’s and 90’s has been debunked. I noted that my investigation into the history of ritual abuse in Utah, and specifically the LDS, both revealed long forgotten stories and accusations.
For example, I reported how in March 1990 the Utah Governor’s Commission for Women and Families created the Utah Task Force on Ritual Abuse to investigate a rise in claims of ritualized sexual abuse of children. In 1992 the task force issued their report, Report of Utah State Task Force on Ritual Abuse, concluding that ritual abuse was occurring in Utah. The report described what it called “generational” cults operating in secret, sometimes using the cover of traditional religious organizations and practices.
“Some scholars are convinced that such groups have existed for centuries. Their abusive cult activities may co-exist side by side with traditional worship; that is, members may publicly practice an established, respected religion. The members are often well-known and respected within their larger communities.”
In 1992, following the recommendation of the Utah Task Force on Ritual Abuse report, the Utah Attorney General’s office hired two investigators to further examine claims of ritualistic sexual abuse that had grown so loud that one poll from 1992 shows 90% of the people polled believed Satanic abuse was real. The investigators summarized their findings in a 1995 report Ritual Crime in the State of Utah: Investigation, Analysis & A Look Forward.
“Allegations of organized satanists, even groups of satanists who have permeated every level of government and religion were unsubstantiated,” the report stated.
However, as I told Zadrozny in our discussion, the report did conclude that it is possible there were isolated instances of child sex abusers using satanic or occult imagery to scare victims into silence. The investigators concluded:
“Evidence has been uncovered to support the thought that individuals have in the past, and are now committing crime in the name of Satan or other deity. The allegations of organized satanists, even groups of satanists who have permeated every level of government and religion were unsubstantiated.
Clearly, crimes involving sexual and physical abuse are occurring. Evidence in the state supports the notion that ritual crime can exist, even on a large scale as in the Zion Society case in Ogden. Police agencies from across the state have the burden of evaluating and investigating all allegations that come to their attention.”
I also discussed my extensive work on The Finders cult, specifically my 2019 documentary exposing the so-called Finders cult and their connections to intelligence agencies and child trafficking. The Finders cult saga unfolded in the late 1980’s in Florida, Washington D.C., and Virginia.
“That’s just one example of a case that took place in that period that is often labeled, and would be dismissed by “normal people” as, “Satanic Panic.” I am skeptical but open minded because I have seen enough, and documented enough, and heard from people and seen that there is evidence of organized rings that traffic children,” I stated. “But, as (USCO) Sergeant Cannon told me, for some reason whenever you put the word ritual in front of the investigation it causes people to immediately have skepticism. Does that mean that every Qanon random crazy theory has any truth? Not at all.”
I explained to Mrs. Zadrozny that I have actually spent quite a bit of time over the last few years debunking various claims made by Qanon or Qanon adjacent channels because the wild theories poison the well of legitimate investigations.
I also pointed out that although the 2012 accusations against David Hamblin are not a part of the current UCSO investigation, at least 5 victim statements from the 2012 case describe detailed incidents of ritual abuse involving several prominent members of the Utah County community, including LDS members.
“I don’t look to the 2012 documents at the moment as based on pure fact – we don’t know because it needs to be investigated — but there’s at least 5 different victim statements describing hundreds of different incidents of abuse, and they claim that the people involved in that did pray to Satan, did pray to Lucifer. That doesn’t mean that I need to believe in that to see that’s what someone is claiming happened to them,” I told Zadrozny.
I also explained that while there’s no physical evidence to confirm Kate Talley’s claims of ritual abuse, I shared her story because I believe she deserves to be heard.
“I don’t claim to know whether these are “implanted memories”, some way for them to explain it psychologically, if they suffered abuse, and just exaggerate it or whatever — it’s not my place to say, I am not a psychologist — but to deny that people report these claims is irresponsible. Or to dismiss them as not normal people.”
Zadrozny said, from her perspective, the idea of labeling something a “conspiracy theory” is that it “goes against the widely accepted, normal explanation for something.” Zadrozny claimed she had watched my documentary on The Finders and found it “interesting”, but that her concern was documentaries like mine can present facts and ask questions, but lead people to a conclusion that “hasn’t been clearly documented, it’s just a bunch of questions all run together.” She inquired as to whether I have a final theory on The Finders cult.
I shared that I still have questions surrounding The Finders cult and do not believe the public has heard the entire truth. I also noted that eight months after the release of my documentary the FBI began releasing 4 different document dumps which further confirm relationships with intelligence agencies and The Finders. I explained that my current conclusion regarding the main 3 accusations against The Finders — that they were a Satanic cult, that they had abused/trafficked children, and that they were connected to intelligence agencies — is that the claims of Satanism are extremely weak. However, I also found that there are several documents which corroborate a connection between the intelligence community and The Finders.
Brandy Zadrozny asked me if I can point to any specific case involving Satanic elements. I could not provide a specific example of clear Satanic ritual abuse (although I know of several claimed examples, including Kate Talley and the 2012 case against Hamblin). Based on my research over the last decade plus, I cannot rule out the existence of Satanic ritual abuse, or ritualistic abuse in general, but I also cannot conclusively prove it’s not happening or hasn’t happened. As I told Zadrozny, I do think it’s possible that claims of “satanic ritual abuse” might be used to discredit real examples of abuse involving high-profile people.
What I can say is that cases like Jeffrey Epstein and The Finders highlight the connection between intelligence and trafficking. We also have the numerous scandals involving the Catholic Church, Southern Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the LDS which show how child abuse pervades religion and government.
This brings me to my final question for Brandy Zadrozny. I asked her if the case against David Hamblin does grow to include the 2012 victim statements referencing Satanic abuse, would a journalist like her take the claims seriously because they were in court? Or, would they still be dismissed because of claims of Satan and Lucifer worship? I also mentioned Zadrozny’s previous coverage for NBC which took a superficial look at the USCO investigation.
“I think in terms of coverage what’s important is that one, someone with some sort of authority feels that they are real, that these are allegations we should look into,” Zadrozny replied. “To me, the victim’s statements, they are alleging mass murder on a grand scale, they are alleging that, basically the whole of Spring City was part of this cabal of child molesters and Luciferians, etc, etc.”
“I think there’s a sort of place that you have to reach, because if we write ‘David Leavitt Is Being Accused of Pedophilia’, if we put these allegations out, and we entertain them as believable just because someone says them, there’s still a victim there, someone’s hurting cause now their name is out there as an abuser or cult member. We have to be a little careful, right? Especially with the internet these accusations can have insane, terrible affects on people’s lives.”
Zadrozny said she had spoken with David Leavitt and his wife (who was also accused of participating in the abuse of the alleged victims in the 2012 case against David Hamblin) who claimed they received “terrible comments” online and people not wanting to play with their kids.
“I believe people, inherently, especially I am a woman and a mother, my inclination is to believe people but I also think we have a bar to reach on the other side before we go straight to believing them and to publishing and promoting what they’re saying,” Brandy Zadrozny stated.
I wholeheartedly agree that journalists do need to ensure their sources reach a certain level of credibility before publishing them. However, determining a source’s credibility should not be done simply by judging them based on how unconventional their story may be. A journalist is supposed to receive information from potential sources and verify, to the greatest degree possible, the claims made. After confirming the story with as many additional sources as possible you publish the story with the hopes of obtaining additional details which further corroborate the report.
Instead, Zadrozny argues that journalists shouldn’t pursue unconventional or controversial stories until “some sort of authority feels that they are real.” (Of course, we all know the authorities would never lie to the public or cover up their complicity in wrongdoing…) According to Zadrozny, journalists like Seymour Hersh should not have reported on the Mai Lai Massacre until the U.S. admitted to it, and journalists should not have reported on the lies of the Iraq War until the George W. Bush confirmed them.
Obviously, this is not a recipe for investigative journalism, but rather a perfect recipe for obedient reporting which serves the ruling class. The fact that these statements came out of the mouth of an NBC senior reporter and “Misinformation Expert” is even more telling. Zadrozny is being paid a handsome salary by one of the largest media conglomerates in the world to tell the public that anyone who questions vaccine safety, or believes in the existence of organized sex trafficking rings are simply victims of fake news and disinformation. Her resistance to reporting anything that cannot immediately be confirmed by the “authorities” is what makes her useful to the ruling class.
The strange thing about Mrs. Zadrozny’s statement on authority is that the Utah ritual abuse investigation was launched by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, not conspiracy theorists on the internet. Based on Zadrozny’s report on the Utah investigation she does not see the USCO as “some sort of authority” and preferred to focus on alleged connections to Qanon.
When it comes to “believing women” (or victims, in general) I told Zadrozny that from my perspective she was holding two conflicting viewpoints. On one hand she says she wants to believe women, but only if they don’t mention “satanic” activity, or ritual abuse or other phrases that would trigger Mrs. Zadrozny to dismiss them as “conspiracy theory.”
“I get the idea of protecting people, that’s why I didn’t just say ‘here’s what these Hamblin documents state.’ I don’t want to send somebody to go attack somebody. I am definitely, even as an independent journalist, sticking to my ethics,” I stated. “At the same time, if someone is accused of crimes in these documents, and these documents went to court as they did in the Hamblin case, and weren’t dismissed for lack of evidence, those allegations haven’t been tried (in a court) to find whether they are accurate or not, Leavitt and others in the documents are assumed innocent until proven guilty, but does it not even pique your interest to know that this person is accused of all kinds of crazy things?”
I went on to reiterate how the alleged victims in the 2012 case against David Hamblin described more than 150 different incidents of alleged abuse with names and locations. This doesn’t mean the information is 100% factual, but the breadth of the reports and the depravity of the alleged abuse should not disqualify it from investigation. I reminded Zadrozny that former Utah County Attorney attempted to defame one of the David Hamblin’s alleged victims by calling her mentally ill.
“I think it’s odd and sad and interesting to hear that it takes a person of authority to say something for it to matter. And that people want to be sympathetic and listen when people have stories to share — I don’t think blindly trusting anybody is a good idea either way, but I don’t think dismissing them offhand because their story doesn’t line up with what we believe is a good thing either,” I stated.
Zadrozny clarified that it’s not that stories of abuse don’t matter, but for it to become “newsworthy” she would need a confirmation by someone in a position of authority. Whether people are suffering satanic ritual abuse, or victims of a “moral panic” or Qanon their stories are worthy of examination, Zadrozny said.
I wrapped up our conversation by offering my hope that whatever she produces in relation to my work on the Utah ritual abuse case, that it does more than “just make fun of me” and the other people she talks to. She said, “I hear you.” I took this moment as an opportunity to offer what I believe is an important lesson that Mrs. Zadrozny might not have fully recognized prior to our conversation.
“That’s what people expect. That’s why so many people do not trust NBC or the mainstream media because they see things like that. I sometimes play the role of fact checker within the independent community because there are people willing to believe things even without facts. I do my best to stick with what we know, but I also think there’s the other extreme of that and that’s just discounting everything because we don’t have the document that proves it perfectly. As journalists we can provide context to help people understand stories better.”
I went on to chastise Zadrozny and her silent producer/journalist Eva Ruth for the fact that her single report on the Hamblin case tried to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Instead of discussing the complexities of the Sheriff’s investigation or asking why David Leavitt made the statements denying being a cannibal, Zadrozny waits until the 11th paragraph of her article to acknowledge that there was an ongoing investigation by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. The article essentially defended the former Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, and acted as if the investigation was the result of Qanon Republicans in the backwoods of Utah rather than the result of legitimate police work by the USCO.
Zadrozny acknowledged that I was not the only person upset or annoyed with her reporting on the Hamblin case. She reiterated that she is taking a legitimate look at the story and following as it progresses. She asked if I was planning on continuing to investigate the Hamblin case. I reassured her that I would continue to follow the investigation and potentially go to Utah to report on Hamblin’s eventual trial in person.
“Depending on what happens I think it could make a great documentary, even asking some of these questions that maybe others don’t think are worth asking,” I said. To which Brandy Zadrozny, NBC’s senior reporter and “Misinformation Expert”, replied with a laugh, “You’re good. Thank you Derrick.”
Source: The Last American Vagabond
Provide, Protect and Profit from what’s coming! Get a free issue of Counter Markets today.