Error in BBC reporting doesn’t mean 9/11 was scripted

13 September 2021
What was claimed

The fact a BBC journalist reported the collapse of World Trade Center 7 before it actually happened means 9/11 was a “scripted, actor based reality”.

Our verdict

It’s true that a BBC journalist reported the collapse of World Trade Center 7 almost half an hour before it fell, as did a number of other news services. There is no evidence this was due to insider information or a “scripted” version of the terror attack.

A post on Facebook claims that the BBC reported the collapse of World Trade Center 7 on 11 September 2001, almost half an hour before it happened. 

The post author uses this apparent error to describe the 9/11 terror attacks as a “scripted, actor based reality” and refers to the collapse of World Trade Center 7 as a “demolition”. 

Building 7 was a 47-storey commercial office building, situated immediately to the north of the main World Trade Center complex. The building was not directly hit by hijacked aircraft, but collapsed on the afternoon of 11 September, hours after the North and South Towers collapsed, after falling debris ignited fires in the building. 

It is true that the BBC reported the collapse of the building before it actually happened. The building collapsed at 5.20pm on 11 September 2001, but a journalist reported that it had fallen at 4.54pm (both local time). 

This has been addressed directly a number of times by the broadcaster. 

Richard Porter, a senior editor within the BBC’s global service at the time of the attack, published a blog in 2007 detailing how the mistake could have been made during live reporting. 

He highlighted the fact that American broadcaster CNN had reported that the building was on fire and in danger of  collapse as early as 4.15pm, with other local channels making similar claims. Mr Porter also pointed to the fact that several other BBC services had run similar lines about a large building having collapsed. He suggested this meant it was likely at least one news agency was reporting this as fact at the time, or reporting someone having claimed this. 

He also wrote: “We're not part of a conspiracy. Nobody told us what to say or do on September 11th. We didn't get told in advance that buildings were going to fall down. We didn't receive press releases or scripts in advance of events happening.

“In the chaos and confusion of the day, I'm quite sure we said things which turned out to be untrue or inaccurate - but at the time were based on the best information we had. We did what we always did - sourced our reports, used qualifying words like "apparently" or "it's reported" or "we're hearing" and constantly tried to check and double check the information we were receiving. 

“If we reported the building had collapsed before it had done so, it would have been an error - no more than that.”

The conspiracy theory that World Trade Center 7 was demolished emerged almost as soon as the event itself unfolded, and has circulated online ever since. 

In 2008 the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a report which found that the extraordinary heat created by the fires in World Trade Center 7 caused a critical support column in the building to fail, which gradually led to its collapse. 

The fires were caused by debris that fell during the collapse of the North Tower (World Trade Center 1), igniting on at least 10 floors of Building 7. On some floors they burned out of control due to a failure in the sprinkler system.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because the BBC did report the building had collapsed before it actually did, but there is no evidence this was due to insider knowledge.

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