Journalist Michael Hastings, the BuzzFeed reporter who was killed in a car crash early Tuesday morning in Los Angeles
, reportedly told friends and colleagues he thought he was being investigated by the FBI before his death, a claim that's sparking conspiracy theories online.
"Yeah," BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith confirmed to New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer. "Before his death, Michael told a number of his friends and colleagues
that he was concerned that he was under investigation."
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Hastings, whose explosive 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Stanley McChrystal led to the general's downfall, reportedly contacted WikiLeaks three hours before his death. Hastings had reportedly been working on stories about the National Security Agency and CIA leaks.
This revelation has led to a flurry of outrageous conspiracy theories about his death.
"Vince Foster-like murder plot emerging in Los Angeles?
Did the Obama administration knock off a star reporter?" one blog posited.
"Journalists who mess with government and military power often die under mysterious circumstances,"
read a post on InfoWars, the Alex Jones website that constantly churns out conspiracy theories.
According to police reports, Hastings' Mercedes-Benz ran a red light and smashed into a tree around 4:20 a.m. Tuesday. The vehicle reportedly caught fire after the engine flew through the air. Witnesses told police "it sounded like a bomb went off."
But one automotive journalist raised questions about the likelihood of such an accident.
"I'm here to state that I've seen dozens of cars hit walls
and stuff at high speeds and the number of them that I have observed to eject their powertrains and immediately catch massive fire is, um, ah, zero," Jack Baruth wrote on TheTruthAboutCars.com. "Modern cars are very good at not catching fire in accidents. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is an evolutionary design from a company known for sweating the safety details over and above the Euro NCAP requirements, should be leading the pack in the not-catching-on-fire category. Nor is the C-Class known for sudden veering out of control into trees and whatnot."
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