Will CBS News apologize for the reckless denials before its Benghazi story collapsed?

It happened in 2004 with the Air National Guard story that ended Dan Rather’s career. There too the network refused to concede that there were genuine problems with the story until it was forced to by others.

10 Nov 2013 12:07 am 47 Comments

“Whenever legitimate questions are raised about our reporting, we check them out. That is what we are doing in this case. When we know more, we will tell you.”

Tell me: What is so hard about that? It’s 30 words CBS News never managed to say in its week from hell that will peak during ’60 Minutes’ tonight with an on-air apology for getting duped by a source who gave CBS viewers an eyewitness account of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, even though he told the FBI and his employer that he wasn’t on scene that night.

I will be watching. Let me tell you what I will be watching for. CBS will no doubt apologize for inadequate vetting of “Morgan Jones,” whose story should not have been trusted. It will say that it should have viewed his story more skeptically and done more reporting. It will say that it should have been clearer that its book division had given the same source a contract and paid an advance.

But will CBS apologize for its reckless denials from Oct. 31 to the day the story collapsed? It should, but probably it won’t. I don’t make a lot of predictions, but I will here: Tonight’s apology by CBS will not deal in any serious way with its misguided response to the very legitimate questions that were raised about its Benghazi report. If I am wrong, that will be good news for journalism at CBS and I will happily report it in an update here. (I was not wrong. Update here.)

Meanwhile, here is what I see.

1. Start with the timeline Poynter put together. On October 31 Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post reports this:

But in a written account that Jones, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies by several officials who worked with him in Benghazi, provided to his employer three days after the attack, he told a different story of his experiences that night.

Immediately, the CBS report is in deep trouble. And anyone with a clear mind can see that. Except the people at CBS. When your key source tells two different stories, something is seriously amiss. The next day, the network should have said: “Whenever legitimate questions are raised about our reporting, we investigate.” Instead, Kevin Tedesco, a spokesman for 60 Minutes, tells the Post: “We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday.” Why?

2. On November 1, Media Matters asks journalism observers with no known hostility to CBS or any political stance on the Benghazi events to comment. They state the obvious. “I don’t see any way that 60 Minutes would not need to offer an explanation,” says Alex S. Jones, former media beat reporter for the New York Times, now director of the Shorenstein Center on The Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. “This definitely needs explaining.” In a letter to CBS, Media Matters calls for a retraction of the report.

3. On November 2, the Daily Beast reports on its interview with Dylan Davies, in which he claims that a first-person incident report written in his voice is not his work. He’s never seen that document, he says. He also says that he lied to his employer “because he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders to stay at his villa.”

So now the key source in the CBS report has admitted to lying about the events in question, but we are supposed to believe that to CBS he told the truth and he told the truth in the book for which he was paid an undisclosed sum by a CBS subsidiary. Also we know from an earlier report on Fox News that a Fox reporter had stopped talking to the same source when he asked for money. (Also see this on Fox News and Benghazi.) All of these facts are clear warning signs, making “We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday” appear unwise in the extreme.

3. What CBS says in response to the Daily Beast report is… nothing. As if there was nothing to address. This was false. Huffington Post reporter Michael Calderone was trying to get answers to some extremely pertinent questions:

Did “60 Minutes” know Davies had told his employer that he wasn’t at the compound during the attack? And if “60 Minutes” was aware of Davies’ previous statement, how did the program vet his new account, given that no other witnesses saw him there? Does “60 Minutes” have evidence to be confident that Davies’ dramatic second account is accurate?

4. CBS stays silent about those issues for two more days. Then it decides to speak. But instead of answering Calderone’s questions, or at least saying, “When legitimate questions are raised about our reporting, we check them out…” which would have been the cautious, responsible and sane thing to do, it decides to raise the stakes by defending its work. Lara_Logan_cropThus Lara Logan tells the New York Times: “If you read the book, you would know he never had two stories. He only had one story.” This is bizarrely at odds with what Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post uncovered. Logan then attributes the criticism of her reporting to the intensely politicized atmosphere surrounding the events in Benghazi. But again: this does not address what Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post uncovered. Logan and CBS do admit to one mistake: not acknowledging that a division of CBS, Simon and Schuster, was publishing the “Morgan Jones” book.

Their story is in deep trouble from the existence of two conflicting accounts from the same source, who is an admitted liar, but CBS people are acting like none of this happened, or that no one knows about it, or that only partisan critics care. Why?

5. The next day things get stranger and more denialist. The executive producer of 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager, who is also the chairman of CBS News — two roles that in this instance conflict, though no one at CBS notices — tells the Huffington Post that he is a.) proud of the network’s reporting on the controversy and b.) confident that it will hold up.

“We spent more than a year reporting our story about the attack on Benghazi, which aired on Oct. 27, speaking with close to 100 sources in the process,” Fager says, seemingly unaware that these facts make his situation worse. (You spent a year on the story and never learned that your key source either lied to you or lied to his employer?) Like Lara Logan’s comments to the Times, Fager’s words are completely unresponsive to the actual trouble the story is in. Why? (On that, see Calderone’s report from Nov. 8.)

6. The next day, Nov. 7, the denialism falls apart, as the New York Times reports this:

Dylan Davies, a security officer hired to help protect the United States Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, gave the F.B.I. an account of the night that terrorists attacked the mission on Sept. 11, 2012 that contradicts a version of events he provided in a recently published book and in an interview with the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

This forces CBS News to say on its website what it should have said on October 31. “We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction.”

7. Finally forced by other news organizations to confront what they did not want to see, CBS starts caving. On November 8, Lara Logan appears on the CBS morning news show to apologize. (Video.) “So here’s what we know,” writes Kevin Drum of Mother Jones.

Davies never told Logan about the incident report. He never told the co-author of his memoir about the incident report. When the content of the report was revealed, he invented an entirely implausible story about lying to his supervisor in the report because he respected him so highly and didn’t want him to know that he’d disobeyed orders not to approach the compound. And yet, in a story that should have set off all sorts of alarms in the first place, this still didn’t set off any alarms for Logan. She continued to defend Davies and her reporting until news emerged yesterday that the incident report matched what Davies had told the FBI in a debriefing shortly after the attack.

Exactly. On the same day CBS takes down the video of the Benghazi story, leaving only an error message where the clip had been. Helpful! And Simon and Schuster announces that it is withdrawing the book from stores.

8. Then yesterday the conflict of interest that Jeff Fager has as 1.) the executive in charge who would have approved the final cut of the Benghazi story and 2.) the head of the CBS news division, who is supposed to worry about the entire news organization’s reputation more than any individual or show… that conflict comes through in startling fashion via this story in the Washington Post. Give a listen:

CBS News’s chairman expressed disappointment and contrition Friday for a mistaken “60 Minutes” report about the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks, but he suggested the program and his network intended to move past the flawed story.

“Credibility is really the most important thing we have,” Jeff Fager, the head of the network’s news division and executive producer of the weekly newsmagazine, said in an interview. “Did we let people down? Yes. Do people expect us to get it right? Of course they do. Do they expect us to be perfect? I don’t think so. When you come forward and admit a mistake, people will understand.”

Notice: He did not say “we’re going to get to the bottom of this, and find out how it could happen.” Rather, they’re moving on. And as the Post’s Paul Farhi wrote: “There were no indications Friday that anyone at CBS would be fired for the Benghazi report.” When you come forward and admit a mistake: is that what CBS did? Nope. It did exactly the opposite. It admitted there was a problem only after other news organizations brought the story forward. That statement alone should be enough to remove Jeff Fager from further decision-making about who is accountable for this debacle.

9. CBS was not just wrong, it was wrong about an explosive and highly contentious story in which extra care should have been taken because of the risk that a faulty report will be instantly politicized. This is exactly what happened, adding an extra layer of gravity to the situation. As the New York Times wrote on November 8:

The day after the CBS report, several Republican senators held a news conference, demanding that the administration allow congressional investigators to interview survivors of the Benghazi attack. In particular, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that he would block all administration nominations until it met the Republicans’ demands.

An update on this part of the story.
10. Consider:

If Folkenflik is correct, this is worse because the “partisan” label is irrelevant to whether the questions that critics are raising deserve answers. Still, Media Matters is well aware of this discounting practice, and that is why they get the likes of Alex Jones and Marvin Kalb — figures they know journalists at CBS respect as “non-partisan” — to comment.

11. Threshold is the imprint of Simon and Schuster that signed “Morgan Jones” to a book contract. (“Threshold Editions is an imprint of Simon & Schuster that specializes in conservative non-fiction.”) Threshold is the imprint where Mary Matalin is an editor-at-large. Mary Matalin is a partisan political operative and Republican talking head— and now a book editor. If she was involved in the book deal, then she is mixed up with CBS’s collapsed story. Will this be a part of the on-air apology?

12. Lara Logan is not a View from Nowhere journalist. She has opinions on the Benghazi issue. She has spoken about them. In my view, that is not a crime. But it is certainly relevant in evaluating her performance on this story. (See Digby’s post for clips of Logan displaying her world view.) Will this be a part of tonight’s show? Will CBS say something like, “Viewers should have been told that correspondent Lara Logan has expressed strong opinions on the Benghazi story and what the United State should do in its aftermath…”? My prediction: no.

13. CBS has been through this before. It happened in 2004 with the Air National Guard story that ended Dan Rather’s career. There too the network refused to concede that there were problems with the story until it was forced to by others. There too it allowed its people to issue foolish statements of bravado as the story was crumbling. There too it blamed a partisan atmosphere for questions that any clear headed journalist would ask. (See my open letter to CBS News from 2005.) It did not learn enough from that debacle to avoid repeating the pattern. The signs are that it will not learn from this one.

Watch what CBS apologizes for Sunday night, and what it ignores in making a show of coming clean.

UPDATE, 8:45 PM, Nov. 10. My prediction proved accurate. In a very brief note at the end of ’60 Minutes,’ CBS said it has been misled by its source, apologized for putting him on the air and that was about it. No mention of the book contract, even. Lara Logan, who read the apology, went nowhere near an accounting for the reckless denials I wrote about. Nor did she explain how any of this could have happened. (See Dylan Byers in Politico for more on that.)

Here is how it went: “We end our broadcast tonight with a correction,” Logan said. She then summarized the Oct. 27 story and Davies role in it. “After our report aired, questions arose about whether his account was true when an incident report surfaced. It told a different story about what he did the night of the attack.” Logan said that Davies denied he had written that report, and insisted the story he told ’60 Minutes’ was accurate— and the same story he told the FBI. “On Thursday night, when we discovered the account he gave the FBI was different than what he told us, we realized we had been misled and it was a mistake to include him in our report. For that we are very sorry. The most important thing to every person at ’60 minutes’ is the truth, and the truth is we made a mistake.” The end. The video:

Final note for the night. Two things stand out for me about this correction, besides its basic inadequacy for being so minimal. One is the passive voice: “questions arose,” “an incident report surfaced.” This wording allows CBS to erase the role played by other news organizations in forcing it to face the problems with its reporting.

Attention now turns to Jeff Fager, as the person at CBS (executive producer of ’60 Minutes’) who approved the final cut of a deeply flawed report starring a source CBS knew to have lied to his employer, and the executive at CBS, boss of the news division, who decided that it was time to move on from that mistake. Can that conflict of interest stand? So far it looks like it will.

UPDATE, NOV. 11. Last night the New York Times reported this:

The CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” has not ordered an investigation, and on Sunday a spokesman indicated that the program was going to let its televised apology be its last word on the issue.

Well, there you have it. A thin and inadequate response — according to many critics and journalists and even people who used to work at CBS — will be the “last word.” Or will it? The pressures are still there. Witness:

“In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News,” said Paul Friedman, CBS’s executive vice president for news until 2011. “In the long term, a lot will depend on how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened — especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.”

“’60 Minutes’ doesn’t need to apologize anymore. It needs to fully explain what went wrong.” Right. Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post goes through all the the unanswered questions in his excellent piece out this morning. “Sunday’s brief acknowledgment didn’t resemble a news program seriously trying to get to the bottom of how it got duped.”

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo asks a question that shows how inexplicable the decision-making was:

When are you more likely to embellish or lie? In an immediate after action report when there’s little reason to believe that your own role will ever be a matter of consequence or that the incident itself will become a topic of immense controversy? Or a year later when you write a tell-all book chronicling your exploits for a conservative book publisher and there’s fame and lots of money at stake?

Newsweek, Nov. 22: Lara Logan’s Mystery Man.

She’s a smart, tough, experienced reporter. And the producer and writers and reporters who helped her put this Benghazi story together are honored, respected professionals, many of whom have been covering the region for years. Whoever fooled them, whoever convinced them that al Qaeda orchestrated that attack on the U.S. embassy, had to be smart, incredibly persuasive and savvy about the media. And unquotable.

In other words, an intelligence source. And the person closest to Logan with those credentials is her husband. But he’s not talking.


Wait. CBS owns a book publishing shop? That publishes rightwing crazies like Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Karl Rove?

And CBS’ 60 minutes was promoting this guy’s book, published by their own extreme rightwing book publishing shop by featuring him on a NEWS magazine show, while pretending that he was just some nonpolitical security guy with a serious, amazing new story to tell about BENGHAZI!!! ?

That stinks to high heaven. Even if the whole story didn’t fall apart, is that what 60 Minutes is now? A vehicle to promote the output of their own rightwing imprint, run by Mary Matalin?

Okay, I guess, but shouldn’t they inform their audience? “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to 60 Minutes of Mary Matalin’s story-telling and political hawkery!”

Dan Rather’s name keeps popping up in concert with this item. As I recall, his reporting largely covered how Bush avoided Viet Nam.

accidentalfission says:

Not only that, the nature of Bush’s ANG service was not in question, just the provenance of those documents with proportional fonts and superscript.

Now it turns out, IBM Selectric typwriters with those features were available (though rare) during the time period in question.



CBS extensively apologized for Dan Rather, whose story was essentially accurate (but annoyed the righties).

Now we have utter rubbish…and a couple of seconds of semi-pology on last night’s 60 Minutes.

Procopius says:

Well, what are the differences? Rather’s story annoyed the righties. This story pleased the righties. By the way, over the years I’ve come to the opinion that Lara Logan is a pugnacious right wing reporter, strongly in favor of war. I seem to recall she got raped in Egypt, which probably does not improve her opinion of Arabs. I’m pretty sure that if CBS did fire her (highly unlikely) Fox would probably leap at the chance to hire her, although they did pass on this particular story.

Steve Glauber, who tells me he worked at CBS News for 34 years as a producer and senior producer, sends these comments that he posted on his Facebook page:

What CBS News will do next in connection with the 60 MINUTES false report about what happened in Benghazi, as contrasted what it did after the Rather unproven report on 60 MINUTES II about President George Bush’s National Guard service or lack thereof, has so many tantalizing angles:

1. Journalists – Most are politically liberal yet totally fair in reporting and CBS News may be intimidated by the barrage of right wing false criticism that they are biased toward Obama So I can imagine the delight of 60 MINUTES in reporting the Benghazi story that is critical of Obama: “Look at us…we are not biased against Republicans. We expose an Obama lie over the subject that is raw meat for Republicans”.

2. Compare the Logan report with the Rather report on Bush’s war record. The attacks are exactly alike. Both stories (a) allege a current President (b) is untruthful. Both reports were flawed (though the current story’s falsehood is far starker whereas the Rather report may be correct: Bush may have lied but Rather could not prove the sources account was accurate).

Rather – The executive producer along with all senior producers and the story producer were fired. Logan – the executive producer is also the Chairman of CBS News – interesting if he would fire himself or those whom he hired.

60 Minutes – huge ratings and immense profits…the fountain which enriches CBS News. 60 Minutes II – low ratings, small profits and about to be cancelled.

Rather – Glories behind him and old. Logan – young and beautiful and a rising star

Rather – ratings down. Logan – hot ratings

Rather – an outside investigation. Logan – seems improbable – not with a rising star correspondent and the executive producer being the same person as the Chairman.

Conflicts of Interest – Rather – none. Logan – the publisher of the liar’s book is a CBS company. Note: Logan says that no money was paid to the lying source. But what role did the publisher have in the liar telling his tale to Logan? For example, did the book deal come AFTER Logan committed to the story? If so…sure looks like payment.

Rather – A Republican President who thinks the news is biased, that CBS News is the most biased and he can hurt CBS in many ways – regulations, mergers, FCC, sources, interview access, etc.… so he must be becalmed. Logan – A Democrat President who gets no points for attacking CBS and won’t.

Addendum: I believe CBS was correct to appoint an outside investigator to the Rather story and not do so this time. Rather and Bush had a contentious public relationship and Dan was perceived, incorrectly, as being biased against Bush. CBS faced a PR disaster plus the company could have been hurt by Bush. The Logan story is different – there is no perception that Logan is biased against Obama and Obama is a fan of CBS and will not do anything to harm it.

Two things:
1) There is indeed a perception among Democrat media watchers that Ms. Logan has a very obvious conservative bias — if not rabidly anti-Obama, she is most certainly (rightly) perceived as a neocon with a steno pad on the order of Judith Miller.

2)Interesting take under Conflicts of Interest. I am assuming that Matalin solicited the book, or Davies pitched the book to Matalin, whether in service of making a buck off being there, or outright rightwing craziness. Then probably Logan jumped on the story and wanted to push it to the mainstream audience.

It would be interesting to find out who was the chicken and who was the egg between Logan and Matalin.

I don’t think we know that. Take a look at this page:


Matalin isn’t even mentioned as part of the editorial team. She may have played a role in the acquisition of the “Jones” book, or maybe not.

More interesting to me is that given the kinds of authors Threshold publishes, there is no real difference between it and what everyone at CBS would call “the partisan media.” It’s essentially a Breitbart or Red State for books, obviously created to compete with:


That’s the real significance of Matalin’s association with the Threshold imprint. It tells us what kind of outfit this is.

Coleridge says:

The Bush story included forged documents and yet he says that Rather may have been right? Logan’s segment in general raised legitimate questions. The fact her source cannot provide a credible answer doesn’t diminish the questions.

It’s not so much that Davies “cannot provide a credible answer” as that he flat-out lied. Since that was the whole report, the show turns out to be a farce. So far as I know, all the Benghazi questions have been answered, repeatedly. It’s just that the answers are ignored and the questions repeated. (E.g.,the question about immediate military assistance at the time: answered repeatedly.) The whole thing has become an false scandal pushed to an extreme by Darrel Issa, just likee the “IRS scandal”.

The Logan story is different – there is no perception that Logan is biased against Obama and Obama is a fan of CBS and will not do anything to harm it.

Public perception is affected by the media. I don’t understand your point?

“Everybody says the media is liberal, so we don’t need outside investigators for incidents that reveal the opposite.”

See Digby for more on Lara Logan’s biases.


Martha Nunn says:

Jay, I have long admired your reporting. But when you suggest that CBS News doesn’t need to have an independent investigation about the Logan report, I think that you are DEAD WRONG! The attitude of the sitting president toward the journalist in question should have NO BEARING on whether an independent investigation is launched. The real question is the veracity of the story and how could Logan have gotten that story SO WRONG! If anything, there was LESS reason to launch an investigation of the Rather story since the core of the story was TRUE! George W. Bush DID avoid serving in Vietnam by securing a sweetheart appointment to the Texas Air National Guard, which was often referred to as the “champaign corps” because so many children of Texas luminaries had similarly avoided Vietnam by securing coveted slots in that unit. The ONLY thing questionable in the Rather story were the Killian memos. It certainly was known that George W. Bush failed to show up for duty for a long period of time, presumably because he was working on a political campaign. It had also been reported that George W. Bush failed to show up for physicals, which just happened to correspond to the time when they began to conduct drug testing. If anything, the Killian memos only served to further validate the questionable service of George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard, which we already knew about from his failure to show up for duty or for physicals over long stretches of time.

What really galls me about your assertion that Rather’s reporting warranted an independent review while Logan’s does not deserve the same scrutiny is that you assert the contentious relationship between George W. Bush and Dan Rather, as though the president not “liking” the reporting of a particular journalist implies bias or a reason for skewering the guy, in spite of little evidence to support that notion. In contrast, Lara Logan has given speeches demonstrating her own right-wing bias and agenda. Is it any wonder that this woman jumped on a questionable “eyewitness” with a dubious story and failed to conduct even cursory scrutiny of the facts as she WANTED the story to be true? This is JUST LIKE those shills at Fox News that reported an item off of a satirical website as “news” that President Obama was going to personally fund some mythical Muslim cultural museum to be kept open during the shutdown. The failure to do ANY investigation beyond Lara Logan’s own little right-wing bubble is no less egregious, and if you ask me, it is FAR WORSE because so many mainstream viewers are much more likely to believe whatever is on “60 Minutes” without questioning it, whereas most people with more than two brain cells to rub together have learned a LONG time ago to view anything reported on Fox News with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Martha Nunn says:

I erred by calling out Jay Rosen as Jay was actually reporting what Steve Glauber had said about the bogus Benghazi story. Hence, my comment is actually directed to Steve Glauber. My apologies to Jay Rosen for failing to carefully read his post that attributed the comment saying that a thorough investigation was not necessary to Steve Glauber.

Having said that, my own prediction is that “60 Minutes” will be greatly diminished if they fail to conduct an intensive investigation of the situation. Above all else, heads should roll, starting with Lara Logan and including anyone who signed off on the story. This is no better than Fox News reporting,as news, the satirical piece claiming that President Obama was personally funding security for some obscure Muslim cultural museum during the shutdown. In addition, as has been reported by McClatchy, the problems with the story go far beyond the security officer that apparently fabricated his entire story.

[ ” CBS was not just wrong, it was wrong about an explosive and highly contentious story…” ]

No, Benghazi is a big news story overall — but either version of Dylan Davies’ personal incident there… is completely trivial itself and to the larger story. Why did ’60 Minutes’ present it at all ?

It seems CBS News just wanted to stoke a well-known news story… with whatever tidbits it could find. They found a quite insignificant tidbit… but also one that was a live, exclusive “source” ( & tied to corporate book sales) that gave them a slight edge on their TV/News competition. Professional journalism was not the CBS driver.

Note also that ’60 Minutes’ had a shady reputation for decades before Dan Rather. It invented the art of heavily biased TV interviews, thru deception of interviewees and outrageous editing of video recordings.

This Dylan Davies stuff is not out of character for them; demands for sincere apologies are rather quaint.

My question is slightly different. How many news organizations will end up apologizing for repeatedly blowing the story on climate change? I would guess that they will all proudly point to the very few times they got it right.

It is, after all, the most important story of the century and is almost never mentioned unless we have a significant weather event and then they get it mostly wrong.

A point I haven’t seen anyone mention: The Oct 29 publication date of the book (by a division of CBS) clearly determined the air date of the “60 Minutes” piece *on* CBS. Logan’s report was timed to have the maximum promotional impact on book sales. (Virtually all book-related stories on “60 Minutes” first air on the Sunday before the Tuesday pub date.) If it didn’t run on Oct 27, it never would have run at all, or at least not as a story with Davies’ account as its central element. Oct 20 would have been too early for book promotion; Nov 4 would have been too late to break any “news.”

A lot of people have rightly drawn upon the Dan Rather episode to compare and contrast. But I think one might also recall the New York Times’ reaction to the Judith Miller debacle for similarities. Recall Ms. Miller relying on the specious source Curveball and how he went completely unvetted because the story fit with the Times’ and Miller’s biases? Judith Miller had similar intensity of neoconservative bias that obviously should have called her judgement into question by her editors, but didn’t.

Mary Matalin was also involved in pushing the Curveball story as part of the White House Study Group. And, interestingly, Curveball surfaced years later to appear on 60 Minutes.

And then-Managing Editor Bill Keller stonewalled any requests or demands for corrections while standing by Miller and her reporting for years before he issued an apology. (I do not recall the Times ever issuing a retraction.)

My question: is this evidence of “standard operating procedure”?

I’m not so terribly interested in this particular Benghazi game, but in what it says about institutional journalism, starting from CBS. This case is particularly explosive and any errors are highlighted. My hypothesis would be that they behaved this way in this case because this is the way they generally behave when questions pop up that would disturb their story and thus their business model.

A corollary is that it usually works. They mess up a story, someone complains, they clamp down and it goes away. At least when its not a massive political play which leads to powerful outside forces becoming involved.

That’s what’s important about this pattern of stories: the extent to which institutional journalism functions as a literary art masquarading as serious investigation. We know the danger for the “personal brand” type, that we may be getting propaganda and comic-strip stories instead of news. But is this EVEN MORE TRUE for institutional news where the organization can clamp down and competitors are loath to engage in mutual assured destruction by pointing out that systematically hard news stories are fairy tales?

I can’t come up with another sensible explanation for why CBS would repeatedly do something this stupid, unless they had previous experience that guides them in this direction. The other choice is that they are stupid — but that would show up continuously, rather than only during highly politicized situations.

Point of information:

Concerning the conduct of…

— The State Department
— Ambassador Stevens himself
— The CIA and its operatives
— Other parts of the Obama Administration
— The civilian security guards at the consulate (trained by our eyewitness)
— The irregular militias patroling Benghazi (either those allied with the United States, or those participating in the attack on the consulate and the CIA annex)

…what did Lara Logan’s report state or imply, which now turns out to be false or unsubstantiated?

We know Logan’s eyewitness himself has been disavowed. But is it only the vividity of his first person account that has now been retracted? Or are there findings that Logan reported concerning the underlying events in Benghazi that turn out to be false — or her speculation that turns out to be groundless — as a result of that disavowal?

grape_crush says:

> …what did Lara Logan’s report state or imply, which now turns out to be false or unsubstantiated?

That’s irrelevant to the larger point of this post, which is that CBS not only ran a story using a source which had contradicted himself…but that they also did not do the necessary legwork in vetting that source and when confronted with the problems with the source’s story, chose to evade and circle the wagons around their staff rather than admit fault and take more serious action.

I’m sure that there’s plenty of discussion out there regarding those other topics you’ve mentioned.


“I’m sure that there’s plenty of discussion out there regarding those other topics you’ve mentioned.”

That’s the point. I have not come across any of that discussion. Can you give me a link?

As you say CBS News refused to “admit fault” — and they still refuse to be specific about the precise nature and extent of their fault(s). Hence my inquiry. What facts did Logan state and what speculation did she advance about the underlying facts of the Benghazi story that turn out to be false or unsubstantiated?

RichmondVA says:

Lara Logan’s general Benghazi reporting is OK, although numbingly conventional, as far as it goes. But like the rest of the establishment media it misses the primary Benghazi news story.

That core news story is illicit U.S. arms transfer from Libya to Syrian rebels via Turkey. That’s what the State Department Benghazi Consulate and nearby CIA compound were primarily up to. Attack on the consulate was merely an unfortunate side effect of this gun-running activity. The State Department, CIA, and White House have much to hide about Benghazi and are no doubt pleased the media focuses entirely upon circumstances of the consulate attack sideshow.


Thank you. Do you have a link?

You want a link to reality concerning what transpired in Benghazi? How about this one from a year ago in Asia Times Online, written by Pepe Escobar, coiner of the priceless “al-CIAda” moniker for actual U.S. government foreign policy:

How Sexy is Benghazi?.

Not only gun-running, funding, training, transporting, and other “aid and comfort” stuff for America’s supposedly arch enemy Al Qaeda in Libya and Syria, but the other sordid stuff that the U.S. does to unfortunate foreigners in the usual nearby dungeon. Just a sample of what CBS failed to cover:

“[Which] inevitably brings us back to Benghazi – and that bombshell Fox News report quoting an anonymous Washington source stating that the consulate had a “CIA annex”, where three Libyan militia warriors, as in Salafi-jihadis, were being “detained”, aka undergoing Dick Cheney-style recreational water activities.

As for the interrogation sessions, that was the responsibility of contractors, a shady collection of “former” Special Ops – as the CIA itself later reminded public opinion that it “has not had detention authority since January 2009, when Executive Order 13491 was issued.”

Yet other previous “guests” in Benghazi included fighters from across Northern Africa and the Middle East. To sum it all up; this “annex” was the CIA’s top black hole in all of Northern Africa.

So here we have a “secret” CIA safe house attached to a consulate – and obviously not responding to the State Department – staffed with “former” or current Special Forces contractors accepting “renditions” and engaging in “detention” and certainly torture practices that are illegal under American law. They were all there working for Petraeus – and not Hillary Clinton.

And this may not have been the only one of such holiday resorts – as Special Forces keep roaming Northern Africa and the CIA happens to keep a safe house also in Somalia.

Let’s bet a cellar full of Chateau Petrus that The General will keep absolutely mum about all this in his upcoming Senate testimony. The General will repeat that the Prophet Muhammad video did it in Benghazi.”

The real story of Benghazi in a nutshell: “al-CIAda” and its enemy-of-my-enemy friend, the now defrocked General David Pretraeus, allowed to resign over a sex scandal instead of facing charges for treason in providing material aid and comfort to al-CIAda and “associated forces” in so many places that no one — even Pepe Escobar — has managed to unearth them all.

Mr. Rosen,

As of 10:30 a.m. EST on Nov. 11, 2013, The New York Times had scrubbed the following paragraph from its story:

“But the CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of ’60 Minutes, has not ordered an investigation, and on Sunday a spokesman indicated that the program was going to let its televised apology be its last word on the issue.”

The Times’ story offers no explanation for the disappearance of said paragraph. The Times currently lists only the following, unrelated correction at the bottom of the story:

Correction: November 11, 2013

“Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified the person who said, ‘In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News.’ The comment was by Paul Friedman, a former CBS executive — not by Craig Silverman, of the blog Regret the Error.”

Also, in the “revised” and/or “updated” story, the first reference to CBS News President Jeff Fager does not appear until paragraph 16:

“Over the weekend, CBS staff members expressed confidence that the damage to ’60 Minutes,’ while certainly the worst it has had to endure in the decade since Jeff Fager, the CBS News chairman, succeeded Don Hewitt as the show’s executive producer, would not be enduring. One reason is the deep reserve of good will the program has built up both with viewers and in journalistic circles. But the staff members also agreed that the program would be helped by that absence of a cause to inflame right-wing media voices, as well as by the belated effort to apologize.”

Lastly, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington, as you noted in your piece, wrote an Oct. 12, 2012 column about Lara Logan’s public call for retribution following the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in her speech to what Ms. Washington termed “about 1,100 influentials from government, politics, media, and the legal and corporate arenas” at the annual Better Government Association luncheon in Chicago.

In her Oct. 12, 2012 column, Ms. Washington, who has self-styled herself as the “MediaDervish”, wrote:

“Logan even called for retribution for the recent terrorist killings of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other officials. The event is a harbinger of our vulnerability, she said. Logan hopes that America will ‘exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil. That its ambassadors will not be murdered, and that the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.’

“In the ‘good old days,’ reporters did not advocate, crusade or call for revenge.

“In these ‘new’ days in a post-9/11 world, perhaps we need more reporters who are willing to break the rules.”

Ms. Washington failed to address any aspect of the “60 Minutes” story in either her Sun-Times column or her Twitter feed – until yesterday, when she offered the following:

Laura Washington

#60minutes Lara Logan mea culpa: Did she have an axe to grind?

4:56 PM – 10 Nov 13

Perhaps you should contact Ms. Washington to determine the reason(s) why a self-styled “MediaDervish” with both a column and a Twitter feed chose not to comment on the latest story involving Ms. Logan, especially after being the pundit who publicized and endorsed Ms. Logan’s public call for vengeance in the wake of Ambassador Stevens’s death?

The paragraph that was removed from the Times story “…a spokesman indicated that the program was going to let its televised apology be its last word on the issue….” has been restored. Check it out:


Mr. Rosen,

Thank you for your information about The New York Times.

I, personally, find the CBS position unacceptable. Further, I believe that The Times has done a great disservice to its readers by not pressing Mr. Fager to explain why CBS had conducted an internal investigation in the Rather affair (in which Mr. Rather was clearly at fault) but chosen bypass such an investigation in the case of Ms. Logan. At the very least, The Times should have included these facts in its story and a standard “no comment” from CBS and Mr. Fager.

Also, The Times made no mention of Ms. Logan’s October 2012 speech in Chicago, which occurred at what Ms. Logan and CBS have claimed was the outset of their “year-long investigation” that produced now-retracted Benghazi report. The Times failed to ask CBS and Mr. Fager how it could have permitted Ms. Logan, who had publicly called for vengeance in the death of Ambassador Stevens before a crowd of some 1,100 “influentials” at a prominent Chicago luncheon to conduct such an investigation and then present what a since-discredited piece on the incident. Ms. Logan is clearly biased in the matter, yet CBS allowed her to work for a year on and to air the story – and The Times never published these facts or question CBS and Mr. Fager about them.

As to the matter of Ms. Washington, how does a self-promoted “media dervish” working at a publication like The Sun-Times simply ignore the now-discredited story involving Ms. Logan and Benghazi. One could blame The Sun-Times, but that still leaves Ms. Washington’s Twitter feed, which had been silent until Nov. 10 on the matter.

Does such ignorance, willful or unintentional, fit the profile or Webster’s definition of a “dervish”?

It is instructive to disentangle three separate strands in this controversy.

First, CBS News and its internal editorial controls. That is what Jay Rosen in this post and Michael Calderone at Huffington Post have tended to accentuate: the refusal to learn the lessons of 2004, the reflex to circle the wagons and to refuse to concede error, the lack of specificity and accountability when an apology is finally made.

Second, the absolute asymmetry of the press bias culture wars. Again, comparing the 2004 Air National Guard story with the Benghazi coverage, there appear to be the same ingredients for a culture wars campaign: a correspondent suspected of an ideological ax to grind presents a suspicious-and-ultimately-bogus source to publicize a story that apparently advances that ideology. Sure enough Lara Logan has the institutional loyalty (siding with anti-Taliban military brass against Michael Hastings), the political track record (her neo-con anti-jihadist speech in Chicago) and the personal history (the sexual assault in Tahrir Square at the hands of Islamist protestors in 2011) to give credence to the idea that she might have a professional blind spot when vetting a tale of al-Qaeda militia violence. Yet there has been no such coordinated, outraged, vindictive, punitive, prosecutorial fury against Logan by the anti-neo-cons as there was by George W Bush’s partisans against Dan Rather in 2004. The culture warrior machine is vaster, readier for action, slips into gear more seamlessly, accelerates to full speed more violently, and is so much more remorseless from one side of the political spectrum than from the other.

Third — and this is the point I was driving at when I inquired about the veracity of Logan’s underlying account of the events on the ground that night in Benghazi — is the question of the house-style of journalism at 60 Minutes and in high-profile television news generally. What else was Logan’s sitdown with Dylan Davies or Morgan Jones or whatever his name was? It was a Get, catnip for TV news, a high-profile up-close-and-personal one-on-one with someone who was intimately involved with a heavily-covered news event that so far had only been recounted from afar. The journalism of these Gets — think Amanda Knox, or the SEAL who assassinated Osama bin Laden, or Elizabeth Smart — does not aim to explain the underlying event so we understand it better; it aims to bring us the personal emotion and intensity of that event so that we feel it more vividly.

This type of TV journalism is closer to the non-fiction publishing industry than it is to newspaper or magazine or radio or online journalism. Both the tell-all book author and the big-Get TV news anchor are interested in the inside of the story, the frisson of the you-were-there. This is not a conflict of interest but a confluence of interest: neither the book author nor the TV anchor is interested in interrogating or undercutting the story being told; and the mutuality of interest goes beyond the narrative desire to tell an engrossing story. It goes straight to the 60 Minutes parlay with the Threshold Books imprint inside the CBS corporate structure, a parlay that comes thisclose to checkbook journalism. It is a bias born of corporate imperatives, not ideological ones.

just a couple of quibbles.

One tends to see what one looks for and in the case of culture wars I believe this is especially true.

The 5 executive officers who were fired in the wake of the Susan G. Komen-Planned parenthood controversy might have a different view of the vastness, readiness, speed, violence and remorselessness of one side of the political spectrum.

Granted Susan G Komen is not the press, but doesn’t the perception of 60 minutes play into the culture wars.

If 60 minutes is seen as a progressive institution by the left wound not that tend to blunt “friendly fire” criticism? As in this instance they were stupid but not evil?

As opposed to if Fox News had made the mistake holding them as both stupid and evil. Would the left have demanded heads roll at Fox as the conservatives did for Rather’s? Don Imus might have a few thoughts on this and I don’t know if he is particularly a conservative bastion.

There is plenty of vindictive fury to go around.

More victimology. At one time conservatives were suspicious of that. Now they wallow it.

I don’t think I was claiming victim status just trying to point out the left is as good as good at getting people fired as the right As opposed to Dan rather got fired in part due to ASYMMETRY!!!!!!!

Asymmetry claims work a lot like bias claims, one sees what one looks for, but I think you already know this.

When you’re losing the argument about all you have left is name calling.

And I still think it is a valid question.

Is this 60 minutes dustup more of an intra-tribal dust up and less prone to a culture war escalation, where the Dan Rather episode was an inter-tribal affair and we all know how that went.


If I understand your point correctly, you argue that inter-tribal feuds in the culture wars are indeed symmetrical: the reason for the relatively mild outrage against Lara Logan by anti-neo-cons is that they are reluctant to attack 60 Minutes; if she had made the same errors on FOX News, the attack on her would be as full-throated and partisan as the attack on Dan Rather back in 2004.

Three quick points…

1.Your first example, of the Komen Foundation, contradicts your own argument. The full-throated attack on Komen for dropping Planned Parenthood was indeed intra-tribal: an attack by feminists on a breast cancer charity that they had assumed was dedicated to advancing women’s health. It was not a culture wars dispute across ideological lines; it was internal dispute among women’s health advocates.

2.Your second example, of Don Imus, is beside the point, since there was no culture-wars issue at stake. A broadcaster, from any point on the political spectrum, does not refer to female college basketball players as “nappy-headed whores” with impunity. This was a firing offense plain and simple. There was no constituency in his defense. And anyway, he was fired from MSNBC, a move that under your rubric would have been intra not inter.

3.You do not mention the most prominent example of liberal-progressives engaging in the sort of inter-tribal dispute against a FOX News personality: the boycott campaign against Glenn Beck, which eventually led to Beck’s departure. I stand by my point. There was no symmetry whatsoever between the vitriol directed at Rather and the half-hearted muttering directed at Beck. The upshot of both campaigns may have been the same (both left the airwaves and ended up in online video operations) but the intensity of the two was nowhere close to being symmetrical.

Mr Tyndall
1. If I remember correctly

From a Huffinton Post Politics article 3/20/12:
“Komen has been struggling to repair its reputation since the public backlash over its decision, at the beginning of February, to pull cancer screening grants from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics perform abortions.”

Pro- abortion left against a breast cancer charity taking a perceived pro-choice stance. nothing is more ideological or more culture wars.

2. I might refer you to one Alec Baldwin who has a history of GLBT slurs. Once again he is on tape calling someone a C*ck S*cking F*g. MSNBC seems to have no problem with him, they gave him a show, although I am not sure how it equates to Imus’ remarks in offensiveness.

I would also point out that this was not an example of tribalism per se, but rather an example of how quickly and effectively the left can act when someone raises their ire.
If you want to do the tribal thing I would point out that Baldwin is probably more closely aligned to the tribal culture of NBC/MSNBC/GLBT than Imus. Imus is gone, Baldwin remains. Nor has there been any outcry from the GLBT community.

Finally, to use your formulation: A broadcaster, from any point on the political spectrum, does not do what Dan Rather did with impunity. This was a firing offense plain and simple.

I would argue both Rather’s and Imus’ acts became firing offenses due to a public outcry.

CBC fired Rather due to public pressure from the right as did MSNBC with Imus due to public pressure form the left.

3. Funny you choose to use Beck when the example of Imus is already here.

Dan Rather and Don Imus both stepped in it and gave opponents a specific reason to go after their heads. Their terminations were swift, sure and campaigned for with equal fever on my opinion.

The left simply hated Beck. Any campaign against him would be more comparable to a campaign to remove one of MSNBCs hosts like Maddow. Rather was the face of CBC news he is gong to draw a stronger response.

I would argue Rather and Beck are in no way similar cases, and for the sake of space and time leave it at that.

In general I find the idea that one side, left or right, behaves better in the culture wars indefensible.

You may be right the right is more vindictive in the area of the press, I remain unconvinced. We both see what we look for.

I would direct you to Steve Glauber’ Quote:

“I worked for Jeff as a producer. He is an excellent newsman. He is an excellent executive producer. He has proven to be an excellent head of CBS News.”

Glauber does not need convincing Jeff is a good guy, he already knows it. Jeff may have been stupid but he is not evil.

I am guessing you know Dan Rather, he’s a good guy, maybe a friend. Stupid not evil. definitely not deserving of the treatment he received.

To me, if I falsify something in my job, I get disgrace and ruin too, I never work in my job again, probably go to jail. Say again what happened to Rather that was so bad?

Imus is not a creature of the right, but neither is he a creature of the left. He may not be stupid or evil but there is no down side to attacking him. Alex Baldwin Mr. homophobic slur, no attacks from the left, plenty from the right. TV show on MSNBC

To the right 60 minutes is stupid and evil therefore attack. To the left 60 minutes may be stupid but probably is not evil, and what do they gain by attacking except weaken someone they may see as an ally?

Even if 60 minutes is not playing it is still a player.

way of topic but thanks again. I apologize if I have offended you, it was not my intent.

“2. I might refer you to one Alec Baldwin who has a history of GLBT slurs. Once again he is on tape calling someone a C*ck S*cking F*g. MSNBC seems to have no problem with him…”

MSNBC Suspends Alec Baldwin and His Talk Show


Excellent point.

He is suspended for two whole weeks


Even Andrew Sullivan agrees with me, but you win or whatever.

Dan Rather is gone, Lara Logan sails on and you’re whining about how unfair the left would have been have to to Fox, if something something something. Get a grip.

And to be clear: In 2004 and 2005 I wrote a ton about how outrageous Rather’s performance was and the credibility collapse at CBS News.

To be clear I never accused you of white washing Rather’s performance. I was responding to Andrew Tyndall’s remarks about the rights culture war machine in Rathers’ firing.

In my opinion the left gives as good as it gets in the culture wars I was trying to illustrate with examples. Which now becomes victimology.

Furthermore let me be clear Dan Rather is gone because it was in the right’s best interest to attack him and 60 minutes.

Lara Logan sails on, in my opinion, because there is no benefit to the left, and quite possibly harm, in attacking her and 60 minutes.

Not because the folks on the left are particularly nicer than those on the right.

Why is there no benefit? why do the culture warriors on the left remain seated seem valid questions.

Might you don’t screw over your buddy be an answer? both in the social and political sense. stupid answer? I am sure it is.

To me asking how they would react IF it was Fox news might hold part of the answer?

If that is whining I am truly sorry for any offense I have caused.

“One is the passive voice: “questions arose,” “an incident report surfaced.” This wording allows CBS to erase the role played by other news organizations in forcing it to face the problems with its reporting.” <– Wrong. this is not the passive voice. try again.

Actions without actors might have been better.

Every time I hear the passive apology, my ear goes straight to everyday situations in real life, and how lame-ass it would sound if ordinary people tried it.

“A wife was cheated on,” apologized the husband.

“Jewelry was shoplifted,” confessed the thief.

Another comment sent to me by Steve Glauber, who worked at CBS News for 34 years as a producer and senior producer.

After the Rather-Bush National Guard story fiasco, the president of CBS News fired the executive producer of 60 Minutes II. The penalty, in my personal belief, was overly harsh but the message important— the executive producer bears ultimate responsibility for each story.

After the Logan-Benghazi fiasco, the president of CBS News did not fire the executive producer – did not even slap a finger nail. Why? The executive producer is also the chairman of CBS News. CBS News President David Rhodes president is an employee of the CBS News Chairman/60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager. The scenario reminds one of “Blazing Saddles” where Cleon Little holds a gun to his temple and says he will shoot himself if he makes a wrong move.

I worked for Jeff as a producer. He is an excellent newsman. He is an excellent executive producer. He has proven to be an excellent head of CBS News. But as long as he is executive producer, there is no compelling incentive for him to penalize anyone associated with the disgraced Logan-Benghazi story as that implies he, too, is at fault. Shouldn’t CBS Corp President Les Moonves – presuming he retains his trust in Jeff – give him a choice to remain either as chairman or as executive producer but not both? (My guess is that Fager would stay with 60 – far more fun and far safer.)

It’s good to be King but not always for his subjects or viewers.

A.C. McCloud says:

When will the Times be publishing the FBI 302 forms detailing their conversation with “Mr. Davies”? You know, to PROVE Davies was lying.

He likely was–who knows what’s really going on here– but right now we are left taking the word of the same administration that has been lying to us about Benghazi and the health care law for over a year now. We haven’t even seen a fake document yet.

CBS checked with their own sources in the FBI and got the same information. They did not take the Times word for it.

Richard Aubrey says:

One effect of the liar-Davies/Logan/Fager kerfuffle is that the disconnect between Davies’ two stories serves to discredit and push into the shadows other factors which do need to be investigated.

Graham wants to interview other survivor/participants. Apparently this was going nowhere until CBS stepped in/on it. Using the story to get more oomph in the quest for more interviews is a useful tactic. There’s no reason not to investigate, and you use what you can.

The construction that this is a “Get” is extremely useful. Sixty Minutes merchandises outrage, even if they have to manufacture it. Once in a while they get caught, either by circumstance as in this case, or by an injured party with deep pockets. Been a while, but wasn’t it Sixty Minute blowing up trucks? Without GM’s money to force the issue, it would have remained a “truth”.

I believe it is the Gell-Mann hypo that keeps Sixty Minutes going. Everybody knows enough about something to have known where Sixty was screwing the pooch on one thing or another. But the folks who know better about one thing continue to believe the other stuff.

And if you’re looking for malign influence, there’s Hillary’s presidential option looking over everybody’s shoulder. You can infer various kinds of influence sans evidence. Kind of fun. But you missed the Hillary connection. No evidence there, either, but that doesn’t count in looking for “influence”. Good as some convoluted connection to publishing.

Can’t imagine why Logan would be annoyed with the jihadis. Thing is, if a news exec thinks a reporter is compromised for some reason such as this, he puts somebody else on the story.

For example, I have a late relation who was screwed by the Army over the suicide of a soldier. The Army prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence to try to convict five clearly innocent soldiers in order to placate the NYT editorial board. Knowing this, a savvy editor would not put me on a story trying to blow up beyond reality the so-called epidemic of suicides in the military.

Putting Logan into this situation is a bad idea from the start, even considering her other, more conventional experiences in the area and subject. You don’t need a regional expert to interview some guy about his story.

“Been a while, but wasn’t it Sixty Minute blowing up trucks?”

No, it was not. NBC Dateline.


Richard Aubrey says:

Okay. Thanks. I think it was NBC which got busted editing George Zimmerman tapes to the cops. And I believe the estate of the late Richard Jewell was considerably larger than he could have anticipated; a good portion of it having been recently NBC money. Hard to keep these guys separate. I think NBC–if it was them–could be given part of a pass, as the FBI was publicly going after Jewell at the time.

I am now curious if anybody, news or FBI, apologized. Have to look it up.

Again, thanks for the correction.