CBS News is under mounting pressure to launch an independent investigation into how 60 Minutes came to mislead its audience in an October 27th report that relied almost exclusively on a source they knew was an admitted liar.
CBS came under similar scrutiny in September 2004, when questions arose about the authenticity of documents 60 Minutes II used in a report challenging then President Bush's service in the National Guard.
On September 22, 2004, after CBS decided to appoint an independent investigation, a New York Times editorial said it was the right thing to do:
After an uncomfortably long wait, CBS has rightly gone public with its own doubts about the validity of the documents and commissioned an independent investigation.
On November 10, 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan issued an inadequate apology that has been dismissed by a broad range of media observers. The statement came after nearly two weeks of stonewalling amid evidence that CBS' key eyewitness, a British security contractor named Dylan Davies, had told conflicting stories about his whereabouts during the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Media Matters founder David Brock called Logan's November 10 apology "wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving," and reiterated his call for CBS to appoint an independent commission to investigate the since-retracted report.
60 Minutes aired an inadequate apology that not only failed to address fundamental questions about the CBS news magazine's vetting of an admitted liar who served as a key eyewitness in a story that the network has since retracted, but actually conflicts with CBS' prior explanation of that error.
During the November 10 edition of 60 Minutes, correspondent Lara Logan apologized to the audience and issued what she called a correction over an October 27 report on the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
LOGAN: We end our broadcast tonight with a correction on a story we reported October 27 about the attack on the American special mission compound in Benghazi, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. In the story, a security officer working for the State Department, Dylan Davies, told us he went to the compound during the attack and detailed his role that night.
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. Davies denied having anything to do with that incident report and insisted the story he told us was not only accurate, it was the same story told the FBI when they interviewed him.
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.
Logan's claim that it was only after the 60 Minutes report aired that questions arose about the truth of security contractor Dylan Davies' account is undermined by what she said during an apology she issued over the same segment just two days earlier.
During a November 8 appearance on CBS' This Morning, Logan discussed the fiasco surrounding 60 Minutes with anchor Norah O'Donnell. During her apology, Logan made clear that the fact that Davies had previously told a different account of the events of that night was known inside 60 Minutes before they aired the version that lined up with what he wrote in his book:
O'DONNELL: But why would you stand by this report after Dylan Davies admitted lying to his own employer?
LOGAN: Because he was very upfront about that from the beginning, that was always part of his story. The context of it, when he tells his story, is that his boss is someone he cared about enormously. He cared about his American counterparts in the mission that night, and when his boss told him not to go, he couldn't stay back. So, that was always part of the record for us. And, that part didn't come as any surprise.
Media Matters founder David Brock called Logan's apology "wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving":
This evening's 60 Minutes response was wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving. The network must come clean by appointing an independent commission to determine exactly how and why it fell prey so easily to an obvious hoax.
Logan's slippery apology glosses over a key question that remains unanswered: why did 60 Minutes fail to inform its audience during the initial segment that its key eyewitness had told two contradictory accounts of what he did the night of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks?
Davies told both his employer and the FBI that he had not made it to the diplomatic facility until the morning after the attack. 60 Minutes aired a version that had Davies scaling a wall during the terrorist attack and striking an assailant with the butt of his gun. The version that 60 Minutes chose to air matched what Davies wrote in a book that was published by Simon & Schuster, a CBS subsidiary. Simon & Schuster has since pulled the book amid the controversy over the author's honesty.
How CBS News came to the decision to believe his current story is critical since a CBS subsidiary had a clear financial interest in the version of events 60 Minutes aired.
After a year of meticulously chronicling the right-wing lies behind the politicization of the American tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, Media Matters for America unveiled the definitive takedown of the Benghazi hoax.
An excerpt of The Benghazi Hoax, an e-book authored by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt explaining how the right-wing media turned a night of terror -- but also of valor -- into a phony scandal geared at damaging the Obama administration appeared Monday on Huffington Post:
No one could have imagined how quickly the murder of Stevens and three other Americans would become politicized by a hungry right-wing leviathan of savage punditry and pseudo-journalism. Nor could anyone fathom how the most basic facts would get twisted, contorted, and even invented out of thin air to create bogus narratives -- first to suggest that a U.S. president seeking re-election was incompetent, feckless, or sympathetic to terror, and then, when that faltered, to tarnish the reputation of his secretary of state as the public speculated she might run for president in 2016.
Had the Benghazi attack not occurred at this unique moment -- on a day when the Republican candidate for the presidency and his promoters in the conservative media were desperate for a new storyline, especially one that would undercut the popular effect of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden the year before -- this tragedy might not have been converted into a political scandal.
The Benghazi Hoax exposes Mitt Romney's bungled and shocking campaign to use Benghazi in his failed race against President Obama as the attack was still ongoing. The book details 15 Benghazi myths that right-wing media and Republicans in Congress have used in a reprehensible effort to damage the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- a campaign that continues to this day.
The New York Times reported that Fox News did not respond when asked to comment on Media Matters' plans to advertise the book on Fox's airwaves:
"We all agree that politicizing a terrorist attack crosses a line, but that's what Fox has done since tragedy struck in Benghazi," [Brock] says in the ad. "You, the Fox viewer, lose out when you don't get the facts, so we wrote a book about the Benghazi hoax. Get the facts for yourself."
A spokeswoman for Fox News did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rather than seeking to learn what went wrong with Benghazi's security in order to improve the security at other U.S. diplomatic facilities, Republicans in Congress, enabled every step of the way by the right-wing noise machine, have turned this American tragedy into a political football. But The Benghazi Hoax shows how, after 18 congressional hearings, more than 100 interviews, and the production of 25,000 administration documents, Republicans failed to find any wrongdoing by President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or any of their other targets.
From false claims about the "stand down" order that conservatives say was given to U.S. military forces during the attack, to conspiracies about Clinton faking a concussion to avoid testifying before Congress, the e-book gives readers the facts behind the right-wing lies.
In an interview with Politico, Brock explained what makes Benghazi different from other phony scandals that conservatives have tried to generate in the past. "Politicians of both parties can be expected to be dragged through the mud, but I think there's an element of the story that's important, which was there was a dishonoring of men and women who try to keep us safe, for partisan political gain," he said. "And I think there should be general agreement that politicizing a tragedy that results in American deaths crosses a line."
Retired General Wesley K. Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, praised the e-book, saying "David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt peel back layer after layer of partisan deceit to reveal the truth about Republican motives and methods in the aftermath of Benghazi - and in so doing offer a strong warning to America and our media to focus on the facts - not partisan rhetoric." John Podesta, Chairman at the Center for American Progress, describes the book as "riveting" and "thought-provoking." Podesta concludes, "David Brock provides a definitive factual account of the Benghazi attack, as well as an in-depth analysis of the right-wing campaign to misrepresent the tragedy for political gain. Readers who are frustrated by the rampant dishonesty in our political system will find, in The Benghazi Hoax, a rallying call for both political change and informed journalism."
Brock and Rabin-Havt's work builds on hundreds of pieces rebutting conservative media lies, smears, and conspiracies about Benghazi that Media Matters has produced over the past thirteen months.
The Benghazi Hoax is available via Amazon for $0.99.
The front page of The New York Times created a false choice between being patriotic and voicing skepticism of military force, pairing reports that residents of a town in Pennsylvania are opposed to military action in Syria with the headline "Proudly Patriotic But Skeptical On Syria Attack."
There is no inherent tension between skepticism of military action and patriotism. Any perception that questioning the use of military force raises questions about a skeptic's patriotism only exists because outlets like The New York Times create it.
The report itself details myriad reasons that residents in a southwestern Pennsylvanian town remain skeptical of the wisdom of intervention in Syria, contrasting that with overwhelming support among residents for military action in Iraq 11 years ago:
As President Obama tries to rally domestic support for military action against Syria, the skepticism in Waynesburg only underscores the political hurdles he faces. This bucolic, if fading, corner of southwest Pennsylvania wears its patriotism on its sleeve, shirttail and pockets. At the time of Mr. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, a Quinnipiac University poll in Pennsylvania found that 86 percent of the voters in and around Waynesburg were solidly behind him.
But in myriad ways, the calculus has changed. Some say they now believe that domestic needs neglected during a decade of war override foreign imperatives. Some, reviewing years of pitched struggle in Afghanistan and Iraq, see the Middle East as quicksand that must be avoided at all costs. Some say that Syria's civil war is Syria's problem, and that the United States is not the Mr. Fix-it for all of the world's crises.
And here, at least, more than a few see military action against Syria as unacceptable simply because it is Mr. Obama's idea.
Regardless of whether the answers to any of these questions lead to a decision to support military action or to oppose it, asking them says nothing about patriotism. And The New York Times, of all places, should know that.
More than a decade ago, skeptics were silenced during the run-up to the Iraq War. That example has led voices including that of Colin Powell to say that skepticism is necessary when considering the merits of military action. A lack of skepticism was central to The New York Times' own much discussed failures during the march to war in 2002-2003. In a 2011 column, Bill Keller, the editor of the Times during the Iraq War debate, wrote:
I remember a mounting protective instinct, heightened by the birth of my second daughter almost exactly nine months after the attacks. Something dreadful was loose in the world, and the urge to stop it, to do something -- to prove something -- was overriding a career-long schooling in the virtues of caution and skepticism.
As Americans again debate the wisdom of using military force to intervene in a foreign country, there is little value in creating a false choice between patriotism and skepticism.
CNN is using 21-year-old footage of Newt Gingrich attacking Hillary Clinton to promote the return of Crossfire, which Gingrich will co-host, and promising that the show will fixate on Clinton for the next several years.
CNN plans to relaunch the franchise in September and is running promotions for the show leading up to its September 16 premiere. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Gingrich will be "the marquee attraction" on the show.
And if a promo running at CNN.com is any indication, Gingrich will use his perch to renew his decades-long campaign demonizing Hillary Clinton. The promo, billed as a return to "Classic Crossfire," opens with the former Speaker of the House claiming: "The new Crossfire is going to bring a lot of new things to television, but it's also going to bring some that have been on a long time."
Former New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Marshall chastised Rush Limbaugh for "irresponsible" rhetoric and downplaying efforts to reduce concussions in football. Marshall's comments came on SiriusXM's The Agenda, hosted by Media Matters senior fellow Ari Rabin-Havt.
Limbaugh recently complained about the use of sensors in NFL helmets to monitor head injuries, saying it was evidence of "politics that has permeated football," and concluding:
LIMBAUGH: But I'm telling you it's being chickified. The whole thing, everything in our culture is being chickified. And some things fine, but not everything.
On Wednesday, Rabin-Havt asked Marshall, a two-time Super Bowl champion and 12-year NFL veteran, to respond. Marshall said Limbaugh's comments were "irresponsible" and cited several instances of teenagers being severely injured while playing football:
MARSHALL: It's very irresponsible. How about you become the father of a 17-year-old boy who plays in a football game on a Friday night, and is in need of medical attention. It takes 15 minutes for the medics to get there to attend to this kid who gets injured, and your kid dies on the football field. How about being that parent?
CNN reported on August 18 that a high school football player in suburban Atlanta died after suffering an on-field injury after coaches tried to revive him on the field while awaiting an ambulance Friday night.
Marshall also cited the example of Josh Haddock, a former high-school football star in Georgia who in 2010 suffered an injury during practice that required brain surgery. Haddock reportedly is helping to develop a helmet that could alert people to head injuries.
Marshall challenged Limbaugh to become part of the solution:
MARSHALL: Watch and hope that there is change coming down the pike. Be part of that change. Be part of trying to empower young people with knowledge and information about the risk associated with playing tackle football.
The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus will appear at an August 21 Tea Party meeting to whip up fears that comprehensive immigration reform "would change America irrevocably, and for the worse."
The Hancock Park Patriots, a Tea Party group based in Los Angeles, announced Kaus' participation in the event, promising that he would answer the questions "Can they be stopped?" and "What's the alternative?"
Kaus self-identifies as "neoliberal" and "common sense Democrat" but espouses a far-right ideology, including a fixation on union-busting, and his participation in the Hancock Park Patriots meeting makes clear that Kaus is anti-immigrant. The former Slate blogger has become obsessed with the issue, dedicating all but one of his posts in July on his Daily Caller blog to the subject.
Fox News dishonestly accused White House spokesman Jay Carney of calling the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, a "phony attack" -- a complete fabrication that in no way reflects the comments Carney actually made.
During the July 31 White House press briefing, Carney responded to a question challenging President Obama's criticism that Congressional Republicans have been fixated on "phony scandals." Carney said:
I think we all remember a few weeks ago when Washington was consumed with a variety of issues that, while in some cases significant, there was an effort underway to turn them into partisan scandals. I don't think anybody here would doubt that. And what we've seen as time has passed and more facts have become known -- whether it's about the attacks in Benghazi and the talking points, or revelations about conduct at the IRS -- that attempts to turn this into a scandal have failed.
While the hosts of The Five discussed the press briefing, Fox aired on-screen text that directly quoted Carney calling Benghazi a "phony attack."
Carney had identified as "phony" the fabricated controversy over talking points related to the Benghazi attack. At no point during the press briefing did Carney say that Benghazi itself was a "phony attack."
Fox News is misrepresenting President Obama's position on surveillance and the threat of international terrorism to falsely accuse him of hypocrisy and fecklessness.
According to reports, the National Security Administration continues to collect metadata, including phone numbers and the duration of phone calls, from telephone providers, and works with Internet companies to mine data on user activity. The continuation of these programs, which were in place before President Obama took office, raises significant questions about the scope of surveillance powers established under the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
But rather than focus on legitimate questions, Fox's guests are misstating Obama's past positions in order to accuse him both of hypocrisy and of downplaying the continued threat of international terrorism. During an appearance on the June 7 edition of America's Newsroom, Rudy Giuliani offered this take:
The other problem you have here, Bill, this is, Obama is -- this is totally hypocritical for Obama. If Bush was doing this, if Mitt Romney following George Bush was doing this, it would be one thing.
Obama ran against all of this. He also ended war on terror couple weeks ago last time I checked. War on terror is over. So the war on terror is over. Right? If we don't have much of a threat anymore and we are going to up our surveillance of American citizens the incompetence of this administration is really impossible to catalog and describe.
Jamie Weinstein of the Daily Caller echoed Giuliani on Fox later that day, saying that the existence of surveillance programs "contradicts what [Obama] said on the campaign trail," adding, "and recently he said Al Qaeda is receding."
The reality is that Obama's position on surveillance is in line with the position he took during the 2008 general election. At the time, Obama cast a controversial vote in favor of a bill expanding the 1978 FISA law. Then-Sen. Obama explained his decision to do so by explicitly citing the need to continue surveillance programs:
In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that authority cannot be unlimited. As I've said many times, an independent monitor must watch the watchers to prevent abuses and to protect the civil liberties of the American people. This compromise law assures that the FISA court has that responsibility.
The ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counter-terrorism tool, and I'm persuaded that it is necessary to keep the American people safe -- particularly since certain electronic surveillance orders will begin to expire later this summer. Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise.
Obama faced criticism from civil liberties groups and progressive organizations for backing the bill, which The New York Times reported was "a major expansion of the government's surveillance powers." That vote was a shift from the position he took during the primary that year, as Obama had said he opposed controversial policies that the bill enshrined into law. In 2012, when Congress reauthorized the FISA Amendments, Obama announced that he "strongly supports" the bill that reauthorized the government's surveillance powers, which at the time were expiring. Obama also signed a 2011 extension of the Patriot Act, calling the law "an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat."
Republicans leaders are reportedly concerned that the scandal machine that has been kicked into high gear in recent days will lead to similar backlash the party faced over its endless and costly investigations into President Clinton in the 1990s:
To veteran lawmakers, the sudden proliferation of investigations cannot help but raise the ghost of 1998. After seizing control of Congress in 1995, Republicans opened investigations into the White House Travel Office, allegations of malfeasance around the Whitewater Development Corporation, and claims of campaign finance improprieties in the 1996 presidential campaign. Representative Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana, famously shot a melon in trying to prove that the White House lawyer Vincent W. Foster Jr. did not commit suicide.
But it was the impeachment of Mr. Clinton that cost Republicans seats in the House, cost Newt Gingrich his job as House speaker, and ultimately lifted a moribund Democratic president from the political depths.
Right-wing media have been quick to invoke Whitewater, the real estate scandal that developed during Clinton's first term, as part of their endless quest to scandalize the Obama administration over the tragedy in Benghazi.
And reliance on shady Whitewater tactics - which involved leaking selectively edited transcripts to the media to push forth the scandal -- was on full display this past week, leading to a critical question: how will the media respond to the campaign of press manipulation?
CBS News reported on May 16 that Republican staffers have been selectively and deceptively leaking information to reporters in order to keep the Benghazi "scandal" alive. As Kevin Drum of Mother Jones explained:
So here's what happened. Republicans in Congress saw copies of these emails two months ago and did nothing with them. It was obvious that they showed little more than routine interagency haggling. Then, riding high after last week's Benghazi hearings, someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad. Apparently they figured it was a twofer: they could stick a shiv into the belly of the White House and they could then badger them to release the entire email chain, knowing they never would.
ABC News, which initially reported that it had "obtained" the actual emails showing greater White House involvement editing the talking points than administration officials had acknowledged, was forced into a slippery acknowledgement that its "exclusive" report was based only on summaries of emails, a method of reporting that journalism experts called "highly problematic ethically" and "sloppy."
ABC's flawed reporting on the emails, based on selective leaks, has led to questions about reporter Jonathan Karl's future, vividly demonstrating the consequences of this type of press manipulation. But whether fellow journalists - and viewers - will demand accountability from Karl remains to be seen.
It's the Whitewater experience, which GOP leaders are reportedly skittish of repeating, that provides a blueprint for accountability over this type of press manipulation.
In the 1990s it was David Bossie, at the time an investigator for the House Government Reform and Oversight, who leaked selectively edited transcripts to the press in order to advance the scandal mongering of President Clinton. Bossie was reportedly fired for his role manipulating the press.
Will the media, which once again saw one of their own get burned by relying on selective leaks in furtherance of a hunting of a president, demand accountability this time?