Former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes, who was fired for her role in a controversial 2004 story about President Bush's service in the Air National Guard, accused CBS News of pandering to a right-wing audience with her former program's recent Benghazi report, for which the network has been criticized and forced to retract.
"My concern is that the story was done very pointedly to appeal to a more conservative audience's beliefs about what happened at Benghazi," Mapes said by telephone from her Texas home. "They appear to have done that story to appeal specifically to a politically conservative audience that is obsessed with Benghazi and believes that Benghazi was much more than a tragedy."
At issue is the report from correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan, which spotlighted former defense contract worker Dylan Davies. In the report, and Davies' new book, he claims he witnessed the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility. The 60 Minutes report was championed by Republican politicians and the right-wing media.
But since the story aired, other media outlets have revealed that Davies had told his employer and the FBI that he never made it to the compound on the night of the assault that killed four Americans.
Given that new information, CBS has launched an investigation into the story, while Logan appeared on CBS This Morning today and admitted the reporting was wrong and a mistake. She said 60 Minutes would be correcting the record on Sunday's broadcast.
Mapes was among several staffers, including former anchorman Dan Rather, who lost their jobs when documents used in the 2004 story could not be authenticated. Rather could not be reached for comment.
Mapes chronicled her story in the 2005 book, Truth and Duty: The Press, The President and the Privilege of Power (St. Martin's Press).
"On a human level, I feel really badly for the people who worked on that report. I have walked the halls when something like this happens," Mapes recalled in her interview with Media Matters. "Part of being human is making mistakes and being forgiven for it."
Still, Mapes stressed that "what is concerning to me is the reason they went after that story in the first place. ... It so concerns me that it appears that story was done to appeal to a conservative element in the audience; that's not the way you should choose your stories."
"Occasions like this can be incredibly instructive," Mapes concludes, but "it is important to be careful about what lessons you draw."