After CBS retracted its flawed 60 Minutes report on Benghazi featuring discredited "eyewitness" Dylan Davies, Media Matters founder and chairman David Brock wrote to CBS and its affiliated publisher which published Davies' book, calling on them to investigate the vetting of Davies' story, halt production of his book, and reprint it as a work of fiction. Davies' book The Embassy House featured the same discredited story that caused CBS to retract its report.
CBS retracted its story Friday morning after The New York Times reported that the story Davies told 60 Minutes in its October 27 broadcast conflicted with the account he gave the FBI -- namely, his claim that he went to the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi while it was under attack, scaled a wall, and dispatched a terrorist with his rifle butt.
According to the Times, Davies told the FBI he didn't go to the diplomatic facility until the day after the attack. On November 8, 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager told The Daily Beast that "CBS news confirmed with our own sources at the FBI that the story he told the FBI was not in agreement with what we were told."
TPM published the letter from Brock, which is posted below:
Mr. Les Moonves
President and CEO, CBS Corporation
Ms. Carolyn Reidy
President and Chief Executive Officer, Simon and Schuster
Ms. Louise Burke
Executive Vice President and Publisher, Threshold
I am writing to express my concern about the veracity of The Embassy House, a purported non-fiction first-hand account of the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi released by Threshold Editions and authored by Dylan Davies, writing under the pseudonym Sgt. Morgan Jones, and Damien Lewis.
On 60 Minutes, Davies told CBS correspondent Lara Logan he had "scaled the twelve-foot high wall of the compound that was still overrun with al Qaeda fighters" on the night of the attack, struck one of those terrorists in the face with his rifle butt, and went to the Benghazi hospital where he saw Ambassador Chris Stevens' body. Following revelations by The Washington Post that Davies had previously said he was nowhere near the diplomatic compound the night of the attack, I called on CBS to retract its story and for an independent committee to probe all aspects of how the story was reported.
On November 7, 60 Minutes released a statement that they had "learned of new information that undercuts" Davies' account of his actions on the night of the attacks. Given this new information, serious questions must also be raised about Davies' book, The Embassy House, recently released by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is a part of CBS Corporation, which owns 60 Minutes -- a fact not disclosed in the 60 Minutes story.
Your spokesperson, Jennifer Robinson, told The New York Times that in light of revelations that the F.B.I. report is not consistent with the story that Davies wrote, Threshold "will review the book and take appropriate action with regard to its publication status."
Given that Logan has indicated that 60 Minutes will "correct the record on our broadcast on Sunday night," I believe that appropriate action from Threshold would include:
- Conducting a thorough investigation into how Davies' story was vetted and by whom
- Halting publication of the book immediately
- Reprinting the book indicating that it is a work of fiction
In my most recent book, The Benghazi Hoax, I chronicled how the media has repeatedly bungled the facts about Benghazi attacks turning a night of terror into a phony scandal. The 60 Minutes report raised serious ethical questions for CBS. Likewise, publication of The Embassy House as non-fiction also raises serious red flags.
I hope you take this opportunity to reassure readers of your standards and accountability.
Chairman, Media Matters for America
UPDATE: Jennifer Robinson, spokesperson for Threshold Editions, wrote in an email to Media Matters:
In light of information that has been brought to our attention since the initial publication of THE EMBASSY HOUSE, we have withdrawn from publication and sale all formats of this book, and are recommending that booksellers do the same. We also are notifying accounts that they may return the book to us.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.