Benghazi vs. National Guard: How 60 Minutes Handled Different Bungled Reports

››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

After 60 Minutes ran a flawed report on President Bush's National Guard service in 2004, CBS News and its parent company formed an independent panel to investigate the segment and instituted many of the panel's recommendations, including firing several of the responsible parties. This stands in stark contrast to the aftermath of 60 Minutes' recent flawed report on the Benghazi attacks.

The 2004 National Guard Report

Rather

September 8, 2004: 60 Minutes Use Memos To Report That President Bush Joined the Texas National Guard to Avoid The Vietnam War. On September 8, 2004, 60 Minutes anchor Dan Rather interviewed Texas legislator Ben Barnes who claimed he was asked to help a "newly graduated George W. Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard" to avoid the going to the Vietnam War. The report presented a series of documents known as the Killian memos, named after Lt. Col. Jerry Killian who was Bush's commander during his service in the National Guard. [PBS, 1/10/05]

September 10, 2004: After Memos Were Questioned, CBS Anchor Dan Rather Defended Report. After questions were raised about the authenticity of the memos based on typographical and formatting features, Dan Rather defended the documents, saying they "were and remain authentic":

"Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not, I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill," the CBS anchor said. "My colleagues and I at '60 Minutes' made great efforts to authenticate these documents and to corroborate the story as best we could. . . . I think the public is smart enough to see from whom some of this criticism is coming and draw judgments about what the motivations are." [Washington Post, 9/11/04]

September 15, 2004: CBS Refuted "Decisive Evidence" Showing The Memos To Be False. The Dallas Morning News published an interview with Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, who said that the memos were not real, although the content was accurate. A CBS spokeswoman responded by calling Knox "not a documents expert" and insisting "we believe the documents." [PBS, 1/10/05]

September 20, 2004: CBS Admitted Problems With The Report And Claimed It Was Misled By Source. On September 20, CBS said that they had been "deliberately misled" by their source, former Texas National Guard officer Bill Bukett. On CBS' Evening News, Rather apologized for the report, saying "we made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry." [New York Times¸ 9/20/04]

September 22, 2004: CBS' Parent Company Named Independent Panel To Investigate 60 Minutes Report. CBS parent company Viacom announced former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and retired Associated Press President and CEO Louis Boccardi would form an independent panel to investigate its National Guard story. [CBS News, 1/10/05]

January 5, 2005: Independent Panel Releases Report. On January 5, the panel released findings on the 60 Minutes story:

The Panel believes it happened primarily because of a rush to air that overwhelmed the proper application of the CBS News Standards and the people who are supposed to prevent the problems described in this Report. Those responsible for the Segment believed firmly that it was true (and some still do). In particular, the producer, Mary Mapes, had fervent faith in what she was reporting and the correspondent, Dan Rather, had great confidence in Mapes' work. Everyone involved wanted the Segment to be right. But in journalism, no less than in other fields, wanting is not enough. [CBS News, 1/5/05]

January 10, 2005: CBS Fires Several Employees Following Panel Report. After the panel's findings were released, CBS fired several of the employees responsible for the segment, including the report's producer and executive producer, and Senior Vice President Betsy West:

CBS issued a damning independent review Monday of mistakes related to last fall's "60 Minutes Wednesday" report on President Bush's National Guard service and fired three news executives and a producer for their "myopic zeal" in rushing it on the air.

[...]

Fired were Mary Mapes, the story's producer; Josh Howard, executive producer of "60 Minutes Wednesday"; Howard's top deputy, Mary Murphy; and CBS News Senior Vice President Betsy West. [NBC, 1/10/05]

May 18, 2005: CBS Announced It Was Canceling The Wednesday Edition Of 60 Minutes. May 18, 2005 the New York Times reported that CBS canceled the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes amid scandal over after independent investigation on President Bush's National Guard service led to the resignation of several journalists. [New York Times, 5/18/05]

The 2013 Benghazi Report

Logan

October 27, 2013: 60 Minutes' Aired Special On Benghazi Featuring Security Contractor As Key Eyewitness. In an October 27 report,  CBS's Lara Logan interviewed a British security manager under the pseudonym "Morgan Jones" of Blue Mountain Security, who claimed to have witnessed the on the American consulate on September 12, 2013. Right-wing media outlets praised CBS for the segment. [CBS News, 60 Minutes10/27/13, via Media Matters]

October 31, 2013: The Washington Post Reported Inconsistencies With 60 Minutes' Source. On October 31, The Washington Post revealed inconsistencies in "Morgan Jones'" story after he was revealed to be a contractor named Dylan Davies:

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.

In Davies's 21 / 2-page incident report to Blue Mountain, the Britain-based contractor hired by the State Department to handle perimeter security at the compound, he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, "we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up. [The Washington Post10/31/13]

November 2, 2013: Davies Denied Writing Incident Report That Contradicted His Story. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Davies claimed he had not written the incident report that contradicted his story on 60 Minutes and insisted that he was the victim of "mud slinging." [Daily Beast, 11/2/13]

November 5, 2013: CBS Defended Report, Citing "Political Warfare" As Cause Of Criticism. In comments to the New York Times, CBS reporter Lara Logan "attributed the critical response to the report to the intense political warfare that has surrounded the episode. "We worked on this for a year. We killed ourselves not to allow politics into this report," she said. [New York Times, 11/5/13]

November 7, 2013: New York Times Reports That Davies' FBI Interview Further Undermined His 60 Minutes Claims. The Times reported that Davies had given the FBI "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." [New York Times11/7/13]

November 7, 2013: CBS News Announces That It Is Reviewing The 60 Minutes Report. In a November 7 statement, CBS News announced that it was reviewing the 60 Minutes segment:

60 Minutes has learned of new information that undercuts the account told to us by Morgan Jones of his actions on the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound.

We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction. [CBSNews.com, 11/7/13]

November 7, 2013: CBS Pulls 60 Minutes Report. On November 7, the report was pulled from CBS' website and YouTube channel. [Media Matters11/7/13, via Media Matters]

November 8, 2013: Logan Apologizes For Benghazi Report. On November 8, 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan apologized for the Benghazi story explaining to CBS This Morning host Nora O'Donnell "we were wrong. We made a mistake":

NORAH O'DONNELL: 60 Minutes has learned of new information that undercuts its Oct. 27 account of an ex-security officer who called himself Morgan Jones. His real name is Dylan Davies, and he recounted to Lara Logan, in great detail, what he claimed were his actions on the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound. Lara joins us this morning. Lara, good morning. What can you tell us?

LARA LOGAN: The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth, and today the truth is that we made a mistake. That's very disappointing for any journalist. It's very disappointing for me. Nobody likes to admit that they made a mistake, but if you do, you have to stand up and take responsibility and you have to say that you were wrong. And in this case, we were wrong. We made a mistake. [CBS News, 11/8/13

November 8, 2013: Simon & Schuster Pulls Discredited Benghazi Book. On November 8, publisher Simon & Schuster pulled The Embassy House, Morgan's book about his experiences in Benghazi. [MediaMatters.org, 11/8/13]

November 10, 2013: Media Matters' David Brock Calls For Independent Investigation. On the November edition of MSNBC's Disrupt, Media Matters chairman David Brock called for an independent investigation into the 60 Minutes story. [MSNBC, Disrupt11/10/13, via Media Matters]

November 10, 2013: 60 Minutes Issues On-Air Apology. On the November 10 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Logan apologized for the report, saying "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":

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. [CBS, 60 Minutes11/10/13, via Media Matters]

Posted In
Media Structures & Regulations, National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Dan Rather, Lara Logan
Show/Publication
60 Minutes
Stories/Interests
Benghazi
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