Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY
Things continue to get worse for 60 Minutes' already retracted Benghazi report and its discredited "eyewitness" Dylan Davies. Gawker's J.K. Trotter reports that CBS News and Simon & Shuster may have failed to properly vet significant "discrepancies" in Davies' accounts of his military background.
60 Minutes' October 27, 2013, segment about the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, collapsed after it was revealed that Davies had given conflicting accounts of his actions that night. CBS News eventually pulled the segment and released a "journalistic review" finding that the report was "deficient in several respects" and "did not sufficiently vet Davies' account of his own actions and whereabouts that night." Correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan were put on a leave of absence.
Two days after the 60 Minutes report aired, Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions -- which is owned by CBS Corporation, a blatant conflict of interest -- released The Embassy House under the Davies pseudonym Morgan Jones. The book was pulled from shelves shortly after CBS retracted its segment, but a number of inconsistencies in the book have raised questions about whether Davies' publishers and CBS News adequately vetted Davies before promoting his dubious story.
Gawker's J.K. Trotter has uncovered further discrepancies in Davies' account, this time related to claims about his military service. Trotter notes that while Simon & Schuster highlight the rank of "Sergeant Morgan Jones," "there is zero evidence Davies obtained the rank of sergeant in the British Army." Furthermore, "Davies and his editors seem to disagree about the length of his military service." During the book Davies claims to have served for fourteen years, but the book's jacket and website both say he served for only twelve -- "So either Davies is lying about his enlistment date, or Threshold Editions is lying about their own author."
Trotter also revealed that no one at Threshold Editions or 60 Minutes appears to have verified Davies' claim that he worked on the security detail of U.S. Major General James T. Conway. According to Conway, no one at either organization contacted him to verify Davies' account, despite Conway's importance to Davies' personal narrative:
At several points in the book, Davies recounts leading a security detail as a private contractor in Afghanistan for the (now retired) commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Major General James T. Conway.
But when contacted by Gawker, Conway couldn't verify Davies' story. "[His] name is vaguely familiar but [I] cannot put a face with it," he wrote in an email. "That is not to say his claim is not true."
Nobody at Threshold Editions--or 60 Minutes--contacted Conway to determine whether Davies' claims checked out.
"You are the first person to contact me about any of this," Conway told Gawker.
This is doubly notable because his book's marketing apparatus--including, most of all, 60 Minutes--depended on Davies' image as a dedicated, experienced, well-regarded security professional. "He's been helping to keep U.S. diplomats and military leaders safe for the last decade," is how Logan introduced him. His proximity to Conway earned a special mention in Davies' jacket biography.
Fact-checking is essentially non-existent in the book publishing world, meaning there are few safe guards in place to prevent such failure. Threshold Editions did not respond to Media Matters' previous requests for comment regarding an explanation of its procedures. Threshold representatives declined to comment to Gawker.
But 60 Minutes should have vetted Davies more thoroughly before featuring him in their segment, and their flagrant disregard for basic journalistic standards and ethics helped earned CBS News the distinction as Media Matters' 2013 Misinformer of the Year.
Gawker and Trotter, on the other hand, seem to be doing the investigative research into Davies' background that CBS News should have done before ever putting him on air.