60 Minutes Benghazi Report Takes A Huge Credibility Hit

60 minutesThe Benghazi “witness” featured in a CBS 60 Minutes report that galvanized new discussion of the administration's response to the attack previously said he never got near the diplomatic compound on the night of the attack, according to a report from The Washington Post.

The revelation comes just days after Fox News reported that they had previously been using the same man as a source, but broke contact after he asked the network for money. Two days after the CBS report aired, Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon and Schuster that “specializes in conservative non-fiction,” published the supposed witness' book, The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account of the Libyan Embassy Siege by the Soldier Who Was There. According to the Post, the book “largely comports with the 60 Minutes account.”

Together, these details paint a damning picture of the credibility of the supposed eyewitness -- and that of the CBS report which promoted his story.

During the October 27 report, which was based on a year-long investigation by correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McCellan, Logan described the man, identified as “Morgan Jones, a pseuodonym he's using for his own safety,” as “a security officer who witnessed the attack.” She explained that during the attack, “Jones scaled the twelve-foot high wall of the compound that was still overrun with al Qaeda fighters”; during an interview, he told her he had personally struck one of those terrorists in the face with his rifle butt. After the attack, “Jones” claimed in the report that he went to the Benghazi hospital and saw Ambassador Chris Stevens' body.

“Jones” also told CBS' audience that he had been worried about the compound coming under attack, and that Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, who died in the assault, had shared similar concerns with him.

But according to the Post, “Jones,” whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies, revealed none of those details in the incident report to his security contractor employer that he wrote following the attack. Instead, he wrote that he never got near the compound that night and learned of Stevens' death from a colleague. From the Post:

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.”

He learned of Stevens's death, Davies wrote, when a Libyan colleague who had been at the hospital came to the villa to show him a cellphone picture of the ambassador's blackened corpse. Davies wrote that he visited the still-smoking compound the next day to view and photograph the destruction.

The Post reports that Davies' co-author told them that he was unaware of the incident report “but suggested that Davies might have dissembled in it because his superiors, whom he contacted by telephone once he was informed that the attack was underway, told him to stay away from the compound.” A CBS spokesman told the paper, “We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday.”

The 60 Minutes report, which also attempted to revive the long-answered “lingering question” about why no U.S. military forces from outside Libya came to the aid of Americans in the compound, was widely praised by conservative media and received 47 minutes of coverage on Fox News the day after it aired. In response to the CBS segment, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he would block the confirmations of all administration nominees until Benghazi witnesses testify to Congress. 

UPDATE: The New York Times reported that two FBI officials it spoke with corroborated the version of events described in the Blue Mountain incident report, further undercutting 60 Minutes' claim that their source has been consistent and truthful about his experiences on the night of the Benghazi attacks. CBS News has signaled that a correction could be forthcoming if it determines Davies misled the network.

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.