CBS News correspondent Lara Logan confessed that the network “erred” by failing to disclose the financial connection it shared with the subject of a widely criticized 60 Minutes report on the 2012 Benghazi attacks. But the network's admission of an ethics violation did not extend further, and Logan issued a general defense of the report's accuracy without addressing the persisting questions that surround the report's source's conflicting accounts of the night of the attacks.
On November 5, The New York Times reported that Logan and CBS News were standing by the network's Benghazi reporting, despite a stark admission by Logan that the network made a “mistake” in its failure to disclose that a subsidiary of CBS was publishing a book written by the report's source, Dylan Davies. Jeffrey Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, added that he regretted keeping the connection under wraps. From the Times:
CBS News, under fire from critics who dispute details in a “60 Minutes” report on the Benghazi attacks last year that was broadcast on Oct. 27, aggressively defended the report's accuracy on Tuesday and the account of its main interview subject.
At the same time, the correspondent on the report, Lara Logan, said the broadcast erred by failing to acknowledge that a book written by the interview subject was being published by a subsidiary of CBS.
CBS said that Jeffrey Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” said on Tuesday that he regretted not making the connection between Mr. Davies and CBS public.
Ms. Logan said, “Honestly, it never factored into the story. It was a mistake; we should have done it, precisely because there's nothing to hide. It was an oversight.”
The controversy stems from the October 27 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, in which Davies, who used the alias Morgan Jones, claimed to be an “eyewitness” of the September 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. He claimed that during the attack he entered the compound, confronted an attacker, and later went to a Benghazi hospital where he claimed to have seen Ambassador Chris Stevens' body -- a story that, according to The Washington Post, did not match the account in an incident report he gave in which he said he “could not get anywhere near” the compound the night of the attack.
After the revelations from the Post, Media Matters chairman David Brock called on CBS to retract its report. Many veteran journalists and media ethicists criticized 60 Minutes' reporting. Facts also emerged about the connection between CBS and Davies' repeated attempts to “profit off his brush with disaster,” according to Foreign Policy magazine:
Jones has other ways of cashing in as well. This week, his book titled The Embassy House was published 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. His book is also going to make it on the silver screen. In October, Thunder Road acquired The Embassy House for a feature on the Benghazi attack produced by Basil Iwanyk and executive produced by Taylor Sheridan.
Despite admitting error in failing to inform viewers on the financial conflict, CBS still “aggressively defended the report's accuracy,” including Davies' account of the attacks, according to the Times. What's more, Logan, who interviewed Davies for 60 Minutes, blamed “intense political warfare” for the criticism of her report and claimed that, despite the fact that he admitted he lied in at least one of his accounts of the attacks, Davies “never had two stories. He only had one story.” Logan failed to specifically address any of the problems with the report.
On Twitter, Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone called CBS out for its omissions. Calderone characterized CBS' defense of its reporting by saying 60 Minutes “defends Benghazi report without actually answering key questions about its source,” and pointed out that “Logan won't explain whether she knew her Benghazi witness gave significantly different account year before her story” even while she “attributes criticism to 'intense political warfare' rather than CBS witness telling two different accounts.”
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.