It's clear that CBS correspondent Lara Logan truly admires Dylan Davies, the British security contractor with a starring eyewitness role in the 60 Minutes report that has galvanized new attention on the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Asked in a CBSNews.com Q&A about why Davies (identified by CBS with the pseudonym “Morgan Jones”) had decided to speak with the network, Logan said he “is tortured by guilt that he was not able to save his friends in the U.S. Compound, that he wasn't able to save Sean Smith's life or Amb. Stevens' life.”
“That may sound ridiculous to people who couldn't think of anything more insane than rushing towards a burning building that is overrun with al Qaeda terrorists,” Logan continued, “but Morgan Jones is the kind of man who would do that and who did do that. And when he failed the first time, he went back again.”
There's just one problem. The story Davies told CBS diverged wildly from the account he gave his superiors in an incident report that was obtained by The Washington Post.
The October 27 60 Minutes segment featured Davies and his seemingly heroic efforts “scaling” the compound's 12 foot wall, disabling a terrorist “with the butt end of a rifle” and ultimately seeing the lifeless body of Ambassador Chris Stevens in the hospital. But according to the Post, Davies wrote in his incident report the day after the attack that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa and learned of Stevens' death from a colleague.
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.”
Fox News had previously interviewed Davies several times but stopped after he asked the network for money; his new book, billed as an “Explosive Eyewitness Account” of the attack, was released two days after the 60 Minutes report and has already been optioned for a movie. These are all factors that undermine Davies' credibility and should have given CBS pause.
The 60 Minutes report was the result of a year-long investigation by Logan and producer Max McClellan. In the Q&A, they describe what Logan terms an “exhaustive” interview process, speaking with what McClellen describes as “dozens and dozens and dozens” of background interviews over "months and months.
“Journalism is not about making a case, it's about finding the facts,” Logan said. “In this story, you had to work really hard to find the facts and not be seduced by anybody.”
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.