CBS News has taken disciplinary action in responding to airing a false story about the 2011 Benghazi attack.
Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan are now on a “leave of absence” because of Logan’s October report about Dylan Davies, who falsely claimed to CBS News that he saw the attack.
After the 60 Minutes report was aired Oct. 27, the Daily Beast and Washington Post found out that Davies’ incident report from that night said he wasn’t there. The New York Times put the final nail in the coffin when it reported that Davies also told the FBI that he wasn’t at the compound during the attack. The next morning, Logan appeared on CBS’ This Morning to admit that her report was wrong and that it was a “mistake” to air her interview with Davies.
60 Minutes also promised an on-air correction during its program, but many, including iMediaEthics, were surprised at the brief correction which didn’t offer any new information or explanation for what happened.
The news of Logan and McClellan’s leave came in a memo today from CBS News chairman Jeff Fager to staff. Reuters said it “obtained” the memo, which said in part:
“60 Minutes … fell short by broadcasting a now discredited account of an important story, and did not take full advantage of the reporting abilities of CBS News that might have prevented it from happening.”
The New York Times noted that Fager’s memo accepted responsibility for the false report. Fager, who called the report “a regrettable mistake,” said, “As executive producer, I am responsible for what gets on the air. I pride myself in catching almost everything, but this deception got through and it shouldn’t have.”
Ortiz’s summary said the Benghazi report was “deficient in several respects.” He continued that 60 Minutes could have learned about Davies’ incident reports and FBI report, which discredited his story, before airing his interview instead of after the fact. He also called out 60 Minutes for not using CBS News’ “wider reporting resources.” Ortiz wrote:
“The fact that the F.B.I. and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to ’60 Minutes’ was knowable before the piece aired. But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside F.B.I. sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.”
Ortiz went on to say 60 Minutes’ reporting team “did not sufficiently vet Davies’s account.” And, Ortiz noted that Davies’ initial excuse to 60 Minutes that he “lied to his own employer that night about his location…should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process.”
Ortiz went on to call out dual conflicts of interest in the 60 Minutes report: Logan’s, because she last year gave her opinion on what happened during the attack in a speech, and 60 Minutes’, because a CBS-owned publisher published Davies’ book, which was not disclosed by 60 Minutes. (Davies’ book was “withdrawn” after Logan’s apology for the report.) In terms of Logan’s conflict, he wrote:
“In October of 2012, one month before starting work on the Benghazi story, Logan made a speech in which she took a strong public position arguing that the US Government was misrepresenting the threat from Al Qaeda, and urging actions that the US should take in response to the Benghazi attack. From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story.”
How long Logan and McClellan will be on leave is unknown, the Associated Press noted.