Lara Logan Suspended from CBS News Over Botched “60 Minutes” Benghazi Report

logan.cbs.thismorning2Executive Director of Standards and Practices for CBS News, Al Ortiz, blasted Logan for “taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi…while continuing to report the story,” in an internal memo leaked to The Huffington Post.

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.

— Al Ortiz, Executive Director of Standards and Practices for CBS News

Jeff Fager, Chairman of CBS News, suspended Logan and her producer on the mistaken Benghazi story, Max McClellan according to a separate memo, also obtained by the Post.

davies-embassyhouseThere is a lot to learn from this mistake for the entire organization. We have rebuilt CBS News in a way that has dramatically improved our reporting abilities. Ironically 60 Minutes, which has been a model for those changes, 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.
As a result, I have asked Lara Logan, who has distinguished herself and has put herself in harm’s way many times in the course of covering stories for us, to take a leave of absence, which she has agreed to do. I have asked the same of producer Max McClellan, who also has a distinguished career at CBS News.

— Jeff Fager, Chairman of CBS News

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Dan Rather: CBS News Can’t Blame Lara Logan For 60 Minutes’ Flawed Benghazi Report Debacle Anymore

logan.cbs.thismorning2Veteran newsman, Dan Rather who was forced into early retirement after making his own mistake on 60 Minutes, says CBS News can’t just blame Lara Logan, her producers and the newsmagazine for its erroneous report on the terrorist attack on America’s Embassy in Benghazi.

“It’s in the nature of these large corporations that when the stuff hits the fan, they want to blame the correspondent. Whatever happened, and if there’s any blame, whatever blame there is, has to start at the top of the corporation and go through the leadership of the news division. It isn’t just Lara Logan.” — Dan Rather

“There is a difference between this and the trouble I got in at CBS News. We got into trouble, that is I and the other reporters, because we reported a true story. What we had was true. The difficulty with the Benghazi story is, as they now have acknowledged, the story was not a true and they stood by it for a long time.” – Dan Rather

Media Critics, Political Writers Do Not Accept 60 Minutes Benghazi Apology; Call For Investigation

  • logan-davies-benghaziTalking Points Memo Editor and Publisher Josh Marshall called Lara Logan’s 90 Second, 60 Minutes correction “bogus.” And he put quotation marks around “correction.”
  • New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman called on 60 Minutes to turn “its reporting muscle back on itself to explain to viewers what happened, and why.”
  • NYU Journalism Prof. and Pressthink Editor Jay Rosen tweeted that the two most “outstanding features” of the correction on the “CBS Benghazi debacle” was that it was in the passive voice — not really taking responsibility — and didn’t acknowledge that they only admitted they were wrong after other media outlets pressured them by running stories showing that CBS had been duped.

Background: On Oct.27, 2013 CBS ran a 60 Minutes segment reported by Lara Logan featuring a security contractor they identified by the pseudonym Morgan Jones (real name Dylan Davies) who claimed to have scaled the walls of the American Embassy compound in Benghazi, Libya during a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012 , rescued citizens, and saw the body of murdered ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Within a few days, other media outlets were questioning the veracity of Davies’ story and soon produced affidavits Davies gave the FBI and his employer contradicting the version of events he recounted to 60 Minutes. Last week, as the number of prominent members of the press and their critics grew CBS announced that it was considering making a correction. Logan went on CBS News This Morning on Thursday last week to say that 60 Minutes would indeed issue a correction, saying she had been “misled.”

The much anticipated 60 Minutes apology for failures in the reporting process that led CBS to report a hoax as news fell flat Sunday night.

It was too short, it didn’t answer any questions and it wasn’t really the apology media critics and political writers had hoped for.

In particular, Logan got slammed for failing to explain why she trusted Dylan Davies in the first place, what 60 Minutes had done to verify his story and how she and her producers had missed two separate documents that contradicted the version of events he portrayed on the program.

Other critics also demanded to know why the network, the newsmagazine and Logan herself defended the story for so long in the face of evidence debunking it.

New York Times television writers reported the scuttlebutt about debates among “veteran television journalists,” on whether 60 Minutes had damaged it’s reputation in the long term. Adding that some media critics had joined the rising chorus calling for an “independent investigation,” to find out how CBS screwed up so bad.

While veteran television journalists spent the weekend debating whether the now-discredited Benghazi report would cause long-term damage to the esteemed newsmagazine’s brand, some media critics joined the liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America in calling for CBS to initiate an independent investigation of missteps in the reporting process.

Brian Stelter and Bill Carter, The New York Times

Stelter was referring to a piece CBS News did on its morning show Thursday, where Logan apologized and announced that the show would issue a retraction Sunday night.

Fox News denizen, conservative media critic and talking head Howard Kurtz also complained about the brevity of Logan’s apology, which came at the bottom of the program.

Kurtz also indicated that he thought the apology spent too much time  shifting the blame on to a source who duped them, while not explaining how that happened.

CBS owes its viewers “a detailed explanation,” of how their source was able to put one over on them so easily “at a minimum,” TPM’s Marshall wrote.

logan.cbs.thismorning2

…when journalists deal with charlatans, it’s a tricky business because it’s usually a matter of proving a negative. You need to come up with evidence of various sorts that either proves or undermines their credibility. You seldom get so lucky as to have two independent pieces of documentary evidence that completely impeach the source’s account (first, his immediate reports to his employers and second, the later account to the FBI). Neither could have been that difficult for a news organization of CBS News’ size and heft to find since the Post and the Times got both within 10 days of the story airing.

I don’t know the players involved enough to know whether this happened because of bias, indifference, arrogance or wild sloppiness. But you can’t screw up much bigger than this. At a minimum there needs to be some detailed explanation of how this big a screw could have happened. And the comparison with the aftermath of the Rather/Bush Air National Guard debacle (largely deserved in terms of who was held accountable) speaks volumes.

Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo

That sure contrasts CBS’s response to Dan Rather’s 2004 report on then-president George W. Bush’s National Guard service, which turned out to be based on faulty documents. That time the network did investigate, and fired four producers. Rather left his anchor job shortly after he admitted to flawed reporting. A more recent example of how a respected news show deals with getting duped comes to us from This American Life, which devoted an entire episode to parsing how it had fallen for Mike Daisey’s fabricated tale of his visit to a factory making Apple products.

Gabriel Sherman, New York Magazine

Tonight’s apology by CBS will not deal in any serious way with its misguided response to the very legitimate questions that were raised about its Benghazi report. If I am wrong, that will be good news for journalism at CBS and I will happily report it in an update here.

Jay Rosen, Press Think