CBS News' Lara Logan Taking Leave Of Absence Over Discredited '60 Minutes' Benghazi Report
NEW YORK -- Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of '"60 Minutes," informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine's discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.
“As Executive Producer, I am responsible for what gets on the air,” Fager wrote in a memo obtained by The Huffington Post. “I pride myself in catching almost everything, but this deception got through and it shouldn’t have.”
On the Oct. 27 broadcast, Logan interviewed Dylan Davies, a security officer who claimed that he witnessed the terrorist attack on the Benghazi compound that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012. Davies, who had trained Libyan security guards for the State Department, claimed he scaled a 12-foot wall that night, knocked out a terrorist with his rifle and later saw Stevens dead in the hospital.
But four days later, The Washington Post reported that Davies had told his employer shortly after the attack that he never reached the compound that night, an account that conflicted with the one he had given to “60 Minutes," as well as included in a memoir. The memoir was published by a conservative imprint that is a subsidiary of CBS, a financial relationship that was not disclosed at the time of the broadcast.
“60 Minutes” dodged questions for several days about the conflicting accounts. Fager later told HuffPost that Davies assured him that he was at the compound that night and the account revealed by The Washington Post wasn’t accurate. On Nov. 6, Fager was still standing by the report, telling HuffPost he was “proud” of it.
One day later, The New York Times reported that Davies had also told the FBI he never reached the compound, the second known instance of Davies telling a different story than the one he told on “60 Minutes” and in his book. “60 Minutes” quickly pulled the story and Logan apologized on air the following morning.
McClatchy raised more questions on Nov. 13 about the accuracy of the Benghazi report, beyond the issues with Davies' account, and “60 Minutes” acknowledged that the network was doing an internal review of the broadcast.
Al Ortiz, executive director of standards and practices at CBS News, presented his findings in a memo to employees obtained by The Huffington Post.
He wrote that the Benghazi story “was deficient in several respects” and suggested that “the wider reporting resources of CBS News” could have been employed to obtain information from the State Department and FBI that would have called into question Davies’ account before the report aired.
“It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside FBI sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story,” Ortiz wrote.
Ortiz wrote that Davies’ statement to “60 Minutes” that he lied to his employer about his whereabouts the night of the attack but was telling the truth on air “should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process.”
In addition, Ortiz wrote that Logan’s “assertions that Al Qaeda carried out the attack and controlled the hospital were not adequately attributed in her report.”
Ortiz also wrote that Logan’s October 2012 foreign policy speech, in which she spoke of the need for “revenge” for the Benghazi attack, was also problematic. “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,” Ortiz wrote.
One question that remains unanswered is how “60 Minutes” first reached Davies and what role his writing a book for Threshold Editions -– an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of CBS –- could have played in him appearing on air. There's been speculation that Logan's husband, a former defense contractor, could have been involved in getting him on air as well.
In his memo to staff, Fager wrote that he asked Logan and McClellan, the producer, to take a leave of absence, which they agreed to do.
“When faced with a such an error, we must use it as an opportunity to make our broadcast even stronger,” Fager wrote. “We are making adjustments at 60 Minutes to reduce the chances of it happening again.”