The apology (such as it was) surfaced at the tail end of the broadcast last night. 60 Minutes, having just been busted for nurturing a bogus Benghazi story over a span of 12 months, said it was sorry in a terse 90 seconds.
In recent days, everyone who values factual accuracy has been deploring the show’s shoddy reporting, its flunking of Journalism 101. But barely a peep has been uttered by the usual right-wing suspects and Republican politicians who continue to think that Benghazi is akin to Watergate. They hyped the Oct. 27 60 Minutes segment, hailing it as a landmark inside look at the Obama administration’s security failures (Fox Nation called it “the first Western eyewitness to the deadly Benghazi terror attacks!”), but now that it turns out that the “eyewitness” was never there, the Benghazi obsessives have fallen mute. Gee, big surprise.
For those of you who haven’t tracked the 60 Minutes story, and the subsequent story about the story, a quick recap should suffice: Correspondent Lara Logan hinged her report on the purported adventures of British security contractor Dylan Davies, who appeared on camera under a pseudonym. Davies, billed as the first eyewitness to dish about lax security at the diplomatic compound, said that he was compelled to ride to the rescue – scaling a 12-foot wall, bashing a terrorist with a rifle butt, later sneaking into a Bengahzi hospital and seeing the dead body of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens…no wonder conservatives went nuts. What catnip!
And go nuts they did. Remember how they hated CBS News back in 2004, when the short-lived 60 Minutes II ran a bogus report about George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard? Remember how they denounced that report as a hit job by Duh Liberal Media? Well, that was then. This time, all of a sudden, conservatives were in love with CBS News. This time, CBS News wasn’t part of Duh Liberal Media at all – it was a truth-teller! An exemplar of objective journalism!
For instance: Fox news contributor Monica Crowley, on Twitter, hailed the network for being “among the very, very few reporting on this grave & outrageous scandal.” The Heritage Foundation’s blog declared: “This scandal will not go away. As a result of CBS reporter Lara Logan’s report, the blogosphere has erupted in recriminations over Benghazi all over again. At the center of the piece is one of the few eyewitness accounts to the attack on the record…” Fox host Bret Baier lauded the broadcast by “one of journalism’s heavy hitters.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy praised the network for “finally catching up” with the conservative media, because, after all, “60 Minutes doesn’t cover phony scandals.”
Turned out, however, that 60 Minutes had ginned up a phony story; in bits and pieces, over a period of 10 days, it unraveled. On Oct. 31, The Washington Post disclosed that Davies, in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack, had filed an incident report with his security employer, Blue Mountain, stipulating that he had been nowhere near the compound, that he never scaled a wall or rifle-butted a bad guy or saw ambassador Stevens’ body – and that, instead, he spent most of the night at his Benghazi beachside villa.
In response to the Post report, which raised serious questions about Davies’ credibility, CBS News stonewalled; it vowed to “stand firmly by the story we broadcast.” CBS News chairman Jeff Fager told The Huffington Post that he was “proud” of the story and “confident:” about Davies. Meanwhile, Davies told The Daily Beast website that he had lied to his employer in the incident report, that he really was inside the compound even though he’d told Blue Mountain that he hadn’t been. And in a statement that ran in The New York Times, Davies said that his new inside-the-compound account “is consistent with what I gave to the FBI.”
Oh what a tangled web he weaved, having practiced to deceive. Last Thursday night, The Times reported that Davies told the FBI the exact same thing he had written in his Blue Mountain report – that he was nowhere near the Benghazi compound. And suddenly, CBS News ditched stonewall mode and went belly up. That same night, Logan’s story vanished from the website. Fager said early Friday, “CBS News confirmed with our own sources at the FBI that the story (Davies) told the FBI was not in agreement with what we were told.” Logan went on CBS This Morning with her initial apology: “We were wrong to put (Davies) on the air.” She followed up last night.
Lingering questions abound. How is it possible, having worked on this story for a year, that Logan and her crew didn’t know about the Blue Mountain incident report? How is it possible that, over the span of a year, they didn’t know what Davies had said to the FBI – until it “confirmed” the truth after the story blew up? Or did they simply not want to know that their linchpin source was a liar? Can their lapses be linked in any way to CBS’ conflict of interest – the fact that Davies had a hot book deal, featuring his “eyewitness” account, with a conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster… which just so happens to be a subsidiary of the CBS Corporation?
But hey, don’t expect the conservative echo chamber to demand any answers – particularly about the CBS conflict of interest. Better to just pretend that the ballyhooed story never happened, or to just briefly note its bogus-ness (as Fox News’ Bret Baier did last Friday, in a brisk 26 seconds).
This is good news for the folks at 60 Minutes, because when conservatives went ballistic in the wake of that ’04 Bush-National Guard report, heads rolled at the network. But this time, because 60 Minutes sought to serve up red meat to the Republican right (albeit with bad reporting), conservatives are staying mum, and giving it a pass. After all, it’s the thought that counts.
A factoid for Veterans Day: 95 years ago today, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I ended. Here’s a great book about what happened that day, about how soldiers were getting killed right up to the moment the Armistice made it OK to stop killing.
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