Benghazi apology is big, bad news for '60 Minutes'

CBS News cannot afford for this show to be wounded - and now it is

November 08, 2013|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

The apology by CBS News for a Benghazi report it aired Oct. 27 on "60 Minutes" is big, bad news for the network.

Lara Logan, who was the correspondent on the report, went on the network's morning show and made the apology in the video that runs with this post.

Logan told viewers of "CBS This Morning" Friday that "60 Minutes" was wrong in believing the account of a source who said he was an eye witness to some of what took place during an attack in 2012 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

This is not as bad as Dan Rather's unconfirmed report about the the military service of George W. Bush that came to be known as Memogate.

But it's bad, because "60 Minutes," the most successful show in the history of TV, is the program that makes all the other failures at CBS News acceptable. "The Evening News" and "CBS This Morning" can be in a deep third place because "60 Minutes" make so much money in prime time. And the driver behind all that revenue is its credibility.

The lack of proper vetting of the informant on which the Benghazi report was hung does tarnish the venerable news magazine's reputation. No doubt about it. And that is the one thing the network cannot afford.

CBS News executives can talk until they pass out about how tough and high their standards are, but this report says otherwise. And until a couple of days ago, the network and Logan were issuing blustery we-stand-behind-our-report statements to those who had been correctly questioning the report almost from the beginning.

That's not a Dan Rather stonewall, but it took the work of other journalists and watchdog groups to get CBS News to acknowledge that it based a report on the words of a liar.

And it is all complicated exponentially by the fact that what did or did not happen at Benghazi is one of the most contentious issues in American life. It goes to the heart of our politics and culture wars -- and is not going away anytime soon. This was not the issue on which to make a mistake like this.

This is another case where a network news division would have been well served by an ombudsman. But, I guess, since the networks and cable channels only make hundreds of millions a year in profits, they couldn't afford $100,000 a year for one of those.

Read the body and voice language of Logan and Norah O'Donnell, who "interviewed" her, if you want to get a glimmer of how rocked CBS News is by this.

Here's the network's release and transcript of Logan's apology:

“60 MINUTES” Correspondent Lara Logan issued an apology to viewers following the discovery of new information which undercuts her recent report on the Benghazi attack, in an interview that was broadcast live, today, November 8, 2013 on CBS THIS MORNING (7:00-9:00AM) on the CBS Television Network.

“We were wrong,” Logan told Co-Hosts Norah O’Donnell and Jeff Glor of the report.

Logan said that the report’s main source led the program to believe that he was telling the truth about his role in events that took place the evening of the Benghazi attack, but that “We now know that was not the case.”

“We take the vetting of sources and stories very seriously at ‘60 MINUTES’ and we took it seriously in this case. But we were misled and we were wrong, and that’s the important thing,” Logan said, adding, “we have to set the record straight and take responsibility.”

The transcript of the segment is below.

 NORAH O’DONNELL: "60 MINUTES" has learned of new information that undercuts its October 27th account of an ex-security officer who called himself Morgan Jones. His real name is Dylan Davies, and he recounted to Lara Logan, in great detail, what he claimed were his actions on the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound. Lara joins us this morning. Lara, good morning. What can you tell us?

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