UPDATED, SUNDAY 6:05 PM: 60 Minutes ended its report tonight with CBS News’s most detailed account to date of its error in its October 27th broadcast about the attack on the American special mission compound in Benghazi. As she had on CBS This Morning on Friday, Lara Logan delivered the apology. It was Logan who had interviewed security officer Dylan Davies in that October 27th broadcast, in which he described his activities the night of the attack – an account that has now been discredited by an FBI report about the incident. As with her comments on the morning news program, and with 60 Minutes exec producer Jeff Fager (who is also chairman of CBS News), there was no mention as to what steps CBS News will take to determine how the mistake was made, or whether any staffers will be suspended or dismissed.
Here is what Logan said:
“We end our broadcast tonight with a correction, on a story we reported October 27th about the attack on the American special mission compound in Benghazi, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. In the story, a security officer working for the State Department, Dylan Davies, told us he went to the compound during the attack, and detailed his role that night.
“After our report aired, questions arose about whether his account was true, when an incident report surfaced. It told a different story about what he did the night of the attack. Davies denied having anything to do with that incident report, and insisted the story he told us was not only accurate, it was the same story he told the FBI when they interviewed him. On Thursday night, when we discovered the account he gave the FBI was different than what he told us, we realized we had been misled, and it was a mistake to include him in our report. For that, we are very sorry. The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth. And the truth is, we made a mistake.”
Watch it here:
Previously, Friday 9 PM: CBS News spent today rolling out carefully orchestrated apologies for its botched report on last year’s attack at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan, who was the correspondent on the report, got elected to deliver the first apology, on CBS This Morning. She explained how the truthfulness of source Morgan Jones came into question after it came to light that Jones, whose real name, turns out, is Dylan Davies, had given a very different account of his actions on the night of the attack to the FBI than he’d given to 60 Minutes.
This evening, CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley got to report that 60 Minutes “no longer has confidence in one of the sources used in a report about the 2012 terrorist attack.” In that report, Davies, a consultant who managed security outside the U.S. compound in Benghazi, said he went to the scene during the attack and later identified the body of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in a hospital. Davies told CBS he had given same details to the FBI. “But last night federal law enforcement sources told CBS News that, in the FBI interview, Davies told the agents that he did not go to the compound that night or to the hospital,” Pelley reported, noting “part of Davies’ interview also aired on this broadcast.”
In between, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager — who also is executive producer of 60 Minutes and therefore bears twice the responsibility — took the Pangs of Conscience Tour of the media landscape to announce that “we own it: we made a mistake” (Variety), that “it’s as big a mistake as there has been” in the long-running franchise’s history (NYT), and that “when you come forward and admit a mistake, people will understand” (Washington Post). All this disarming humility comes just two days after Fager issued a statement insisting CBS News has “confidence that our sources, including those who appeared on 60 Minutes, told accurate versions of what happened that night.” But Fager does not appear to have filled anyone in, during his tour, as to where his team mislaid its bullshit detector while reporting the story.
This appears to be the closest he got to that subject today, based on the write-ups of his various stops: “Everyone in the news business knows that you can make a mistake, and there are people out there looking to deceive reporters. In this case, he was a very good one.”
Fager says his team spent more than a year reporting the story that aired October 27, coinciding with Simon & Schuster’s publication of the book The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account Of The Libyan Embassy Siege By The Soldier Who Was There, two days after the 60 Minutes report. Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS, pulled the book today — which, presumably, puts a strain on its movie deal.
In the absence of anything concrete on that front, the media instead spent the day comparing the latest mess to that other bungled 60 Minutes report, in 2004. Back then, CBS News also had expressed complete confidence in the reporting — until it didn’t. In that case, it was a 60 Minutes II report presented by Dan Rather, based on documents alleging President George W. Bush had gotten special treatment during his Vietnam-era service in the National Guard. After an investigation, CBS said it could not authenticate the documents, and several CBS news professionals got shown the door over that report, while Rather’s CBS career was left in tatters.
Ironically, CBS News had decided just before it aired its Benghazi report not to invite Rather to participate in its coverage of the JFK assassination 50th anniversary, though he was a key player in the news division’s coverage of that historic tragedy (Rather will be seen in archival footage).