Lara Logan, the reporter behind 60 Minutes‘ now-discredited story on the Benghazi attacks, has agreed to take a leave of absence from CBS News. Also taking a leave is producer Max McClellan. The move comes after an internal investigation was released today and an announcement to staffers by CBS News chairman and 60 Minutes exec producer Jeff Fager in a memo obtained by Deadline, and included in this post. Also obtained is the full summary of findings by Al Ortiz, CBS News’ Executive Director of Standards and Practices.
It’s unclear whether the report and Fager’s memo will placate media critics, who were skeptical of the steps CBS was taking, in re the botched 60 Minutes segment, before even knowing the results. Two Sundays ago, media-centric Sunday shows on cable news networks CNN and Fox News Channel, weighed in, and neither show was impressed with the idea of a CBS internal review of the newsmag’s Benzhazi segment, which CBS News had said was reported out for a year, based on bum information given by a now discredited security contractor who’d written a now-discredited book about the incident for CBS’ publishing division. Some of the talking heads on those shows noted CBS News exec producer Al Ortiz will take the now-dlsclosed results of his investigation into the failure of 60 Minutes exec producer Fager to the chairman of CBS News — Fager. “60 Minutes needs to re-report this story and share the results with the public,” advised CBS News alum Terence Smith on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Lara Logan’s day of apologizing “isn’t enough,” chimed in Fox News’ MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz, who also called for an outside investigation, adding his boilerplate “We all make mistakes — myself included.” Contacted for comment, a CBS News rep told Deadline today, “The 60 Minutes journalistic review is concluded, and we are implementing ongoing changes based on its results.”
Logan has won multiple awards including Emmys and is CBS News’ Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent based in DC. She has contributed to 60 Minutes and CBS News since 2002; in 2011, while on assignment in Egypt, she was sexually assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and spent four days in the hospital — then told the story of the attack in a 60 Minutes segment.
Here’s Fager’s memo about the decision:
There 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.
As Executive Producer, I am responsible for what gets on the air. I pride myself in catching almost everything, but this deception got through and it shouldn’t have.
When faced with a such an error, we must use it as an opportunity to make our broadcast even stronger. We are making adjustments at 60 Minutes to reduce the chances of it happening again.
There is a lot of pride at CBS News. Every broadcast is working hard to live up to the high standard set at CBS News for excellence in reporting. This was a regrettable mistake. But there are many fine professionals at 60 Minutes who produce some of the very best of broadcast journalism, covering the important and interesting stories of our times, and they will continue to do so each and every Sunday.
Chairman, CBS News
Executive Producer, 60 Minutes
Logan was set to host the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual press freedom awards tonight in New York. She is a board member of the organization. But she was replaced at the last minute by CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, Politico reports.
Here is Ortiz’s report: (more…)