CBS has asked 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan to take a leave of absence, along with her producer, after her recent story on the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was found to have multiple flaws. An internal report also found broader failings in how the news division handled the story. A summary of the report’s findings was obtained by NPR on Tuesday.
News of Logan’s leave of absence was relayed to staff in a memo from CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of 60 Minutes. In it, he also cited the “distinguished” work Logan and her colleague have done for CBS over the years.
Logan’s report on the attack that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans was retracted within weeks of its airing on Oct. 27. It featured Dylan Davies, a security contractor who reportedly told a different version of events to 60 Minutes than he did to his employer and to the FBI.
In early November, Logan delivered an apology to viewers, saying, “The truth is that we made a mistake.”
As NPR TV critic Eric Deggans wrote earlier this month, “There has also been criticism of 60 Minutes for not disclosing in its report that Davies’ book is being published by a unit of Simon & Schuster — a part of the CBS media empire. Logan did not address that point.”
In the summary of findings from Al Ortiz, CBS News’ executive director of standards and practices, the network echoes that criticism.
Update at 2:50 p.m. ET: Details From The CBS News Summary
NPR’s David Folkenflik, who has seen the full summary, delivers this rundown of Ortiz’s findings:
- Logan and her producers sought a “different angle” to the Benghazi story from the outset and “believed they had found it in the story of Dylan Davies.” But the fact that Davies had by his own account lied to his boss in saying initially that he was not present at the mission on the night of the attack should have raised a “red flag” about his credibility.
- Contradictory information uncovered by The Washington Post and The New York Times could have been found before the broadcast.
- 60 Minutes failed to draw upon the journalistic resources of other reporters and journalists at the network with deep sources within law enforcement, military services and the diplomatic corps to confirm the story it was about to tell.
- Lara Logan’s public speech a month before the broadcast condemning the U.S. government’s response to first warnings of the attack represented a “conflict” with CBS standards.
- Logan had multiple sources and reason to believe them for her assertion tying al-Qaida to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, but failed to sufficiently attribute that contention. Many critics, such as McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef, have strongly questioned that characterization.
- CBS News Chairman and 60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager defended the story to the media on the basis of Davies’ repeated insistence that he had no knowledge of the version of events relayed in the “after action report” or by the FBI, and that Fager also relied on the “strong conviction” expressed by the 60 Minutes team — presumably Logan and producer Max McClellan.
- 60 Minutes also erred by not disclosing that Davies’ account was pegged to a book published by a conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS. (The publisher has since withdrawn Davies’ book.)
David also notes, “Among CBS’s strongest critics has been the liberal press watchdog Media Matters. Today, its CEO, David Brock, said that CBS had taken “appropriate action.”
The length of the hiatus for Logan and her producer, McClellan, wasn’t mentioned in the CBS News memo.
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