After a week of defending their reporting, CBS News’ Lara Logan on Friday morning made a stunning apology to her viewers for a much-hyped story about the Benghazi attack, based on an interview with a security contractor that directly contradicts what he told the FBI.
“We were wrong to put him on air and we apologize to our viewers,” Logan said on the CBS’ This Morning on Friday. “We will apologize to our viewers and we will correct the record on our broadcast on Sunday night,” she added.
On Sunday, CBS’ venerable 60 Minutes newsprogram aired what they hailed as a shocking new report on what really occurred the night of an attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya last year. Promoted as the culmination of a year-long investigation, the segment heavily featured an interview with Morgan Jones — a pseudonym for Dylan Davies, a security officer hired to help protect the U.S. assets in Benghazi — who claimed to have rushed to the scene the night of the attack, making him the first eyewitness of the attack to come forward for interviews.
Jones’ story was quickly questioned from various outlets, especially the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, which published multiple stories over the course of the week about the holes in Davies’ story. Davies in response took to other media outlets, including The Daily Beast to defend himself against what he called smears.
CBS in turn stood by its reporting for days, insisting that while Jones’ story was different from an incident report he submitted to his employer filed after the attack, the version promoted on the air was the truth. Executive Producer Jeff Fager went so far as to tell the Huffington Post that he was “proud” of the reporting that went into the segment.
“Our effort was to give our viewers a better understanding about an event in which a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed,” Fager, who is also CBS News’ chairman, wrote in his statement to the Huffington Post. “We are proud of the reporting that went into the story and have confidence that our sources, including those who appeared on ’60 Minutes,’ told accurate versions of what happened that night.”
On Thursday evening, however, the situation seemed to shift suddenly. “60 Minutes has learned of new information that undercuts the account told to us by Morgan Jones of his actions on the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound,” CBS said in a brief statement on the 60 Minutes website last night. “We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction.” Only minutes after CBS’ statement went live, the New York Times reported that Davies’ story completely differed from the statement he gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
That revelation caused CBS to completely reverse course, taking down the story from its website and sending Logan out to apologize. “What we now know is that he told the FBI a different story to what he told us,” she said, “and that was the moment for us when we realized that we no longer had confidence in our source.” Logan insisted that the documents that Davies had provided and his role working for the State Department in Benghazi were confirmed, “but we were misled and we were wrong and that’s the important thing,” she continued. “That’s what we have to say here. We have to set the record straight and take responsibility.”
Watch the full apology here:
It remains to be seen whether this latest debunked scandal will satiate conservatives who latch on to anything that they claim proves there was a secret cover-up from the Obama administration the night of the attack. It also remains to be seen whether the incident will inspire Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to withdraw the holds he currently has on all Obama nominees, pending meetings with more Benghazi survivors, given that his threat was a direct response to the 60 Minutes report
What’s clear, however, is that Davies’ book on the his account of Benghazi — that was set to be published through Simon & Schusters’ conservative Threshold Editions imprint — is now imperiled. “Although we have not seen the F.B.I. report, in light of these revelations we will review the book and take appropriate action with regard to its publication status,” Jennifer Robbins, a spokesperson for Threshold, told the New York Times.
Foreign Policy’s John Hudson reports even with today’s apology and the news that three more witnesses are prepared to testify before Congress, Graham is still keeping his holds in place.
The New York Times on Friday afternoon reports that Simon & Schuster is pulling Davies’ book. “We are suspending the publication,” the publisher said, adding that it is notifying stores to return books already received.