Today CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes retracted its bombshell report about security failures during the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The embarrassing retraction, announced on CBS This Morning by Lara Logan, came nearly a week after The Washington Post challenged the veracity of one of 60 Minutes’ sources, a security contractor named Dylan Davies, and hours after the New York Times revealed that Davies supplied FBI investigators with a very different story.
Logan explained to her colleague Norah O’Donnell:
How did this happen? Well, Dylan Davies worked for the State Department in Libya, was the manager of the local guard force at the Benghazi Special Mission compound. He described for us his actions the night of the attack, saying he had entered the compound and had a confrontation with one of the attackers, and that he had seen the body of Ambassador Chris Stevens in a local hospital. [...] But what we now know is that he told the FBI a different story from what he told us. That's when we realized that we no longer had confidence in our source, and that we were wrong to put him on air, and we apologize to our viewers.
The apology follows strenuous statements, from both Logan and her employer, denying that Davies had misled 60 Minutes, stemming from relentless pressure from the media watchdog group Media Matters and The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone, who each pressed CBS to explain the details of its reporting of the incident and its vetting of Davies.
Davies, a former employee of the Wales-based security firm Blue Mountain Group, told 60 Minutes, under the pseudonym “Morgan Jones,” that on the night of the attack, against the orders of his supervisor, visited a Benghazi hospital to view Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’ corpse. He also claimed to have made his way to the main compound, built to protect the American consulate, where Davies said he killed an attacker with the butt of his rifle. Davies told the same account, under the same pseudonym, in his memoir The Embassy House, published on October 29 by CBS subsidiary Simon & Schuster.
Dylan Davies speaks to Lara Logan on 60 Minutes
Several days after the report aired, however, The Washington Post revealed that an incident report produced by Davies’ employer indicated that he had stayed at his villa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea—nowhere near the attacks—after failing to pass a roadblock set up by a local jihadist militia. Davies subsequently approached Josh Rogin at The Daily Beast, claiming he had been “smeared” by “some big people” and that he had never seen the incident report described by the Post.
Davies said he believed there was a coordinated campaign to smear him. This week, Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, sent a public letter to CBS News asking it to retract the 60 Minutes Benghazi piece on the basis of the Washington Post article. On the Fox News Channel, reporter Adam Housley claimed on air this week that Davies asked for money in exchange for an interview.
Still, CBS refused to acknowledge the discrepancy between the incident report and Davies’ account. “If you read the book, you would know he never had two stories. He only had one story,” Logan told The New York Times on November 5.“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,” the program’s executive producer, Jeff Fager, told Michael Calderone on November 6.
The network did not reverse course until the evening of November 7, when The New York Times reported that Davies told FBI investigators that he had not, in fact, visited the attacked compound or viewed the body of J. Christopher Stevens at a Benghazi hospital. Several minutes before the Times article went up, CBS removed the Benghazi report from its website and said staff members were “reviewing” Davies’ account. His book, however, remains available to purchase on Amazon.
60 Minutes and its various spin-offs have suffered serious reporting errors in the past. In 1986, the program erroneously claimed that the Audi 5000 randomly accelerated, after which Audi sales tanked. In 1997, based on a fabricated memo, the program reported that drug smugglers were swallowing latex gloves to heroin to bypass U.S.-Mexico border security officers. And in 2004, 60 Minutes Wednesday fell for fake documents indicating President George W. Bush received preferential treatment when he served in the Air National Guard—shortly after which several producers and anchor Dan Rather, who later sued the network for $70 million, resigned from CBS.
It’s unclear whether any producers for the Benghazi report, or Lara Logan, will face similar repercussions.
[Video via CBS]