LEAVE OF ABSENCE FOR LARA LOGAN AFTER FLAWED BENGHAZI REPORT

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

CBS News announced Tuesday that it had imposed a leave of absence on its correspondent Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, in the wake of an internal investigation that found serious errors in their report on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The moves follow weeks of criticism directed at the program for the report, which aired on “60 Minutes” and was based on an interview with a hired security agent, Dylan Davies, who CBS News later said lied to them in the report.

Beyond Logan, the review has implications for the leadership of Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News, who is also the executive producer of “60 Minutes.”

Fager sent an email to the staff Tuesday, saying: “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.”

He added: “We are making adjustments at ‘60 Minutes’ to reduce the chances of it happening again.”

The review, conducted by CBS News’ executive director of standards and practices, Al Ortiz, was unstinting in its evaluation of the report, which Ortiz called “deficient in several respects.”

Perhaps chief among the deficiencies, according to Ortiz’s report, was that the account given by Davies to Logan and McClellan differed from versions he had provided to his employer, Blue Mountain, and to the FBI. This discrepancy, Ortiz writes, “was knowable before the piece aired.”

CBS’ previous defense had been that it had relied on Davies and was taken in by him. Ortiz contradicted that defense by saying that CBS could have, and should have, been able to verify his account before presenting him as a reliable source.

“The wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account,” Ortiz wrote. He concluded: “Logan and producer Max McClellan told me they found no reason to doubt Davies’ account and found no holes in his story. But the team did not sufficiently vet Davies’ account of his own actions and whereabouts that night.”

The report also criticizes Logan for not adequately substantiating her conclusion that al-Qaida had taken part in the attack and for making a speech in October 2012 that took a position on the attack and then participating in a story in which she would have been expected to be objective about the facts of the attack.

“From a CBS News standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and al-Qaida, while continuing to report on the story,” Ortiz wrote.

The report also took “60 Minutes” to task for not disclosing on the air that a book written by Davies about the incident was published by an outlet owned by CBS.