LOGAN AND PRODUCER ON LEAVE AT CBS OVER FLAWED BENGHAZI REPORT
c.2013 New York Times News Service
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, made serious errors in an Oct. 27 report on the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, and will take leaves of absence, the network said Tuesday. Four Americans died in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The moves follow weeks of criticism directed at a “60 Minutes” report that was based on an interview with a hired security agent, Dylan Davies, whose comments were later discredited.
CBS did not specify the length of the leave of absence for its two staff members nor whether they would continue to be paid. In general, television correspondents do not lose salary unless they are suspended.
Beyond Logan, who has been a rising star at CBS News, the review could have implications for the leadership of Jeffrey 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 of the Benghazi segment, 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 review, was that the account Davies gave 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.”
In a previous interview with The New York Times, Fager said CBS had tried talking to the FBI in advance of the report to determine what Davies had told the agency. The network’s sources led the program to believe that the account given to the FBI was “in sync” with the interview Davies gave to “60 Minutes,” Fager said.
Ortiz said CBS could have, and should have, been able to verify Davies’ account beforehand.
“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 took 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.
In addition, the report took “60 Minutes” to task for not disclosing that a book written by Davies about the episode was published by one of the company’s units.
CBS said it, Logan and McClellan would have no further comment.