[UPDATED - Video added at bottom. CBS' Logan admits they blew the story. ALSO NOW: Simon & Schuster Rightwing imprint pulls book off shelves.]
A full week after serious doubts were raised concerning 60 Minutes' report on a supposed eye-witness to the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, CBS has finally issued a terse two paragraph statement tonight to announce they are "currently looking into" whether they were "misled" by their star witness.
Here's the full statement:
We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction.
The statement coincides with new information this evening that appears to further undercut the 60 Minutes report...
As initially reported by Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post, "Morgan Jones" is actually the pseudonym of Dylan Davies, a man who worked for the Wales-based security firm, Blue Mountain. Davies was reportedly a British supervisor of security guards protecting the U.S. mission during the attack last year. In an October 27 report this year, said by 60 Minutes to have been a full year in the making, he told CBS reporter Lara Logan that on the night of the attack he scaled the 12-foot wall of the compound, confronted an attacker "with the butt end of a rifle" and later saw U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead in the hospital.
That account, however, as DeYoung first reported, is at complete odds with an incident report filed by Davies with Blue Mountain on the day after the attack, when he said he had been at his seaside villa throughout the siege that resulted in the deaths of four U.S. personnel, including the Ambassador, whose charred body, Davies allegedly told his employer, he had seen in a photograph sent to him by a colleague.
CBS has, until now, has refused to acknowledge the conflicting stories, saying only that they "firmly" stand by their reporting. They admitted only --- just earlier this week --- that they made a mistake by not disclosing that Davies' book was being published by a CBS subsidiary. Other than that, they stood by their story, even after Davies told The Daily Beast that he had lied to his employer initially in that next-day incident report.
According to The Daily Beast interview, however, Davies said the account on 60 Minutes and in his book was the same one he supplied "to the FBI and various other U.S. agencies in the wake of the attack".
Tonight, that part of the story also seems to be collapsing, and that is likely why 60 Minutes is finally beginning to question its own reporting.
In a report filed by the New York Times this evening, Bill Carter and Michael S. Schmidt are reporting that Davies "told the F.B.I. he did not go [to the diplomatic mission] the night terrorists attacked it on Sept. 11, 2012"...
Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," said Thursday, "We're surprised to hear about this, and if it shows we've been misled, we will make a correction."
Until tonight, CBS and reporter Logan had all vigorously defended both their report and Davies, claiming they were "proud of the reporting that went into the story."
Davies had also been undercut by no less than Fox "News", which has been trumpeting some form of a "scandal" at Benghazi for more than a year. Their reporter, Adam Housley, had said, the day after 60 Minutes' report, that he stopped speaking to Davies over the past year, "when he asked for money."
We initially covered the questions about the 60 Minutes report last week, after Media Matters for America's David Brock, author of the book, The Benghazi Hoax, penned a letter to CBS demanding a retraction of the story and a full investigation into what appeared to be a fabricated story by Davies.
Brock cited CBS' response to questions about 60 Minutes' 2004 story on questions about George W. Bush's Air National Guard service (which turned out to be true, though the provenance of one of the documents used in the report was never able to be verified as authentic.) Following that report by Dan Rather, CBS quickly launched a full investigation into the matter. "Similar standards must be applied in this case," Brock said in his letter last week to CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and its president David Rhodes.
Last Sunday, the show aired letters praising its Benghazi report, but they failed to note any of the controversies that had arisen in its wake.
On the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast this week we interviewed Media Matters' Eric Boehlert who described the mess as a "slow motion train wreck". He struggled to explain the difference between the quick action taken by CBS and 60 Minutes after the Bush/Rather report, versus the complete silence they had offered in regard to their star witness' conflicting stories in the two weeks following their Benghazi report.
The Bush/Rather story "absolutely exploded," he said, noting that it was front page news at both the New York Times and Washington Post two days after it initially aired and that "CBS was putting out a statement almost every day for the first five days." The CBS Evening News, he said, was addressing it themselves night after night.
"It was full-on crisis management and eventually, about ten days later, CBS threw in the towel, slash, threw Dan Rather under the bus. And the political pressure, not only from the Rightwing media, but from the Bush campaign, the entire Republican establishment was crushing CBS at the time," he explained.
Four CBS producers and Dan Rather all eventually lost their jobs after the investigation.
"This has been a much different timetable," Boehlert observed, "primarily because it's liberals who are upset. It's primarily because it's Democrats who are calling out CBS News. So what does the mainstream media do when they're under attack from the Left? They just ignore it."
Perhaps. But it appears that both CBS and the bulk of the mainstream media will have trouble ignoring the apparent failures of the story at this point. As of tonight, the main page for the Benghazi story at the CBS News website appears to have been removed without explanation, offering only a "page cannot be found" error to visitors.
UPDATE 11/8/13: Lara Logan, 60 Minutes' correspondent on the Benghazi story, who had defended it vigorously since its airing, pulls the plug. Appears on CBS This Morning to say "We were wrong, we made a mistake"...
Once again, with four producers and Dan Rather let go by CBS after 2004's accurate report on George W. Bush's Air National Guard service (or lack thereof) how many, if any, will CBS fire this time, following a botched story that attempted to make a sitting Democratic President look bad?
LATER UPDATE 11/8/13: New York Times' Bill Carter reports that Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of CBS, is pulling Davies' Benghazi book (written under the pseudonym "Morgan Jones") off the shelves. The book had been published by Simon & Schuster's imprint Threshold Editions, which publishes Rightwing books by the likes of Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, Mark Levin, Jerome Corsi and others. Moreover, former Bush/Cheney adviser Mary Matalin's official biography describes her as "Editor at Large" for Threshold. So, CBS was essentially fighting for two weeks for the credibility of a story peddled by Rightwing publishers --- which had reportedly been optioned for a Hollywood film --- in which they had an undisclosed interest. It has now all come undone.
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UPDATE 11/11/2013: On Sunday night, at the very end of the broadcast, 60 Minutes' Lara Logan delivered the following "correction" to their now completely collapsed Benghazi story. It follows below. As Josh Marshall noted, the 90-second apology "was pretty amazing for its brevity, lack of substance and general obfuscation." It failed to speak to any of the serious issues or questions about how this all happened and what CBS intends to do about it...