7 Questions CBS Is Dodging on Its Bogus Benghazi Story

When someone does something wrong, the press demands answers. But when the press itself does something wrong, the usual response is to stonewall and “stand by its story.” And even when the jig is finally up, they typically resort to a short apology that explains nothing. This, however, is supposed to satisfy us all. Move along, nothing to see here.

The latest example of this is 60 Minutes, which tonight aired a correction of its Benghazi report from two weeks ago that relied on the testimony of an anonymous security consultant who turned out to be a bullshitter:

The apology lasted only 90 seconds and revealed nothing new about why CBS had trusted Mr. Davies, who appeared on the program under the pseudonym Morgan Jones. Off-camera, CBS executives were left to wonder how viewers would react to the exceptionally rare correction.

While veteran television journalists spent the weekend debating whether the now-discredited Benghazi story would cause long-term damage to the newsmagazine’s brand, some media critics joined the liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America in calling for CBS to initiate an independent investigation of missteps in the reporting process.

But the CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” has not ordered an investigation, and on Sunday a spokesman indicated that the program was going to let its televised apology be its last word on the issue.

There you have it. This will be their last word on this issue:

  • They will not explain why they apparently failed to vet Davies’ story with anyone else on the scene.
  • They will not explain why, in an investigation they say lasted over a year and involved more than a hundred sources (!), they failed to get hold of a copy of the FBI debriefing of Davies—surely the absolute minimum level of scrutiny they should have given Davies’ account.
  • They will not explain why they failed to mention that Davies was promoting a book published by a CBS affiliate that specializes in right-wing agitprop.
  • They will not explain why Lara Logan—who has very publicly demanded “revenge” for the Benghazi attacks and pretty obviously has a strong personal agenda—chose to raise the “lingering question” of a better military response without bothering to mention that this question has been addressed over and over by the Pentagon.
  • They will not explain why they aired an interview with Gregory Hicks as if it were something new and damning, without mentioning either that he testified before Congress months ago or that his testimony has been called into question.
  • They will not explain why they vigorously backed up Davies for over a week after learning that he had filed an “incident report” that conflicted badly with his 60 Minutes interview—something that should have set off alarms since Davies had kept that report a secret and then provided a wholly implausible explanation for the discrepancy when it became public.
  • They will not explain why they weren’t skeptical of a source that Fox News (!) dropped because he started asking for money.

There are probably several other things that CBS will also refuse to explain. This list is just off the top of my head. But I’m afraid that CBS no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Someone there needs to demonstrate that they actually care about accuracy these days, rather than treating a huge fraud as a minor issue requiring only a short correction. And Lara Logan, who reported the story, and Jeff Fager, who is both CBS News chairman and the executive producer of 60 Minutes, really need to be held more accountable for both the story itself and their response to its obvious problems after it aired. “We made a mistake and we’re sorry” just doesn’t cut it.

Jay Rosen has more here.


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