November 8, 2013

CBS News | Huffington Post | The New York Times | Slate | The Daily Beast

Friday morning, “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan apologized for a report on Benghazi marred by conflicting stories from the show’s key source, contractor Dylan Davies.

Until Friday morning, Logan and CBS have stood by their reporting.

“The most important thing to every person at ’60 Minutes’ is the truth,” Logan said on “CBS This Morning.” “And today, the truth is that we made a mistake.”

That mistake first aired on “60 Minutes” October 27. It centered on the account of “Morgan Jones.” Here’s what’s happened since.

Oct. 29: Slate runs an excerpt from Jones’ new book, “The Embassy House,” where he recounts the attack on the Libyan embassy, which he reports to have witnessed first hand.

This is how it went down.

Shortly after nightfall 50 gunmen from the Shariah Brigade—a Libyan militia tied to al-Qaida—rushed the Mission, and were able to gain access via the pedestrian entrance set to one side of the main gate. They did so by threatening the Blue Mountain guards with assault rifles and RPGs. Basically, the guards—who were unarmed and defenseless, because the State Department contract dictated that they be unarmed and defenseless—were ordered to open the side gate or else be killed.

October 31: Karen DeYoung reports in The Washington Post that Jones is really Dylan Davies and that he gave a different account of what happened that night to Blue Mountain, the contractor in charge of security at the compound. Davies wasn’t at the compound, but “he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, ‘we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.'”

Nov. 2: Eli Lake and Josh Rogin’s report in The Daily Beast provides the incident report and they speak with Davies, who denies writing the report. And he admits to The Daily Beast that he gave a conflicting report to his superior.

“I am just a little man against some big people here,” Davies said. “They can do things, make up things, anything they want, I wouldn’t stand a chance.” Davies said he did not know who leaked the report to the Post but said he suspected it was the State Department, an allegation that could not be independently corroborated. “It would not be difficult to do,” Davies said. “I knew I was going to come in for a lot of flack and you know mud slinging, so yeah I’d say it was them, but I can’t be sure.”

Nov. 4: The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reports that Davies admitted to lying to a superior about where he was that night, but that the version he told “60 Minutes” was, really, true.

Davies’ admission that he changed his story raises several questions for “60 Minutes.” Did the program know Davies once told a superior that he didn’t reach the compound? If not, will the network revisit the story? And if so, how did “60 Minutes” vet its eyewitness to be sure he’s now providing an accurate version of events?

Nov. 5: Bill Carter reports in The New York Times that Logan stands by the reporting, but that the network should have revealed that Davies’ book was being published by a CBS subsidiary, Simon and Schuster. Jeffrey Fager, chairman of CBS News, said they should have made the connection. “Honestly, it never factored into the story. It was a mistake; we should have done it, precisely because there’s nothing to hide. It was an oversight.” Logan also blames the response to the program to the political atmosphere surrounding the incident.

Nov. 6: Calderone reports that CBS stands by the show. And Fager responds to The Huffington Post in an e-mail. “Our effort was to give our viewers a better understanding about an event in which a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed,” Fager wrote. “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.” He does not answer questions about the conflicting reports.

Nov. 7: Bill Carter and Michael Schmidt report in The New York Times that Davies gave conflicting accounts to the F.B.I. about his whereabouts the night of the attack. “Mr. Davies told the F.B.I. that he was not on the scene until the morning after the attack.” That night, CBS News reports on their web site that 60 Minutes was reviewing the reports. “We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction.”

Nov. 8: The original report is no longer on CBS News’ website.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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