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“Bordering On Checkbook Journalism”: If CBS Wants Its Reputation Back, A Better Explanation Is In Order

The comic figure of the braggart soldier first appears in Plautus’s play Miles Gloriosus in roughly 200 BC, although the Roman dramatist acknowledged a now-lost Greek model. So it’s surprising that somebody who’s spent as much time in war zones as 60 Minutes’ Lara Logan failed to recognize the type: a swaggering, self-anointed hero describing military feats nobody witnessed but him.

Bars near military bases around the world harbor fakers like Dylan Davies, aka “Morgan Jones,” as 60 Minutes called him, although they do have to be careful who they lie to. It’s mainly a tactic for fooling gullible women. I used to know a fellow whose girlfriend forgave his drunken blackouts because of his terrible experiences in Vietnam—a war that ended when he was nine.

That said, Lara Logan’s apparent naiveté is far from the most objectionable thing about CBS’s ill-fated attempt to pander to the far right’s odd obsession with the Benghazi tragedy. See, 60 Minutes’ October 27 episode supposedly falsifying the Obama administration’s version of what happened that terrible night in Libya wasn’t so much TV journalism as an infomercial for a book in which CBS had a financial stake—a manifest conflict of interest 60 Minutes neglected to mention until called its hand.

Exactly how generous an advance Simon & Schuster’s “Threshold Editions” bestowed upon Davies for his heroic tale about singlehandedly fighting his way into the besieged U.S. compound where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three fellow Americans were killed by a terrorist mob hasn’t been revealed. Presumably enough, however, to give the one-time British mercenary ample reason to concoct a narrative pleasing to its readers’ expectations.

Having previously published books by such innovators in the art of storytelling as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Jerome Corsi, Threshold editors would appear to be less than rigorous about fact-checking. So excuse me for saying so, but that makes Davies virtually a paid source, and 60 Minutes a practitioner of checkbook journalism that could ruin its well-deserved reputation.

Nothing about the way CBS handled the ensuing controversy gave confidence. After boasting that its report raising “lingering questions” about Benghazi was the result of a year’s reporting and over 100 interviews, the network stonewalled as obvious flaws in its reporting began to appear.

Within three days of the 60 Minutes broadcast, the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung learned that Davies had submitted a written incident report to Blue Mountain, his British-owned employers—a version in which nothing he told Lara Logan he’d seen and done at the U.S. compound that night could possibly be true, because he’d never actually gone there.

“Immediately,” wrote Jay Rosen at, “the CBS report is in deep trouble. And anyone with a clear mind can see that. Except the people at CBS. When your key source tells two different stories, something is seriously amiss.”

Instead, a CBS spokesman announced, “We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday.”

Translation: “We’re 60 Minutes, and you’re not.”

Two days later, Davies gave The Daily Beast an interview claiming he’d neither written nor seen the incident report with his name on it, although he admitted lying to his bosses because “he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders to stay at his villa” that night.

So CBS’s source now says he’s told two different stories. Did Logan and her producers know that? If so, shouldn’t 60 Minutes have explained to begin with? If not, exactly what did a year’s reporting consist of?

Well, you can see where this is going. In a classic con-man’s bluff, Davies also told The Daily Beast that he’d told State Department and FBI investigators exactly what he’d told 60 Minutes.

Meanwhile, mum remained the word at CBS. They stood by their story. Period. Mystifyingly, Logan assured the New York Times that “If you read the book, you would know he never had two stories. He only had one story.”

So the incident report is a forgery? Wow, that would be news.

Who wrote it, Michelle Obama?

Then on November 7, the hammer dropped: The New York Times produced the FBI report: “Dylan Davies, a security officer hired to help protect the United States Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, gave the FBI an account of the night that terrorists attacked the mission on Sept. 11, 2012 that contradicts a version of events he provided in a recently published book and in an interview with the CBS News program 60 Minutes.

So last Sunday, they sent Logan out to apologize: “The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth,” she said, “and the truth is we made a mistake.”

Sorry, but that simply won’t do. Lara Logan’s a formidable figure and 60 Minutes has long defined TV journalism. But if CBS wants its reputation back, a better explanation is in order.


By: Gene Lyons, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 13, 2013

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Journalism, Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Outside Commission Here”: Lara Logan Won’t Lose Her Job Because CBS Doesn’t Fear Liberals The Way It Fears Conservatives

In case you haven’t heard, CBS News is in a bit (but only a bit) of hot water over a story 60 Minutes recently aired about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. It centered on a breathless account from a security contractor, who just happened to have written a book about it being published by a conservative imprint of a publishing house owned by CBS (that’s synergy, baby). He told of the harrowing events of that night, including his own heroism and the spinelessness of the big shots who sit in their cushy offices while men of action like him do what must be done and get hung out to dry. The only problem was, he appears to be a liar who fabricated much of what 60 Minutes relayed in the story, which was reported by Lara Logan.

After insisting for weeks that everything in its story checked out, CBS finally conceded that the contractor, one Dylan Davies, was lying to them and through them to their audience. On Sunday night, Logan delivered an extraordinarily half-assed on-air apology, full of passive verbs and obfuscations plainly intended to minimize the whole thing; most critically, it gave no indication that CBS is going to make any effort to figure out why it happened. So who’s going to be punished for this enormous screw-up? I’ll tell you who: Nobody.

We’ll get to why in a moment. This incident has been compared to the one that occurred back in 2004, when Dan Rather aired a report on 60 Minutes II relying on documents purporting to show the steps taken by George W. Bush and his family to get him into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air Guard so that he wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam, and documenting what he did and didn’t do once he got in. The documents proved to be forgeries (essentially an effort to frame a guilty man, but that’s a topic for another day), and the fallout was severe. 60 Minutes II was canceled, four producers were fired, and Rather himself, despite a storied decades-long career at CBS, was pushed out as well; he gave his last broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News in the spring of 2005 (here’s the whole story).

A lot of people thought it happened because Dan Rather was a liberal who was out to get Bush. There’s no doubt where Lara Logan stood on Benghazi; here’s a speech she gave in 2012, making clear her belief that investigations are for pussies and what the U.S. needed to do was start killing some people posthaste: “The last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole, which was a prelude to the 1998 embassy bombings, which was a prelude to 9/11,” she said. “And you’re sending in FBI to investigate? I hope to God that you’re sending in your best clandestine warriors who are going to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, that its ambassadors will not be murdered, and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.” With the talk of “exact[ing] revenge,” Logan sounded less like a journalist who values the perception of fairness and objectivity and more like a right-wing radio host. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she was incapable of subsequently producing careful, accurate reporting on the topic. The problem is, she didn’t.

But Logan won’t get pushed out like Rather did. The first reason is that Rather was heading toward the end of his career; folks at CBS were already looking past him. Logan, on the other hand, is young, beautiful (this is television we’re talking about, after all), and perceived as a rising star. But much more important is that there was an organized campaign to get Rather, and there isn’t an organized campaign to get Logan, at least not one that CBS fears.

It’s true that Media Matters has been criticizing this story from the beginning, though it hasn’t actually called for Logan or anyone else to get fired (full disclosure: I worked at Media Matters from 2005 to 2009). But it’s basically alone. There aren’t Democratic senators holding hearings, there aren’t a hundred left-wing radio hosts drumming up outrage, and there’s little visible pressure coming from the White House to encourage heads to roll. In the case of the National Guard report, the conservative movement put on a top-to-bottom, full-court press to make sure Dan Rather was punished. They had hated him for years, and when they got their chance they did everything in their power to crush him.

The plain fact of it is that news organizations like CBS are afraid of the right, but they aren’t afraid of the left. Big media outlets like CBS are terrified of right-wing pressure campaigns, precisely because most journalists are, in fact, liberals. That doesn’t mean the news has a liberal bias (there are lots of biases in the news, and reporters injecting their ideological beliefs about policy into their stories is about the 20th most consequential), but it does mean that they’re overly sensitive about being called liberal. The way they usually handle that fear is to bend over backward to be contemptuous of Democrats and to take every opportunity they can to prove that they aren’t what conservatives say they are.

If Logan got fired for this—or if anybody got fired for this—well that would only be taken by the right as evidence that those liberals at CBS will do Barack Obama’s bidding. And that’s the last thing they want to be seen as doing. After the National Guard story, CBS went so far as to hire an outside commission to investigate; it produced a 224-page report on the matter, and all those people got fired, including the news division’s biggest star. Is it going to do anything similar with the Benghazi story debacle? I wouldn’t bet on it. More likely CBS is just going to say, we made some mistakes but it’s all in the past now, and we have full confidence in Lara Logan’s journalistic integrity and professionalism. Move along, nothing to see here.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 12, 2013

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Journalism, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“60 Minutes, 90 Seconds”: CBS News, Lindsey Graham And The Exploitation Of Fools Gold

The 90-second “apology” aired on 60 Minutes last night for the shabby reporting and conflicts of interest associated with Lara Logan’s Benghazi! report two weeks ago was, quite literally, the least CBS and its beleaguered reporter could do. Here’s the story , via the New York Times‘ Stelter and Carter:

Ms. Logan said that Dylan Davies, one of the main sources for a two-week-old piece about the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, had misled the program’s staff when he gave an account of rushing to the compound the night the attack took place. “It was a mistake to include him in our report. For that, we are very sorry,” Ms. Logan said.

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.

HuffPost’s Jack Mirkinson summarized the reaction of media critics as notably unimpressed:

Predictably, her Sunday mea culpa offered little insight into why Davies was chosen as the key source for the report, and why “60 Minutes” had so fervently defended him, even amid mounting evidence of his unreliability. Also unmentioned was what role, if any, corporate ties played in placing Davies at the heart of the piece. A conservative imprint of Simon and Schuster, which is also owned by CBS, had published a book about Benghazi by Davies. That book has since been recalled.

The lack of investigative zeal exhibited by this showcase of investigative journalism–before, during and after the episode aired–is interesting. You almost wonder if the folk at CBS aren’t smirking behind their hands that they’ve finally managed to get the ancient “liberal bias” monkey off their backs in one fell swoop.

Unfortunately, a messed-up report that raises more questions than it answers provides still more cannon-fodder for congressional Republicans, particularly Sen. Lindsey Graham, who seems about ten minutes away from threatening a fresh government shutdown if he doesn’t get everyone’s attention when he regales South Carolina conservatives with his latest “investigations” of Benghazi!

As WaPo’s Emily Heil notes:

The South Carolina Republican’s umbrage was apparently inspired by a segment he’d caught on “60 Minutes” featuring a man claiming to be an eyewitness to the violence. But on Friday, CBS reporter Lara Logan retracted the story, explaining that she and her team had been duped by a source in whom they no longer “had confidence.”

Graham isn’t walking back on the pledge to hold up President Obama’s nominees, though. Like a bell that can’t be un-rung, he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” nothing’s changed.

Of course not. Graham’s exploitation of the fool’s gold of Benghazi! will never end until he was won renomination in 2014 or is finally dragged out the Senate kicking and screaming. But Logan and 60 Minutes have, I am sure, earned his undying gratitude for making the subject topical again.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, November 11, 2013

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Journalism, Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Real ‘60 Minutes’ Revelation”: Democrats Are Now The Regular Guys, Conservatives Are The Weirdos

I can actually see, to some extent, the point of conservatives’ complaints about the Obama-Hillary 60 Minutes interview. It was softbally, and Steve Kroft’s one real question—to Clinton, about whether she felt any guilt or remorse over Benghazi—she totally didn’t answer. But here, conservatives, is what you are missing and what you need to reckon with. Americans—except you—like these two people. Most Americans look at the pair of them—this black man who is still remote in some ways and this so-familiar woman who is now aging before us and allowing herself to look just a little frumpy—and feel reassured. Most Americans are cheering for them, and hence, most Americans probably wanted a softball interview. We have thus passed an important portal in American politics: Democrats are now the regular guys. Conservatives are the weirdos.

First, about the interview. These are not two of your more forthcoming interview subjects. I’ve never sat with Obama, but I have interviewed Clinton on a number of occasions, including one big 90-minute-or-so sit-down back in 2000. She told me some very interesting things: she likes Thomas Hardy, she was overwhelmed by her visit to the Olduvai Gorge, she takes a keen interest in ancient civilizations, she loves the Three Stooges, and she knows the theme song to The Flintstones. But on policy, she gave me nothing. A total Heisman. My heart sank to the floor as I listened back over the tape and realized that answer after answer wasn’t going to make news after all. Obama is no different. Rare is the interview that finds him saying anything genuinely arresting.

But he did say something interesting to Kroft, and she did too, which was this: they were both wholly believable and ingenuous when they were talking about their own political relationship. When Obama said, in reference to repairing the ruptures of 2008, “I think it was harder for the staffs, which is understandable, because, you know, they get invested in this stuff in ways that I think the candidates maybe don’t,” I thought: that rings really true. And I’d bet most Americans did too.

Obama and Clinton talked, in other words, like mature adults, and they sold it as genuine because it was genuine. And I’d contend that it made most people watching feel something like: Well, these are very smart and self-assured people, and they’re mostly pretty likable, too, and agree or disagree with this or that decision they make or action they take, I feel like my country is in pretty good hands with them. And yes, to invoke the hackneyed litmus-test question—I’d drink a beer, or a pinot, or in HRC’s case a shot of Crown Royal, with them. To everyone but right-wingers, that was the vibe Sunday night—a victory lap, and a victory lap that no one begrudged them.

They’re the real Americans now. It’s not that they have changed, but that America has. The measures for real Americanism are no longer clearing brush, hunting elk, hopping on top of various animals, dropping one’s g’s (in speech, I mean), and speaking in intentionally ungrammatical apothegmatic frontier “wisdom.” The new measures? Not completely sure yet. But we do have now the collective realization that those were fake measures—some Harvey Mansfield–inspired Potemkin Village of “real America.” Also, the collective realization that it’s probably on balance not at all a bad idea for the president not to be “just like us,” which was the folk wisdom of a decade ago, but in fact a little smarter than most of us.

The Republicans? It’s not just the extreme ideology. Of course it’s that, but it’s more. The whole shtick is old. Where once the Middle American ear may have been soothed by that low Cheney rumble belching out its grave assessments of the world situation, today it is accosted by all those caliginous Southern accents warning of socialism and collapse, and thinks: will these people ever shut up? Georgia Congressman Paul Broun told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that Obama “upholds … the Soviet Constitution.” On any given week, I could fill a whole column, or two, with such nuggets. Enough already.

While Obama and Clinton were speaking, so was Paul Ryan, to a conservative gathering, where he said: “There are two ways to respond to defeat: Either you can deny it, or you can learn from it. I choose to learn from it. The way I see it, our defeat is all the more reason to lay out our vision with even more specifics—and with a broader appeal.”

What he’s saying there, and throughout the speech, is that the GOP isn’t going to change its stripes a bit. “Broader appeal” means I suppose better (read: more dishonest) packaging for a bunch of reactionary policies that Americans don’t want.

Conservatives, you can call me and others like me all the names you want, and you can whine about the evil CBS all you want. But Kroft and his network were actually in touch here with the pulse of the country, which wants Obama to succeed and Hillary to go have a nice long rest (and, maybe, get ready for 2016). Meanwhile, even Roger Ailes has gotten sick of Sarah Palin. Get the picture?


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2013

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Other Mitt”: No Health Insurance? Romney Says “Freeloading” In The ER Is Now All Good

Whether you support the candidacy of Mitt Romney or not, we all should be able to agree that his experience as Governor of Massachusetts—at the time when the first universal healthcare law in the nation was conceived and placed into operation—makes him something of an expert on the subject of health care economics.

And that is precisely what makes his comments during last night’s edition of “60 Minutes” all the more bizarre.

When asked whether the nation has a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who do not currently have coverage, the Governor responded;

“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

Never mind that ‘60 Minutes’ interviewer Scott Pelly was quick to accurately point out that ER care is the most expensive form of treatment that one can access. What is far more interesting is that the remark so clearly puts Governor Romney at odds with the other candidate seeking the presidency—and I don’t mean Barack Obama.

I refer, of course, to the ‘other’ Mitt who seems to come and go at various moments in the campaign, offering up direct contradictions to the positions of the Mitt Romney we watched last night on the CBS news show.

You see, it was the ‘other’ Mitt who said during a 2010 interview over at MSNBC—

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility.”

And it was the ’other’ Mitt who told Glenn Beck in a 2007 interview—

“When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is. ”

Apparently, when 2002 Mitt Romney decided to divorce himself and split into two, distinct entities, the ‘other’ Mitt Romney gained possession of the Governor’s cognitive skills —including the ability to recall why Romney supported the Massachusetts universal care effort in the first place. It was, after all, 2002 Mitt Romney who often highlighted the inefficiency of emergency room care as the sole option for uninsured Massachusetts residents, allowing them to get free care while those who are insured are left to pay the bill.

It would also appear that it was the ‘other’ Mitt Romney who gained custody of the understanding that while our laws require emergency rooms to treat patients in an effort to stabilize their health condition, the law does not require the treatment that can ultimately restore all of these patients to health.

As noted by the current incarnation of the GOP candidate, when a patient turns up at the ER with severe stomach pain, that patient will be treated until her condition is stabilized. But it is the ‘other’ Mitt Romney who understands that, when the tests administered in the ER reveal that the patient has Stage One stomach cancer, it will not be up to the ER to administer the six months of chemotherapy that will be required to save the patient’s life. For that, the patient better be insured or face a truly precarious situation.

The ‘other’ Romney understands that ER care is insufficient to truly treat many patients and that, even when it was possible to get the desired result via ER care, it is the worst possible way to administer health care.

Here’s a thought—maybe current candidate Romney should consider getting rid of his failing campaign staff and see if he can entice the ‘other’ Mitt Romney to join the campaign as a strategist and adviser.

At the end of the day, I think we’d all be better off for it.


By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, September 24, 2012

September 25, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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