Lara Logan has been ordered to take an indefinite leave of absence from the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" after an internal review found deep flaws in her reporting about the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Logan had earlier apologized for the report, which was sharply criticized after it was broadcast. But in the review made public Tuesday, CBS said Logan's Oct. 27 segment on the 2012 Benghazi raid was "deficient" and did not adequately vet the supposed eyewitness story of "Morgan Jones," a security consultant whose real name is Dylan Davies.
CBS also faulted the 42-year-old Logan for having a conflict of interest in covering the story, since she was already on record as accusing the U.S. government of lying about the attack. In doing so, she had leaped into the political fray along with many conservative critics who had accused the Obama administration of covering up details of the attack and the role of Al Qaeda.
"60 Minutes" "fell short by broadcasting a now discredited account of an important story, and did not take full advantage of the reporting abilities of CBS News that might have prevented it from happening," Jeff Fager, who serves as both chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," wrote in a statement.
Fager added: "I pride myself in catching almost everything, but this deception got through and it shouldn't have." Fager said that Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, had agreed to his request that they take leaves of absence; their return dates were left unspecified. A CBS spokesman declined to elaborate beyond Fager's statement.
The turn of events amounts to the biggest black eye for CBS News since 2004, when the network and its then-anchor Dan Rather broadcast documents that purported to raise questions about President George W. Bush's military service. That report aired just weeks before the presidential election, touching off a political firestorm. An outside review later found that CBS had failed to authenticate those documents. Rather subsequently left the network and filed a suit claiming breach of contract; the case was ultimately dismissed.
Logan's report, which asserted that Al Qaeda was behind the Benghazi raid, used Davies as a key source because he offered dramatic, never-before-heard testimony about what happened that night. During the on-camera interview, Davies even said he had seen the battered body of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. diplomat slain in the attack. But the CBS review said Davies had given "varying and conflicting accounts of his story," undermining his credibility.
That Davies said he had lied to his employer about his whereabouts the night of the raid "should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process," wrote Al Ortiz, a CBS News executive in charge of standards and practices who filed the report.
Ortiz also wrote that CBS had made a mistake in not disclosing to viewers that Davies was behind a book about the Benghazi case published by a CBS-owned imprint. The publisher recalled the book earlier this month after questions were raised about Davies' story.
CBS says now that Logan should not have been covering the Benghazi story at all. In October 2012, shortly before she began working on the segment, Logan gave a speech to a foreign-policy group in which she blasted the U.S. government for its response to the Benghazi attack. The report concluded that "there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story."
In that speech, which is available on YouTube, Logan said: "I knew that we were being lied to and I knew that the American people were being misled.... I don't know a journalist that likes being lied to."