“60 Minutes” briefly apologized Sunday night for its discredited Oct. 27 report on the attack on the American Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, but did not go into detail about the reporting errors that led to it.
At the end of Sunday’s episode, correspondent Lara Logan issued an apology and correction for the politically charged story, which was quickly seized upon by conservative leaders critical of the Obama administration’s response to the attack.
The primary source for the piece was State Department security officer Dylan Davies, who claimed to have rushed to the mission compound twice during the attack, and to have seen the body of U.S. Ambasassador Chris Stevens in a hospital.
“After our report aired, questions arose about whether his account was true when an incident report surfaced. It told a different story about what he did the night of the attack,” Logan explained, referring to a report obtained by the Washington Post and given to his employer, the Blue Mountain Group, in which Davies said he did not enter the mission compound until the morning following the seige.
Davies initially claimed he was the victim of a smear campaign, but on Thursday the New York Times confirmed that his report to the FBI was consistent with the Blue Mountain account.
“On Thursday night when we discovered the account he gave the FBI was different than what he told us, we realized we had been misled and it was a mistake to include him in the report,” Logan said. “For that we are very sorry. The most important thing to every person at ’60 Minutes’ is the truth and the truth is, we made a mistake.”
It was the second mea culpa in recent days for Logan, who appeared Friday on “CBS This Morning” to say the esteemed news magazine was “wrong” to trust Davies’ version of events. In that initial interview, Logan claimed that she and her team had thoroughly vetted Davies, who appeared on “60 Minutes” using the pseudonym “Morgan Jones,” checking his account against congressional testimony and U.S. government reports. She also said that “60 Minutes” had always been aware that Davies initially gave a contradictory account of the attack to his employer.
But to the disappointment of some media observers, on Sunday Logan did not go into detail about the reporting errors that led to the faulty story, which CBS News chairman Jeff Fager has called “as big a mistake as there has been” in the news program’s 45-year history.
Nor did she address allegations that “60 Minutes” was under corporate pressure to include Davies in the report. Last month Threshold Editions, an imprint of the CBS-owned Simon & Schuster, published “The Embassy House,” a book written by Davies under the Morgan Jones pseudonym. (The book has since been recalled.)
On Sunday night, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America called the apology “inadequate” and questioned why Logan’s report did not acknowledge Davies’ contradictory accounts.
The Benghazi fiasco has invited comparisons to a 2004 story critical of President George W. Bush’s National Guard record which aired on the spinoff program “60 Minutes II.” The authenticity of documents used in the report was called into question within hours of the broadcast. CBS later issued a retraction and convened an independent review panel to investigate the matter. The incident led to the firing of four producers, and to the eventual ouster of CBS News anchor Dan Rather.
So far CBS News has not indicated plans for a similar investigation into the Benghazi report.
[Updated at 9:40 a.m., Nov 11: When reached for comment, a “60 Minutes” spokesman said, “As soon as we had confirmation of a problem with this report on Thursday, we issued a statement to that effect; we then went on the air Friday morning to address it, correct it and apologize, spoke at length to media outlets about the matter and now have explained it to our audience in a correction on our broadcast.”]