A full week after serious doubts were raised concerning "60 Minutes'" report on a supposed eyewitness to the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, CBS has finally issued a terse two paragraph statement to announce they are "currently looking into" whether they were "misled" by their star witness.
Here's the full statement:
60 Minutes has learned of new information that undercuts the account told to us by Morgan Jones of his actions on the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound.
We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction.
The statement coincides with new information that appears to further undercut the "60 Minutes" report.
As initially reported by Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post, "Morgan Jones" is actually the pseudonym of Dylan Davies, a man who worked for the Wales-based security firm Blue Mountain. Davies was reportedly a British supervisor of security guards protecting the U.S. mission during the attack last year. In an Oct. 27 report this year, said by "60 Minutes" to have been a full year in the making, he told CBS reporter Lara Logan that on the night of the attack he scaled the 12-foot wall of the compound, confronted an attacker "with the butt end of a rifle" and later saw U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead in the hospital.
That account, however, as DeYoung first reported, is at complete odds with an incident report filed by Davies with Blue Mountain on the day after the attack, when he said he had been at his seaside villa throughout the siege that resulted in the deaths of four U.S. personnel, including the ambassador, whose charred body, Davies allegedly told his employer, he had seen in a photograph sent to him by a colleague.
CBS has, until now, refused to acknowledge the conflicting stories, saying only that they "strongly" stand by their reporting. They admitted only --- just earlier this week --- that they made a mistake by not disclosing that Davies' book was being published by a CBS subsidiary. Other than that, they stood by their story, even after Davies told the Daily Beast that he had lied to his employer initially in that next-day incident report.
According to the Daily Beast interview, however, Davies said the account on "60 Minutes" and in his book was the same one he supplied "to the FBI and various other U.S. agencies in the wake of the attack."
Now, that part of the story also seems to be collapsing, and that is likely why "60 Minutes" is finally beginning to question its own reporting.
In a report filed by the New York Times this evening, Bill Carter and Michael S. Schmidt are reporting that Davies "told the F.B.I. he did not go [to the diplomatic mission] the night terrorists attacked it on Sept. 11, 2012"...
The information he provided in an F.B.I. interview was described Thursday by two senior government officials as completely consistent with an incident report by the Blue Mountain security business, which had been hired to protect United States interests in Benghazi. The officials who spoke said they had been briefed on the government investigation.
Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," said Thursday, "We're surprised to hear about this, and if it shows we've been misled, we will make a correction."
Until Thursday night, CBS and reporter Logan had all vigorously defended both their report and Davies, claiming they were "proud of the reporting that went into the story."
Davies had also been undercut by no less than Fox "News," which has been trumpeting some form of a "scandal" at Benghazi for more than a year. Their reporter, Adam Housley, had said, the day after "60 Minutes'" report, that he stopped speaking to Davies over the past year, "when he asked for money."
We initially covered the questions about the "60 Minutes" report last week, after Media Matters for America's David Brock, author of the book "The Benghazi Hoax," penned a letter to CBS demanding a retraction of the story and a full investigation into what appeared to be a fabricated story by Davies.
Brock cited CBS' response to questions about "60 Minutes'" 2004 story on questions about George W. Bush's Air National Guard service (which turned out to be true, though the provenance of one of the documents used in the report was never able to be verified as authentic). Following that report by Dan Rather, CBS quickly launched a full investigation into the matter. "Similar standards must be applied in this case," Brock said in his letter last week to CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and its president, David Rhodes.
Last Sunday, the show aired letters praising its Benghazi report, but failed to note any of the controversies that had arisen in its wake.
On the KPFK/Pacifica Radio "BradCast" this week we interviewed Media Matters' Eric Boehlert who described the mess as a "slow motion train wreck." He struggled to explain the difference between the quick action taken by CBS and "60 Minutes" after the Bush/Rather report, versus the complete silence they had offered in regard to their star witness' conflicting stories in the two weeks following their Benghazi report.
The Bush/Rather story "absolutely exploded," he said, noting that it was front page news at both the New York Times and Washington Post two days after it initially aired and that "CBS was putting out a statement almost every day for the first five days." The CBS Evening News, he said, was addressing it night after night.
"It was full-on crisis management and eventually, about ten days later, CBS threw in the towel, slash, threw Dan Rather under the bus. And the political pressure, not only from the right-wing media, but from the Bush campaign, the entire Republican establishment was crushing CBS at the time," he explained.
Four CBS producers and Dan Rather all eventually lost their jobs after the investigation.
"This has been a much different timetable," Boehlert observed, "primarily because it's liberals who are upset. It's primarily because it's Democrats who are calling out CBS News. So what does the mainstream media do when they're under attack from the left? They just ignore it."
Perhaps. But it appears that both CBS and the bulk of the mainstream media will have trouble ignoring the apparent failures of the story at this point. As of Thursday night, the main page for the Benghazi story at the CBS News website appeared to have been removed without explanation, offering only a "page cannot be found" error to visitors.
UPDATE, 11/8/13: Lara Logan, "60 Minutes'" correspondent on the Benghazi story, who had defended it vigorously since its airing, pulls the plug. Appears on CBS "This Morning" to say, "We were wrong, we made a mistake"...