CBS' Lara Logan problem: Why is disgraced reporter returning to "60 Minutes"?

Months after Logan's discredited Benghazi report shamed the network, CBS gives her another shot. Here's the trouble

Published June 5, 2014 7:50PM (EDT)

Lara Logan          (Reuters/Bret Hartman)
Lara Logan (Reuters/Bret Hartman)

There was very little about Dylan Davies’ eyewitness account of the 2012 Benghazi attacks that seemed plausible. Sure, he had the proper credentials – he was a security contractor responsible for training the guard force at the diplomatic compound, and was in Benghazi the night of the attacks – but his story was outlandish and conspicuously difficult to corroborate.

According to Davies, after the attacks began he and a Libyan associate drove into Benghazi and sneaked into the Benghazi Medical Center, where he was the first person to identify the body of Ambassador Chris Stevens. Consumed by rage and a determination to save anyone who might still be alive, Davies set off on foot through the city, scaled the walls of the compound, and sneaked past dozens of militiamen until he was standing just feet from the burning villa where Stevens had lost his life. There, confronted by an armed guard, he bashed the terrorist’s face in with his rifle butt.

After sneaking back out of the compound, Davies decamped for his home in Wales where a detachment of FBI agents and State Department officials came to interview him and, according to Davies, were moved to tears by his heroism.

Every word of Davies’ account was a fabrication, contradicted by the official record and by Davies’ own after-action report. It was so far beyond the realm of plausibility that anyone but the most credulous sap would have regarded it with extreme skepticism. CBS News’ Lara Logan made it the centerpiece of her now-discredited bombshell “60 Minutes” Benghazi investigation last October.

In a just and equitable world, a journalist’s complicity in such gross and opportunistic fraud would be met with consequences. CBS News apparently has other ideas. Lara Logan, after a six-month leave of absence, is coming back to “60 Minutes.”

That doesn’t speak well of CBS News’ commitment to accountability. Nor does news that the network successfully petitioned Lexis Nexis to delete the transcript of Logan’s Benghazi report from their databases. The network did the right thing by retracting Logan’s report once its flaws were exposed and commissioning an internal review of her reporting, but now it seems like CBS would rather have the whole ugly episode just be forgotten.

A profile of Logan in New York magazine last month hinted that her time in journalistic purgatory was limited, and that her continued presence at the network after such a monumental screw-up was causing no small amount of friction. Senior voices within the network wanted her fired, but CBS News chairman Jeff Fager reportedly refused. “His decision sent a ripple of discontent through CBS News, prompting questions about Fager’s judgment,” New York’s Joe Hagan wrote.

“60 Minutes” hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory since Logan’s Benghazi story fell apart, botching reports on clean energy technology and getting caught adding muscle-car sound effects to a story on quiet-running electric vehicles. Either the network feels that it’s sufficiently addressed the mounting problems facing the program so that it can take on the added burden of Logan’s ruined reputation, or they just don’t really care.

Regardless, Logan’s return will only serve to increase scrutiny on the program. And if its recent track record holds, that can only mean more problems are in store for CBS News.

By Simon Maloy

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