After finally retracting its inaccurate report on the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, 60 Minutes offered an apology in its Sunday night broadcast. During the show’s final minute and a half, Lara Logan, who interviewed security contractor Dylan Davies, said “we realized we had been misled, and it was a mistake to include him in our report.” Davies told Logan he went to the compound the night of the attack and saw Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead in a hospital, but that later turned out to be untrue. There was no explanation of why 60 Minutes fell for Davies’s lies, nor what the show and CBS were doing to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. A CBS spokesperson indicated to the New York Times that “the program was going to let its televised apology be its last word on the issue.”
Many media critics share the impression that Logan’s televised apology was thin. New York contributing editor Gabriel Sherman tweeted that “A show w/ reporting legacy of 60 Minutes should have turned its reporting muscle back on itself to explain to viewers what happened, and why.” And the left-wing group Media Matters has been crying foul since the story aired. But CBS News chairman Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of 60 Minutes, told the Times the network had not initiated an investigation into the debacle.
That sure contrasts CBS’s response to Dan Rather’s 2004 report on then-president George W. Bush’s National Guard service, which turned out to be based on faulty documents. That time the network did investigate, and fired four producers. Rather left his anchor job shortly after he admitted to flawed reporting. A more recent example of how a respected news show deals with getting duped comes to us from This American Life, which devoted an entire episode to parsing how it had fallen for Mike Daisey’s fabricated tale of his visit to a factory making Apple products.
Sources at CBS told Politico’s Dylan Byers that it appeared nobody at 60 Minutes asked anybody else in the network for help vetting Davies’s account during the year the show spent reporting its story. Those CBS News journalists could have helped it obtain the FBI’s account of Davies’s actions, they said.
Now, Logan and CBS are apparently just hoping this thing will blow over as fast as possible. At the end of her apology, she promised to “be back next week, with another edition of 60 Minutes.”