And just as important was the enthusiasm of Moonves. “The only person who pushed Lara on Don [Hewitt] was Les,” says a CBS staffer familiar with those events. “He said that Moonves loved her.”
Logan was not shy about letting people know she had a direct line to the boss. “She was very fond of saying, ‘I could end your career with a phone call,’ ” says a former CBS producer.
After the Iraq invasion, even Rather came to see her as a competitor, edging Logan off the air after the Iraqi capital was secured and he could safely broadcast from a fortified compound. When the story on prison abuses inside Abu Ghraib broke, Logan tried to cover it but was told to stand down—it was Rather’s story.
Rather, of course, was soon sidelined by Rathergate, which precipitated the end of his career and prompted a reorganization of the CBS News division that had the effect of buoying Logan’s career. Moonves appointed Sean McManus, a sports broadcasting executive, president of CBS News in 2005, and McManus immediately revamped the foreign coverage to make Logan a star correspondent.
Nobody thought of Lara Logan as particularly political, though producers and crew members I spoke with said she came to stories with strong biases, in keeping with the British press style she cut her teeth on. In some cases, her biases proved correct, like her insistence that Pakistan was a safe haven for terrorists, even as the U.S. government maintained that Pakistan was an ally. But Logan, and 60 Minutes, were partial to stories of military valor and combat—especially if Logan could co-star in them, which she often did, walking alongside generals and combat troops with whom she was embedded.
Her reputation began to precede her, not only within CBS, where she offended sensibilities by once showing up in a black bustier, but in the military camps where she courted sources. On a list of the top ten reasons to be deployed in Iraq that circulated among soldiers, “Lara Logan in a T-shirt” was ranked high. General David Petraeus had a picture of her in his office. Her proximity to the top brass and her devotion to military interests led to exclusives, like her 2006 interview with General John Abizaid, then the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, who described in emotional terms what it was like trying to manage a war with deteriorating support as Logan listened raptly.
Logan was soon running what amounted to her own CBS fiefdom in Baghdad. Her personal life was tightly woven into the tiny subculture of fellow foreign correspondents and the security contractors on whom they relied. Logan traveled with a team of former British special-forces soldiers employed by a security firm called Pilgrims Group, which guarded CBS’s bureau in Baghdad and ferried Logan to dangerous locales as well as more prosaic duties. She began an affair with Michael Ware, a swashbuckling correspondent for Time and CNN known for his emotional reportage from the streets of Baghdad.
By late 2007, Logan had another boyfriend in the wings: Joe Burkett, a government contractor in Baghdad who, Gawker uncovered, had worked for a firm called the Lincoln Group. Burkett was a former Texas Army National Guard member whose company did public relations for the military, courting reporters and trying to inject positive war stories into the media. Logan had met and dated Burkett once before in Afghanistan, but it became more serious when they reconnected in Iraq. He began paying regular visits to the CBS compound.
Nobody was as surprised by this turn of events as Ware. After a few drinks one night, Ware entered the CBS compound, walked up to her quarters on the second floor, and discovered Logan and Burkett in flagrante delicto. A loud fight ensued.
The blowup set off a series of events that highlight Logan’s unusual clout at CBS. In the preceding months, Logan’s relationship with her security guards had been fraying. She openly discussed her desire to change the contract to a rival security company, Blue Hackle. “She made it very clear she was trying to get rid of Pilgrims and bring in Blue Hackle,” says a person familiar with the situation. With tensions high, Logan blamed Pilgrims for letting Ware enter her quarters when its people knew she was with Burkett. And the contract was given to Blue Hackle. “A lot of people were pissed,” says a former CBS News employee. “Pilgrims’ guys were friends with a lot of people.”
Burkett, who was separated from his wife in Texas at the time of the affair with Logan, would join Logan while she pursued news stories for CBS. Some CBS staffers wondered why she was consorting with a mysterious contractor who turned out to be a government propagandist.