In the spring of 2008, Logan, in the midst of her divorce from her first husband, returned to the U.S. to follow Burkett. Unbeknownst to Logan and CBS, she was pregnant with Burkett’s child. And before that news was revealed, CBS News president Sean McManus had his own surprise: He made Lara Logan the chief foreign-affairs correspondent for CBS News.
By now, Jeff Fager had officially replaced Don Hewitt, who retired as executive producer of 60 Minutes in 2004. He had also become a Lara Logan convert. While she filed regular reports for the CBS Evening News, the number of segments Logan did for 60 Minutes ramped up under Fager. Almost all of them focused on military figures and assorted heroics: “Staff Sgt. Giunta’s Medal of Honor”; “A Relentless Enemy”; “Combat in Afghanistan”; “The Silver Star”; “Kidnapped in Basra”; “Ambush in Afghanistan.” She’d also done a glowing profile of Erik Prince, the CEO of Blackwater, the military contractor hired by the government to protect U.S. officials and American compounds. Within 60 Minutes, the piece was viewed by fellow producers and correspondents as credulous and puffy.
Logan appeared protected by Fager. When the news of her Baghdad affairs was trumpeted in the New York Post under the headline “Sexty Minutes,” Fager hung a framed copy in his office.
Her stories fit a trend at Fager’s 60 Minutes: more and more segments with a patriotic theme, not only by Logan but also by Scott Pelley, who did his own square-jawed delivery while glorifying military heroism.
In addition to hedging against charges of left-wing bias, Fager was replacing an Old Guard fast fading from the screen, especially the biggest stars like Mike Wallace. In the process, he was also dismantling Hewitt’s old system, in which correspondents had outsize power over the editorial direction.
Meanwhile, financial pressures and the speed of the news cycle were changing 60 Minutes. To gain exclusive interviews and make news, Fager began to rely more on books and movies as news pegs, including those produced by parent company CBS Corporation, which owns book publisher Simon & Schuster. This trend fit Fager’s emphasis on prebuilt access stories that captured the news and held on to the young-male demographic that was watching the NFL games leading into the program.
“Jeff believes in popular TV,” says a colleague. “The part of the business that involves reporting scary stories, on which you have to spend time and resources on investigations and fact-checking and sources—all of that annoys the hell out of him.”
In 2011, Moonves named Fager chairman of CBS News, calling him the “quintessential insider.” Fager would also oversee 60 Minutes, an unprecedented dual role. Fager chose a handpicked loyalist, Bill Owens, Scott Pelley’s friend and former producer, to run the day-to-day operations as executive editor. None of this meant that good news segments weren’t being made. But it meant that the institution had changed in a significant way: As chairman, Fager now attended regular meetings with Moonves, a situation that some CBS producers I spoke with felt implicitly compromised 60 Minutes’ independence from corporate influence. And Fager had also consolidated his own power. “Fager has gotten rid of any structural oversight,” says a former 60 Minutes producer. “He doesn’t like people challenging him. There’s nobody to go to if you have a problem.”
Logan built a domestic existence in Washington, D.C., with Burkett, whom she married around the time they had their first child. But she regularly flew overseas for war stories and was on the front news lines of the uprisings in Egypt that were part of the Arab Spring. It was the kind of story Logan lived for, charged with danger and historic import. But now she was a mother, and the chaos in Egypt created a dangerous and fluid situation for journalists. In early February, when President Hosni Mubarak attempted to crack down on the press, Anderson Cooper reported on CNN the harrowing tale of being attacked by a mob. A day later, an ABC News crew was carjacked and threatened with beheading. Logan was warned not to leave her hotel.
“She was told 15 different ways: ‘Do not leave the hotel after curfew,’ and she did,” says a person familiar with the events that transpired next. On February 3, Logan was detained by Egyptian security forces. Her Egyptian driver was badly beaten. The next day, she and her producer, Max McClellan, left the country.
Logan campaigned to go back as soon as possible. And about a week after leaving, Logan flew back to Cairo, unable to resist covering the events in Tahrir Square, which was now a powerful 24/7 spectacle.
She would later recount what happened next: She and her crew began to receive verbal threats from the crowd, which grew increasingly restive and violent. Logan said she was separated from her handlers and then assaulted by a mob of men who ripped off her clothes and groped her. “I didn’t want to let go of him,” she said of her bodyguard. “I thought I was going to die if I lost hold of him.” She was separated from her crew for 25 minutes, until a group of women and some Egyptian soldiers in the square came to her rescue, she later said.