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Benghazi and the Bombshell

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The next day, November 8, Simon & Schuster announced it was pulling the book out of circulation. Faced with overwhelming evidence that Davies had lied to Logan, Logan went on CBS This Morning and admitted, “We were wrong.”

Fager commissioned an internal investigation to clear the air after calling the segment “as big a mistake as there has been.” The report was drawn up by Al Ortiz, an executive director. Ortiz noted that Davies had confessed to 60 Minutes that he lied to Blue Mountain about his whereabouts on the night of the Benghazi attack, which should have been a “red flag.”

“The fact that the FBI and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to 60 Minutes was knowable before the piece aired,” he wrote.

Ortiz concluded that Logan’s speech in Chicago conflicted with CBS News standards and that the segment should have been clear about the source of the information behind its claim that Al Qaeda propagated the attack.

Now the news division is wracked by soul searching. “The party line that Jeff is taking—‘She’s got to make amends for her transgression’—is to perpetuate the fiction that these pieces belong to the correspondents,” says Steven Reiner, a former 60 Minutes producer who once worked with Logan, “which 60 Minutes has to perpetuate. She’s got to take the hit. But he’s really saying, ‘We failed her; the system failed her.’ ”

During an internal teleconference, Moonves expressed shock that Fager had not continued the practice of having an outside screener before airtime, the one-time role of Linda Mason, according to a person familiar with his comment. (That role has since gone to Ortiz.)

The day the report was made public, Fager announced that Logan and McClellan would be put on indefinite leave of absence. But following quickly on the heels of the Benghazi report, a series of 60 Minutes segments came under fire, starting with a positive profile of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos by Charlie Rose and a report on the NSA by correspondent John Miller that hewed closely to the NSA’s public-relations message. Both segments shared a similar critique: The show was going soft, selling its airtime for exclusive access.

But Fager has been loath to admit further weakness. “His attitude is always ‘Fuck them, we’re 60 Minutes,’ ” says a former producer on the program. “ ‘And we’re the greatest thing in the world.’ ”

The atmosphere at CBS has been toxic in recent months. Producers and correspondents tell me they do not feel empowered to voice criticism. In the course of reporting this story, two people purporting to be staffers from the show sent me anonymous messages to express unhappiness about both Logan and Fager.

Fager has tried to keep Logan out of the spotlight: In recent months, she was scheduled to give several speeches for the Greater Talent Network, some paying as much as $50,000, but was advised by CBS to cancel the appointments. Other 60 Minutes correspondents filled in for her. Fager also took down his framed “Sexty Minutes” story. Logan has spent recent weeks in her house in Washington, D.C., “losing her mind” and “stressing out of her head,” according to one CBS source. Carole Cooper, her agent, who is married to Fager’s agent, Richard Leibner, has maintained a precarious negotiation with Fager over Logan’s return to 60 Minutes, which in recent weeks has not appeared certain.

And what about Les Moonves? A well-placed source at CBS suggests that he has soured on Logan. Through a spokesman, Moonves declined to comment.

So Lara Logan may, or may not, return in the fall season. Either way, the show must go on. Waiting in the wings is a new up-and-comer. Attractive, blonde, fluent in three foreign languages. Everybody is talking about 34-year-old Clarissa Ward. “Jeff’s very high on her,” says a 60 Minutes producer.


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