CBS walking back 60 Minutes Benghazi story
CBS is walking back part of its 60 Minutes story on Benghazi because the security officer who wrote the book upon which the segment was based told a much different story to the FBI following the attack.
Appearing as "Morgan Jones" on the show, Dylan Davies, a security officer who helped train the Libyan militia charged with security at the Benghazi site, told the FBI a much different story than the one he wrote about in his book and related to CBS.
The CBS correspondent for the segment, Lara Logan, apologized on Friday morning and indicated that show will "correct the record" on Sunday night.
At issue are two reports that contradict Davies' version of events; a report issued by the private security firm he was working for and an FBI interview following the attack.
Davies swears that the report from the security firm is wrong because he never authorized it, didn't write it, and didn't sign off on it. But he has yet to explain why the FBI was able to confirm most of what was in the security company's report.
The contradictions between the versions offered in the incident report and what was presented on television and in the book, "The Embassy House" - Mr. Davies appeared on the program and wrote the book under the pseudonym Morgan Jones - have led to questions about how "60 Minutes" came to present Mr. Davies as a credible source for its extensive report on the Benghazi incident.
The incident report described Mr. Davies as remaining at the villa he occupied in Libya and not getting to the scene on the night of the attack. In the version he wrote in his book and gave to "60 Minutes," Mr. Davies said he left the villa that night to visit a hospital where he said he saw the body of the deceased ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and twice rushed to the scene of the attack.
At the compound, he said, he had a confrontation with an attacker, whom he dispatched with a blow to the face with a rifle butt.
Jennifer Robinson, a spokeswoman for the book's publisher, Threshold Editions, which is part of the Simon and Schuster unit of CBS, said, "Although we have not seen the F.B.I. report, in light of these revelations we will review the book and take appropriate action with regard to its publication status."
Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," said Thursday, "We're surprised to hear about this, and if it shows we've been misled, we will make a correction."
But CBS had all along acknowledged that Mr. Davies had also been interviewed by the F.B.I. The network had suggested that the agency's interview would corroborate Mr. Davies's account on "60 Minutes." Instead, the disclosure that the F.B.I. interview matched the incident report leaves CBS facing more questions about the primary source for its investigation.
Davies wouldn't be the first author to spice up an account of a news event when writing a book, putting himself closer to the action than he actually was. What's worse, is that he apparently lied to CBS about what was in the FBI report:
Mr. Davies told the F.B.I. that he was not on the scene until the morning after the attack.
The information he provided in an F.B.I. interview was described on Thursday by two senior government officials as consistent with an incident report by the Blue Mountain security business, which had been hired to protect United States interests in Benghazi. The officials who spoke said they had been briefed on the government investigation.
Ms. Logan said Friday that CBS was unaware of that incident report when it produced its story, suggesting failures during the reporting process.
"He denied that report," Ms. Logan said, "and he said that he told the F.B.I. the same story that he had told us. But what we now know is that he told the F.B.I a different story to what he told us. And, you know, that was the moment for us when we realized that we no longer had confidence in our source. And that we were wrong to put him on air."
Ms. Logan said that since learning about the F.B.I. report, CBS has tried to contact Mr. Davies but has not heard back from him.
The lengthy apology on Friday, highly unusual for any news organization, was all the more notable because it came from "60 Minutes," one of the most esteemed newsmagazines on American television.
"The most important thing to every person at '60 Minutes' is the truth, and today the truth is that we made a mistake," Ms. Logan said.
Even though it shouldn't, this revelation will shake the credibility of those who have been working for more than a year to challenge the dominant narrative on Benghazi and get to the bottom of what happened. The fact that there are several eyewitnesses who still dispute the adminstration's version of events will matter less thanks to Mr. Davies' lies.
And it puts a lot less pressure on the White House and State Department to stop stonewalling Congress.