CBS News: Explain Discredited Report

CBS News: Explain Discredited Report

UPDATE 06/04/14: Lara Logan is back at work at 60 Minutes after a six-month leave of absence, even as questions linger over the network's investigation of her botched Benghazi report.

UPDATE 05/07/14: After a New York magazine article revealed problems with CBS' internal review of what went wrong at 60 Minutes, the network is facing calls to reopen the investigation under the supervision of an independent outsider.

UPDATE 11/26/13: For a play-by-play summary of the collapse of the 60 Minutes report, check out our timeline.

In the month since CBS News' faulty Benghazi report first aired:

• CBS News pulled the story;

• Simon & Schuster announced it would no longer publish Davies' “eyewitness” book;

• Correspondent Lara Logan offered corrections on CBS This Morning and 60 Minutes;

• CBS News conducted an internal review, finding that the report was “deficient in several respects;”

• and CBS News announced that correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan would take a leave of absence from 60 Minutes.

60 Minutes made errors at nearly every step of the reporting process. While questions still remain about why, it's important that the network is starting to clean up its mess -- and it wouldn't have happened without intense pressure from veteran journalists, media critics, and people like you.

Check out this short video showing our impact.

On the October 27 edition of 60 Minutes, CBS News presented an account from a British security contractor who claimed to be an eyewitness to the attack against U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. But the contractor's own incident report revealed that he was nowhere near the facilities and was instead at a beachside villa.

CBS News needs to either reconcile these contradictory details with its reporting or retract its story.

Sign the letter to Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, and Bill Owens, executive editor of 60 Minutes:

Dear Mr. Fager and Mr. Owens:

Since the October 27 edition of 60 Minutes aired, details have come to light that have cast doubt on the reliability of the Benghazi “witness” featured in the report, “Morgan Jones.” The Washington Post revealed that “Jones,” whose real name is Dylan Davies, previously reported to his security firm that he never got near the diplomatic compound the night of the attack because the roads were blocked. Davies' incident report directly contradicts the story he told on 60 Minutes.

Whether Davies lied to you or to his employer, this discrepancy needs to be addressed if CBS News wants to preserve its reputation as a trusted news organization.

Veteran journalists agree that the new details raise questions about whether 60 Minutes properly reviewed Davies' story before it aired. “Other sources, even if those were off the record sources, they could have done something to address this discrepancy,” said Kelly McBride, ethics instructor at The Poynter Institute and co-author of the new book the New Ethics of Journalism. Dave Cuillier, Society of Professional Journalists president, agreed: “Accuracy's number one and we've got to get it right and if we don't, which is going to happen inevitably, then we need to correct it. That applies in every situation, whether it's an obit in the Green Valley News or 60 Minutes.”

What's more, CBS Corporation owns Simon & Schuster, which published Davies' “eyewitness” memoir about the attack. The ties between 60 Minutes and the publisher of Davies' book were not disclosed when 60 Minutes was promoting Davies' story. Given the financial relationships involved, it's especially concerning that CBS News did not properly address the discrepancy between Davies' accounts.

In 2004, when questions were raised about 60 Minutes' reporting on documents involving President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News appointed an independent panel “to help determine what errors occurred in the preparation of the report and what actions need to be taken.” Following the investigation, CBS News fired four producers connected to the story and chose not to renew correspondent Dan Rather’s contract.

CBS News needs to respond to this instance of questionable journalism with the same professionalism it displayed in the past.

Journalism and the facts matter. Explain the discrepancies, or retract the report.


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