CBS Botches the "Benghazi" Apology

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 11 2013 10:56 AM

CBS Botches the "Benghazi" Apology

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It wasn't me.

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

On Friday I wrote about the amazingly successful campaign by progressive media-watchers to get 60 Minutes to apologize for its "Benghazi" story. But I gave short shrift to the current demand from Media Matters: that CBS conduct a "full investigation" of what went wrong, and why it ran a report tethered to the testimony of a defense contractor who had given superiors and the FBI a different account of 9/12/12 than he gave his book agent. 

Given how CBS News handled the screw-up, the Media Matters ask makes sense. Last night's "apology" put reporter Lara Logan—who claimed the Benghazi report was the product of a year of journalism—in front of a screen telling viewers that nothing was more important than the truth. It was basically what she'd told Norah O'Donnell in a previous in-house apology. It didn't explain how the producers apparently got buffalo'd by a source whose fresh story added drama but no facts to the story. Brian Stelter and Bill Carter checked in with the critics.

“Aside from the fact that it struck a very passive tone and pushed the responsibility onto the source, Dylan Davies, it said nothing about how the show failed to properly vet the story of an admitted liar,” Mr. Silverman said in an email. “There are basic questions left unanswered about how the program checked out what Davies told them, and where this process failed.”
“In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News,” said Paul Friedman, CBS’s executive vice president for news until 2011. “In the long term, a lot will depend on how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened — especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.”
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The liberal critics have their motives, sure, but in the meantime, if CBS doesn't explain what went wrong, the latest "break" in the Benghazi story continues to wither. And that's frustrating for the people who want to keep digging. "It appears to me as if they are trying to shoot the messenger here, rather than try to explain the total mishandling of this whole situation," John McCain told me for my story.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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