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CBS apologizes for Benghazi report that bolstered GOP

CBS News has apologized for a flawed “60 Minutes” report on last year’s Benghazi attacks, after the credibility of the report’s central source was questioned.
A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames
A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012.

CBS News correspondent Lara Logan apologized Friday for a flawed 60 Minutes report on the 2012 Benghazi attacks that conservatives had seized on to bolster their case against the Obama administration's response to the episode.

“The truth is we made a mistake,” Logan said on CBS This Morning, adding: “We will apologize to our viewers and we will correct the record on our broadcast on Sunday night.”

The report dovetailed perfectly with tireless efforts by Republicans to embarrass the administration and Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in the Libyan city. The GOP has claimed the administration was culpable for a botched response to the incident, in which four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed. The 60 Minutes piece was quickly touted by Republicans in Congress aiming to refocus public attention on the Benghazi episode.  

The rare and lengthy apology, a black eye for the prestigious and long-running news program, comes after the credibility of the report’s central source appeared to disintegrate. In the Oct. 27 report, Dylan Davies, a British security contractor working with the State Department, told Logan on camera that he had rushed to the U.S. compound in Benghazi the night of the attacks. Davies dramatically recounted how he used the butt of his rifle to take out an attacker and said he later saw Stevens' dead body during a clandestine visit to a Benghazi hospital. Davies characterized what he deemed as inadequate security—a view that formed a key part of the report’s indictment of the administration’s response to the attacks.

But Davies' story soon fell apart. According to an incident report compiled by his employer, Blue Mountain—and first reported on by The Washington Post last week—Davies told the company that he stayed at his Benghazi villa the night of the attack and hadn’t gone to the compound until the following morning.

In an interview with The Daily Beast last week, Davies explained the discrepancy by saying that he had lied to his employer, fearing that he’d be reprimanded for going to the consulate without authorization. He said the account he gave to 60 Minutes—and in a book he wrote under the pseudonym 'Morgan Jones'—was accurate. 60 Minutes also said earlier this week that it stood by the story.

But on Thursday evening, The New York Times reported that Davies had also given the FBI an account of the night’s events that was consistent with Blue Mountain’s incident report. Knowingly lying to the FBI could be a crime.

“That's when we realized that we no longer had confidence in our source, and that we were wrong to put him on air,” Logan told CBS This Morning Friday.

Since the Benghazi attack, conservatives have waged a dogged campaign to focus attention on what they charge was the administration's botched response. Many right-wingers seized on the report in an attempt to discredit the Obama administration.

The day after the report aired, the Republican National Committee blasted out a press release titled “CBS News exposes Latest Benghazi blunders.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told Fox News that the report helped show that “the story told by the administration about what happened in Benghazi doesn't have an ounce of truth in it.” And Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican of Virgina, said the report demonstrated the need for a special Benghazi investigative committee—something Republicans have long been pushing for.

Fox News devoted extensive coverage to the 60 Minutes report. “I see criticism from the left where they go, 'You guys are covering a phony scandal,'” Fox News host Steve Doocy said during an interview with Graham. “60 Minutes doesn’t cover phony scandals.”

Earlier this week, Logan acknowledged that CBS erred by not disclosing that the publisher of Davies' book—The Embassy House —is Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is a unit of CBS. She called it “an oversight.” In fact, Threshold is the conservative imprint of the publishing house and has been led by Mary Matalin, a veteran Republican operative who worked for former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

The publisher announced on Friday that it is recalling the book. "In light of information that has been brought to our attention since the initial publication of The Embassy House, we have withdrawn from publication and sale all formats of this book, and are recommending that booksellers do the same. We also are notifying accounts that they may return the book to us," Threshold Editions spokesperson Jennifer Robinson said in a statement.

Other questions about Davies' reliability were raised last week when a Fox News correspondent revealed that he broke off contact with Davies after he asked for money. Logan said Friday that Davies never asked CBS for money.