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In Reversal, CBS Retracts Account From '60 Minutes' Benghazi Source
Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 8:08 pm
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CBS News has retracted a key segment of a "60 Minutes" report that aired in late October. The story chronicled the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. As NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik reports, CBS had defended its stories - its story for days. This was despite growing doubts about the credibility of a source, a British security contractor.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The security officer's eyewitness account stood out for its emotional force. Dylan Davies recounted getting a desperate call on September 11th, 2012.
DYLAN DAVIES: And he said, they're all over the compound, and I felt shock. I didn't know what to say. And I said let's just keep fighting. I'm on my way.
FOLKENFLIK: Davies told CBS' Lara Logan that he scaled a 12-foot wall.
DAVIES: One guy saw me. He just shouted. I couldn't believe that he'd seen me because it was so dark. And he started walking towards me.
LARA LOGAN: And as he was coming closer...
DAVIES: As I got closer, I just hit him with the butt of the rifle in the face.
FOLKENFLIK: He made the same claims in a new book published by Simon & Schuster, a CBS company. But his tale now appears very much in doubt. Lara Logan delivered an abject apology to viewers today on "CBS This Morning."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CBS THIS MORNING")
LOGAN: You know, the most important thing to every person at "60 Minutes" is the truth. And today, the truth is that we made a mistake. And that's very disappointing for any journalist. It's very disappointing for me.
FOLKENFLIK: The interview started to unravel a few days after the broadcast. The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung reported that in a written after-action report, Davies had delivered a different version of events to superiors, saying he was not present at the compound. Davies told CBS and then The Daily Beast that he'd been trying to hide his actions from his boss because he wasn't supposed to be there and that the report had been leaked to smear him.
Michael Calderone is a senior media reporter at The Huffington Post.
MICHAEL CALDERONE: So, once your source admits that he lied about his whereabouts previously but is telling the truth now, I think you really have to tease out, is it true what he's saying now? And the news organization, CBS, really seemed to have little interest in that basic question.
FOLKENFLIK: Davies told CBS that his debriefings with the FBI would support him. But CBS says it learned only last night that he had told the FBI he wasn't at the mission during the attack. The "60 Minutes" report breathed new life in the Republican accusations that officials knew of al-Qaida involvement earlier than they admitted. But it also sparked criticism from the liberal watchdog Media Matters. Its CEO, David Brock, is closely allied with Hillary Clinton, then-secretary of state and now a likely presidential candidate. And CBS branded that criticism partisan. Again, Michael Calderone.
CALDERONE: And let's be honest, Benghazi has been a political football for more than a year. So in some sense, it's understandable that they would think politics could be at play. But if that was the situation, they let that override common sense.
FOLKENFLIK: CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager is also executive producer of "60 Minutes." He tells NPR the network mistakenly trusted Davies after reporters believed they had established his credibility. It took days, Fager said, to track down new damning evidence from the FBI after the broadcast.
Davies had also served as a source for others. Fox News' Adam Housley revisited his coverage before Davies' truthfulness was challenged.
ADAM HOUSLEY: Some of our reports for foxnews.com last fall included this "60 Minutes" witness' accounts. He spoke to me on the phone a number of times, and then we stopped speaking to him when he asked for money.
FOLKENFLIK: No word yet from Fox on those stories. Simon & Schuster is pulling the Davies book.
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That's David Folkenflik on NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.