CBS 60 Minutes Duped by Discredited Right Wing Conspiracy Propaganda

On last week’s 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. [1]

Journalistic malpractice? Tell CBS to fix this faulty reporting.

The 60 Minutes report largely hinged on revelations from “Morgan Jones,” who CBS News claimed “witnessed the attack.” In an interview with correspondent Lara Logan that sounded like the script for an action movie, “Jones” described scaling the wall at the burning compound, fighting off terrorists inside, and gaining access to the hospital to view the remains of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The CBS News report quickly fueled the ongoing right-wing politicization of the terror attack and provided renewed vigor to accusations of a “Benghazi cover-up.” [2]

The problem? “Jones,” whose real name is Dylan Davies, previously wrote that he “could not get anywhere near” the diplomatic compound that night. In the incident report submitted to his employer, Davies stated that, due to roadblocks, he spent most of the night of the attack at his Benghazi beachside villa, only learning of the Ambassador’s death from a Libyan colleague’s cellphone picture. Davies later claimed that he lied in the employer report, not the story he gave to the media. Either way, the discrepancy is troubling. [3]

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.” [4]

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’ stories. [5]

Whether due to negligence or a deliberate lack of disclosure, CBS News failed to properly verify its source in pursuit of a scoop.

Will you join the call for CBS News to explain the discrepancies or retract its report?

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.” [6] Following the investigation, CBS News fired four producers connected to the story and chose not to renew correspondent Dan Rather’s contract.

To maintain its reputation as a respected news organization, CBS News needs to respond to this instance of questionable journalism with the same professionalism it has displayed in the past. Can you help us remind CBS News that journalism and the facts matter?

Sign the letter to CBS News:

We’ll send the letter next week, so sign on by Monday to ask CBS News to take responsibility for the problems in its report.  Your participation makes a difference.

Cynthia Padera
Campaigns Manager
Media Matters for America

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