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CBS to correct erroneous report on Benghazi

by New York Times News Service on November 09, 2013 10:34 AM

As it prepared to broadcast a rare on-air correction Sunday for a now-discredited “60 Minutes” report, CBS News acknowledged Friday that it had suffered a damaging blow to its credibility. Its top executive called the segment “as big a mistake as there has been” in the 45-year history of the celebrated news program.

The executive, Jeff Fager, conceded that CBS appeared to have been duped by the primary source for the report, a security official who told a national television audience a harrowing tale of the attack last year at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. On Thursday night it was disclosed that the official, Dylan Davies, had provided a completely different account in interviews with the FBI, in which he said he never made it to the mission that night.

After that revelation, CBS decided to take multiple actions Friday. It removed the report from the CBS News website, and the correspondent for the segment, Lara Logan, appeared on the CBS morning news show to apologize personally for the mistakes in the report.

And the company’s publishing division, Simon & Schuster, said it was suspending publication of a book by Davies, in which he tells the same narrative he recounted on “60 Minutes.”

“It’s a black eye and it’s painful,” Fager said in a phone interview. He declined to say whether there would be negative consequences for any of the journalists involved.

The retractions and the scale of the mistake spurred comparisons with another embarrassing episode for CBS News — a report in 2004 about George W. Bush’s National Guard record that CBS was also forced to retract. That report, which actually appeared on a short-lived spinoff program called “60 Minutes II,” resulted in several firings and played a role in the eventual separation between CBS and its longtime anchor, Dan Rather.

Davies, identified as Morgan Jones on the “60 Minutes” report and on the jacket of his book, “The Embassy House,” gave three interviews to the FBI, according to Obama administration officials. Each time he described the events in ways that diverged from his account to CBS, when he claimed to have been personally involved in the action during the attack — to the point of disabling one of the attackers with a blow from a rifle.

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