David Zurawik

CBS issues tepid Benghazi correction on '60 Minutes' Sunday night

I have to admit I was surprised by what a flimsy correction "60 Minutes" issued on air Sunday night.

I think the show's millions of loyal viewers deserved something more substantive for so serious an error.


On Oct. 27, "60 Minutes" aired a report about the 2012 attack on the American compound in Benghazi that left four Americans dead.

The broadcast based its report on the words of a man correspondent Lara Logan described as a "security officer working for the State Department."


The man was presented as an eye witness to events at the compound the night of attack.

"When we discovered the account he gave the F.B.I. [of events at the compound that night] was different than what he told us, we realized we we had been misled,  and it was a mistake to include him in our report," Logan told viewers Sunday night in a statement that ran just over a minute at the end of the telecast.

"For that we are very sorry," she continued. "The most important thing to every person at '60 Minutes' is the truth. And the truth is we made a mistake."

Misled? I think viewers deserve more than the we-are-poor-little-lambs-who-were led astray explanation.

How were they misled? How did they make such a big journalistic mistake? Those are the questions, especially given that Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," has been telling journalists like me for years that every fact, every word, every interviewee on "60 Minutes" is vetted and then vetted again.

Logan said "questions arose" and "reports surfaced" after Oct. 27 that indicated the former security officer, Dylan Davies, might have lied to "60 Minutes."

They didn't just arise out of the blue. The Washington Post named Davies, who had been allowed to use a pseudonym in the "60 Minutes" report,  and brought contradictions in his story to light on Oct. 31.

The Post reported that he told his employers he had not been at the compound the night of the attack.  Nevertheless, "60 Minutes" stood by its Oct. 27 broadcast until Thursday.


I hope "60 Minutes" will do better than this in coming days and weeks. If CBS News management thinks this is enough to allow the most successful franchise in the history of TV to turn the page and move on credibility intact, it is kidding itself.

I couldn't help thinking Sunday night what the late Don Hewitt, founder of "60 Minutes," would have had to say -- or how he would have handled it.

David Brock, founder of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters, has been one of the most vocal critics of the report.

"This evening's 60 Minutes response was wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving," he said in a statement after Sunday's broadcast. "The network must come clean by appointing an independent commission to determine exactly how and why it fell prey so easily to an obvious hoax."

What did you think of Logan's Sunday night statement?

CORRECTION: An earlier version included an incorrect title for Jeff Fager, who is both executive producer of "60 Minutes" and CBS News chairman.