Thursday, December 25, 2014

Heads should roll at '60 Minutes' for Benghazi hoax

In a way, I almost sympathize with CBS and "60 Minutes." Almost. Some 14 months later, the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi is still an emotionally raw issue. In some ways, it should be. The attack on a U.S. compound in Libya claimed the lives of some exceptional citizens who volunteered to serve the United States in the most dangerous place imaginable. And I think most of us would agree that any time our diplomats are not protected from a terrorist attack, it is a failure of security measures and intelligence.

Heads should roll at '60 Minutes' for Benghazi hoax

In a way, I almost sympathize with CBS and "60 Minutes." Almost. Some 14 months later, the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi is still an emotionally raw issue. In some ways, it should be. The attack on a U.S. compound in Libya claimed the lives of some exceptional citizens who volunteered to serve the United States in the most dangerous place imaginable. And I think most of us would agree that any time our diplomats are not protected from a terrorist attack, it is a failure of security measures and intelligence.

But after 14 months, we should be able to still mourn J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone S. Woods, and also look at what happened with some rationality. The attack was terrible, but Benghazi was just one of at least 157 attacks on our diplomatic facilities over a 15-year period, 9 of which resulted in U.S. fatalities, most of which you've forgotten because they were not covered hourly for 14 months on Fox News Channel. Of course, there should be an investigation of Benghazi -- and there have been many, by an independent panel and by congressional committees, none of which have found significant scandal or coverup. But compounding a tragedy, the attack on Benghazi has been cruelly politicized by Republicans eager for a second-term Obama scandal or to embarrass Hillary Clinton, and by Fox News Channel to pump up ratings.

Several times, the mainstream media, eager to show its toughness on Obama (and there are so many opportunities to do exactly that, from drones and illegal spying to the botched Obamacare website), has tried to kick the Lucy-like football that conservatives lay out for them, and every time they fall flat on their face, as if they were Charlie Brown. It started with this screw-up by ABC's Jon Karl, but now "60 Minutes" has been duped to a new low in Benghazi coverage:

NEW YORK -- Security officer Dylan Davies admitted this weekend that he lied to a superior in September 2012 about his whereabouts the night of the Benghazi attack. But Davies says his latest version of events, told on CBS' "60 Minutes" and in a new memoir, are true.

“I am just a little man against some big people here,” Davies told The Daily Beast in an interview published Saturday, suggesting he was the victim of a smear campaign.

Davies’ account of the night four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in a terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi has been challenged since he appeared Oct. 27 on “60 Minutes,” in an interview CBS billed as “the first eyewitness account from a westerner” on the ground that night.

The Washington Post revealed on Thursday that Davies once provided a different account of the events. The Post reported that Davies previously claimed to have never reached the compound on the night of the attack, saying he only arrived the day after. But in the version he relayed on “60 Minutes,” as well as in a new memoir published under a pseudonym, Davies arrives at the compound as the battle rages on and tangles with a terrorist.

The story gets even worse. Davies landed a coveted "60 Minutes" interview to promote a book published by Simon & Shuster, a business partner of CBS under the Viacom umbrella. Embassy House. But other journalists who weren't eager to promote a book by Davies (written under a pseudonym) had serious problems with his veracity. Fox News Channel, believe it or not, had problems with reporting on Davies and his story when he started asking for money, a no-no.

The real problem here is one that we've seen time and time again. In trying to show that it was "fair and balanced" and could report a story on an issue being pushed by conservatives, CBS contorted itself to a point where it was completely unfair and unbalanced, abandoning the basic journalistic tenet of following the truth, no matter how inconvenient. When "60 Minutes" got it wrong nine years ago on the details of George W. Bush leaving the Texas Air National Guard, people lost their jobs. What happened here was just as bad. Heads need to roll for "60 Minutes" and its Benghazi hoax.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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