Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Logan's Run: The Media Table is Turned on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan
It's been a tough couple weeks for 60 Minutes, CBS News and correspondent Lara Logan following a controversial report sharply critical of the Obama administration's response to the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi on September 11, 2102.

There's been a flood of media coverage of this confusing but still-evolving drama but if you want to get caught up on the essentials quickly reporter Doug Stanglin of USA Today penned a pretty concise summary on November 8th if you haven't followed the whole story.

What caught my attention was a revealing interview this morning on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC with Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow of Media Matters for America who was pretty tough on Logan for her somewhat tepid on-air apology on Sunday night; click the link above to hear the Boehlert interview or see Logan's apology.

As a longtime watcher of 60 Minutes I'm certainly familiar with Logan's reporting and she's certainly been given more than her fair share of choice international story assignments for the nation's most watched news program. Back in 2011 she was the unfortunate victim of a violent sexual assault in Egypt's Tahrir Square while covering the massive uprisings on the day former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government collapsed.

As far as television news journalists go, she's pretty intense. But for someone for whom objectivity and facts are so essential (it is 60 Minutes after all...) I was surprised to learn just how far right leaning her political views seem to be in a clip that was played during the Brian Lehrer interview this morning - give it a listen for yourself.

Media Matters for America has been all over this story, and were the first to publicly demand an explanation from Logan and CBS News for a high-profile report taking the Obama administration to task for it's handling of the Benghazi incident based largely on an interview with Dylan Davies, the security expert who told Logan and CBS that he was present during the attack on the embassy compound and even fought off attackers where four Americans lost their lives.

His (and Logan's?) credibility was shattered when the Washington Post reported that Davies had offered contradictory sworn testimony to the FBI and the security company that hired him about where he actually was during the Benghazi attack (in a beach-side villa...) lending many to speculate about his real motives.

Oh and 60 Minutes apparently failed to mention the fact that Davies was also promoting a new book about the night of the Benghazi attack he wrote under a pseudonym titled Embassy House. Who published it? CBS subsidiary Simon & Schuster. Ouch. S&S pulled that puppy off the shelves faster than you can say retraction.

And what about Lara Logan's credibility? Does the cool blue-eyed blond facade of the South African-born journalist conceal someone with decidedly conservative political views? If she worked for Fox News it wouldn't be an issue, in fact it would be a prerequisite for the job. But she works for a news program that built a reputation over the years on reputable journalism, exposing of facts and relentless reporting based on a search for the truth.

Republican attempts to fan the flames of the Benghazi story to attack the president have been ongoing for months and if it ends up that Logan pursued this story with an eye towards legitimizing baseless claims of a non-existent cover-up by the Obama administration and the state department to discredit the likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, it will be a sad day for 60 Minutes and a tarnish on the polished veneer of Logan's rising star.

Don't expect CBS to pull a Dan Rather on Logan and serve her up to placate the more centrist and left leaning media outlets calling her out for this massive error in judgement; the nation's "most watched network" has way too much invested in her and the demo she appeals to. If this media debacle teaches us anything, as Media Matters argues, it's that CBS is terrified of pissing off the right wing media but not the left.

Let's not forget that broadcasting the story with Davies as the main source would completely tarnish ongoing GOP efforts to fan the flames of their imaginary "Benghazi-gate" - fuel that the right desperately needs to use against Billary in 2016.

Remember the Republican outrage and media storm from the mere discussion of the broadcasting of the Hillary Clinton bio-epic that sent both CNN and NBC packing with their tails between their legs? To soothe the ruffled feathers of the right wing media establishment, both networks shelved that story as fast as Simon & Schuster threw Dylan Davies' Embassy House book back into the box.

And call me crazy but condsidering Hillary Clinton is the defacto odds-on favorite to win the popualr vote for the 2016 presidential race (meaning she would be the first female president and leader of the free world); one would think the American populace, regardless of party affiliation, would be interested in learning some more about her life; even if it was from a made-for-TV movie. Not the GOP; they saw it (as they do most things it seems) as a threat.

Liberal media bias? Riiiight....

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