It may take you a little longer than 60 minutes to watch 60 Minutes this week. That's because the part where they retract a major story may cause your heart to stop.
In all fairness to 60 Minutes and to Lara Logan, who reported the story being retracted, I believe their journalistic integrity to be above reproach. They work hard to cover stories that they believe significant and are always forthcoming to correct inaccuracies when they are uncovered.
For the most part, corrections at 60 Minutes have been just that, updates of inaccuracies and technical facts that have little impact on the voracity of the story as a whole. This week's correction is going to go a little farther and have much more dramatic implications.
In 2004, Dan Rather lost his job at 60 Minutes over a report that George W. Bush received favorable treatment from his National Guard commanders. A retired Texas National Guard official named Bill Burkett allegedly gave Rather's producers falsified documents to verify his claims.
In 2006, 60 Minutes did a story on Biovail, a sketchy Canadian drug company that made more allegations than it did drugs. The company sued hedge funds for shorting its stock and making claims that they were fudging their books. Lesley Stahl presented Biovail's conspiracy theories in a very favorable light.
In 2008 the SEC sued Biovail for false documentation and in 2010 the Canadian government banned Biovail CEO, Eugene Melnyk from holding any senior positions in Canadian companies for 5 years and fined him $565,000.
Networks are run by human beings and subject to the mistakes human beings make. In the Biovail and National Guard stories, one could make the argument that the producers got the stories they were after. Human beings often see only what they expect to see, sometimes, just what they want to see.
On October 27, 2013, 60 Minutes aired a story about the events at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Dylan Davis, an employee of private contractor Blue Mountain Security was the focal point of the story and his on-air statements put the State Department and the Obama administration in a very bad light. It turns out that his statements were false.
According to Davis, he reached the diplomatic compound, scaled a 12-foot wall and attempted to rescue some the Americans trapped inside.
In documents supplied by Blue Mountain, Davis said that he never reached the compound. When questioned about the discrepancy by 60 Minutes, Davis said he lied to his employer because he had been told not to enter the compound. 60 Minutes chose to believe that Davis lied to his employer, but was telling them the truth.
When interviewed by the FBI, Davis' account of the incident mirrored his report to Blue Mountain, that he was not able to get to the compound. Since it's not a crime to lie to your employer, but it is to lie to the FBI, 60 Minutes decided that it was most likely that they were the ones being lied to.
It's weird how this Benghazi story just won't go away. What about it makes it so special?
U.S. embassies suffered 13 attacks under G.W. Bush, the worst one in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. 12 people were killed, 51 injured. Of course those were all Pakistanis. American diplomat, David Foy was killed in an attack at the Marriott in 2006 along with 3 Pakistanis. That attack was only 20 yard from our Karachi embassy.
Believe it or not, embassy personnel have been relatively safe under Barack Obama. 224 people were killed in embassy attacks under Bill Clinton.
Obviously, mistakes were made in the defense of the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Arguably, we should not be sending people into these areas without a company of Marines. Like most countries, America's resources are limited. We don't have an infinite number of troops to deploy. What, exactly is it that the GOP hopes to accomplish with all its inquiry and outrage?
You can't really talk about lying to the American people about an attack in a hostile country that cost 4 American lives when you supported a lie that sent hundreds of thousands of Americans into harms way and cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of BILLIONS of American dollars. Remember the WMD's we never found?
Once again it seems the only thing that really makes Benghazi noteworthy is that neither the President nor his Secretary of State were white men. All of which may or may not lead down a path revealing Dylan Davies' motive for lying. As they say on TV, follow the money.
Lara Logan is a respected member of a venerable news organization. She has shown her commitment to her profession by putting herself in harms way to bring us the news. She is not, however infallible and we should give her the benefit of the doubt that her intentions were good and that she fell victim to a deliberate attempt to distort reality.
At worst, Ms. Logan may have succumbed to a story that fit into her own narrative. More likely, she is another victim of violence in Benghazi that cost 4 American lives. In her case, though, she wasn't the intended target, just collateral damage.
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