Good news amidst the bad at CBS: Their drama, “Criminal Minds” had its biggest audience this week. Am I alone in believing that the network, once known for the stellar journalism of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite can at the same time be on the receiving end of at least three attacks, suggesting there is something far from kosher going on in the minds of the people in charge?
First, we have the now infamous 60 Minutes Benghazi report, which when criticized, was defended, as if it was a papal encyclical, by the powers that be, until problems were acknowledged, a lukewarm apology offered by chief correspondent, Lara Logan, that, boo hoo, did not quite silence the doubters who are still besieging CBS HQ at the Manhattan building known as Black Rock with fresh doubts and unanswered questions.
Back to Benghazi, once known as Al Qaeda’s favorite Libyan port, in a hot second.
Then, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, when yet another tribute is aired to late anchor Walter Cronkite’s sterling coverage that began when he took off his glasses to brush aside a tear and show that he was, despite being a news God, a human being.
Walter’s successor was and Dallas based reporter then, Dan Rather, at the time was claiming that the company he gave his professional life to was “airbrushing him out of history” by refusing to acknowledge his role as their reporter on the scene.
Rather was later forced out of CBS for a report he did on former President George Bush’s flaky military “career.” Even though his reporting was accurate, questions were raised about one source, and then members of his team were fired, and he did the honorable thing and left under cloud generated by executives and a heavily politicized panel they brought in for a White House-pleasing “independent review.”
What, alas, is NOT a scandal is that Rather’s original report was inaccurate about the origins of the entry and exit wounds that killed the President. He spent many years deriding and exposing so-called conspiracy theorists as if he owned the story. Not so for Walter Cronkite who I interviewed for the documentary, Beyond JFK, a film about the real story behind Oliver Stone’s dramatized movie JFK.
You can see it on You Tube in an illegally uploaded copy.
Cronkite admitted to me then he does not have all the answers about what happened in Dallas that day, a half century ago, and that he believed more than Lee Harvey Oswald was likely involved.
It is unlikely that these questions raised by Cronkite will be referenced in the latest glowing hagiography about his famous history-making report.
The Washington Post raises yet another issue with yet another CBS report, this time about the Obamacare website, charging that the reporter relied on an undisclosed and biased Republican source.
That’s story focused on one detail while the heavily-hyped year in the making sound the trumpets, Benghazai “exclusive” was about interpretation, of what really happened and why.
At issue, initially, was CBS’ reliance on one key source. Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast was among the critics, noting:
“Over the past week, CBS News executives have been defiant, then defensive, and finally remorseful, over Logan’s blockbuster report on last year’s U.S. embassy deaths in Benghazi, Libya, which was marred by a hoax: Namely, State Department security contractor Daryl Davies, who starred in Logan’s Oct. 27 segment under the pseudonym “Morgan Jones,” lied and lied about his activities on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, when ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy staffers were killed in a terrorist attack on the Benghazi diplomatic outpost.”
CBS of course claimed to have been misled but that did not silence the critics who tried to raise other concerns with the beleaguered network, which has so far declined to respond.
Writing in New York Magazine Frank Rich, the former New York Times critic and columnist, dropped a big one on CBS:
“Lara Logan’s story was not a mere journalistic mistake, but a hoax comparable to such legendary frauds as Life magazine’s purchase of the billionaire Howard Hughes’s nonexistent “autobiography” in the seventies and Rupert Murdoch’s similarly extravagant embrace of the bogus Hitler “diaries” in the eighties.
In Logan’s case, she perpetrated an out-and-out fictional character: a pseudonymous security contractor who peddled a made-up “eyewitness” account of the murder of four Americans in Benghazi. The point seemed to be to further Benghazi as a conservative political cause (instead, Logan’s hoax boomeranged and extinguished it) and to melodramatically exploit the tragic slaughter of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues as titillating prime-time network entertainment. Logan’s phony source, who in fact was at a beachside villa and not on site to witness anything, cooked up violent new “details” for the Benghazi narrative that seemed to have been lifted from a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.”
Nancy Youseff reported from Cairo for the McClatchy newspapers:
“… it said that it was undertaking “a journalistic review that is ongoing” – the network’s first acknowledgement that concerns about the report may go deeper than just the discredited interview with security supervisor Dylan Davies.”
Davies, it turned, was in business with CBS as the author of a memoir that the CBS-owned publisher, Threshold Editions, had bought. Threshold is known for its hard right authors like Glenn Beck and Karl Rove. It has now cancelled the book and won’t talk about it, but it shows how CBS hoped to promote the Logan story and further profit from it.
And that leaves correspondent Lara Logan’s role in the affair? Gawker reported that she is married to a former high-level Pentagon propagandist who worked for an information-operations contractor and whose job was to feed the press with the official line.
She reportedly met her husband while covering Afghanistan, and soon became known for her patriotically correct reportage which may be one reason pinup pictures of her—going back to her days in South Africa—were plastered over barracks there and later in Iraq. She became known for glorifying clandestine operations and using her good looks to get on the inside track of men at the top.
John Grant reports on the “This Can’t be Happening” website, “ She made her pro-militarist credentials clear in a 2012 speech where she called for vengeance by US “clandestine warriors” following the Benghazi attack.”
Grant implies she was a war-boosting ideologue, posing as a neutral reporter, and then sneers at her for “breathy, seductive adoration of (the) male “warriors” and adventurers she is inclined to report on and interview.”
But now, as it has became clearer that the CIA directed covert warfare, with support of the Al Qaeda linked anti-Gadaffi Jihadis in Libya, backfired in real life, the issue is finally surfacing more and more in the media.
Logan’s role needs to be scrutinized more closely along with the network’s role. Is she a journalist or something more?
News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at newsdissector.net and edits Mediachannel.org. He produced investigative stories for many years for a His latest book is Madiba AtoZ: The Many Worlds of Nelson Mandela. (Seven Stories Press.) Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org