November 26 Update: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik just reported on their hourly news bulletin that Lara Logan and the producer of the botched “60 Minutes” segment on Benghazi have been put on a leave of absence for the many misjudgments they made in producing writing that piece for the show. More to come . . .
— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) November 23, 2013
Kudos to Jeff Stein, veteran national security and intelligence reporter, for his important Newsweek story, “Lara Logan’s Mystery Man”. He explores what may have motivated Logan to so badly mis-report her “60 Minutes” story on Benghazi which was built upon the contributions of a source who claimed to be an eyewitness to events it is now understood he couldn’t have seen. Almost immediately after the October 27 airing of the segment, critics began questioning the CBS broadcast, but it took the network several days to even acknowledge any problems with the story, and then finally disown it, with a brief and unrevealing Logan apology on air two weeks later.
Most significantly, judging from Stein’s article, he managed to speak with Logan’s husband, the mystery man of Stein’s title, whose background includes a stint with the Lincoln Group, a company that the Pentagon, under Donald Rumsfeld, hired to supply fake positive news during the Iraq War. I relish the vision of Stein talking his way past Logan & Burkett’s front door, before, I assume, he was asked to leave. I recommend you read Stein’s whole story, but here’s the final portion as a sample:
“So why did Logan put that story on the air? Her pro-military bias is as well known, but so is her mettle – she’s worked in some of those most dangerous parts of war-ravaged Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt, where she was sexually assaulted by a mob. She won an Emmy for one of her Iraq reports. In other words, she’s a smart, tough, experienced reporter. And the producer and writers and reporters who helped her put this Benghazi story together are honored, respected professionals, many of whom have been covering the region for years. Whoever fooled them, whoever convinced them that al Qaeda orchestrated that attack on the U.S. embassy, had to be smart, incredibly persuasive and savvy about the media. And unquotable. In other words, an intelligence source. And the person closest to Logan with those credentials is her husband. But he’s not talking.”
Did Burkett have an uncredited role in producing Logan’s story? Stein’s story makes me wonder. That would be a big deal.
The contrast between CBS’s veritable stonewalling on Logan’s flawed report, and their total repudiation of Dan Rather’s “60 Minutes II” story on George W. Bush’s National Guard records–which despite errors, actually had many accurate elements–is striking. In 2004, the network appointed a blue-ribbon panel to study what went awry and fired producer Mary Mapes. In the current instance, there’s been no public airing of what wrong, and no one, least of all Logan, has been dismissed or publicly criticized. There’s also been no public admission that “60 Minutes” has a corporate sibling relationship with Threshold Editions, the conservative book imprint at fellow Viacom company Simon & Schuster, that published (and then withdrew) the fraudulent “witness’s” book. Did Logan allow her personal agenda, or that of her husband John Burkett, to color her reporting? We may never know, unless and until CBS becomes more transparent on this troubling incident.
On a lighter note, I also have to give props to Jeff Stein for a keen cinematic reference in his story, likening John Burkett as a “puffer” to Steve McQueen’s character in “Solider in the Rain” (1963), with Jackie Gleason, based on the fine novel by William Goldman.