Following the revelation that a key "witness" featured in this week's CBS 60 Minutes report on Benghazi previously claimed that he never got near the besieged diplomatic compound on the night of the attacks, Media Matters chairman David Brock is calling on CBS to retract its story.
On October 27, CBS aired a report on the Benghazi attacks that featured the claims of a supposed eyewitness using the pseudonym "Morgan Jones." Today, the Washington Post revealed that Jones, whose real name is Dylan Davies, previously filed a report with his security contractor employer saying that he "could not get anywhere near" the compound the night of the attack.
In his letter to CBS executives, Brock writes that the story should be "immediately retracted and an independent investigative committee needs to probe all aspects of how the story was reported."
The full letter to CBS is below.
Mr. Jeff Fager
Chairman, CBS News
Mr. David Rhodes
President, CBS News
I am writing to express my concern about a 60 Minutes segment on the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that CBS aired on October 27. As Media Matters for America noted earlier in the week, the segment revived long-answered questions about the attack and, even more troubling, a Fox News correspondent said that he had spoken to one of the witnesses interviewed "a number of times" about the attacks but stopped after the man "asked for money."
Today, The Washington Post revealed that the very same witness previously said he never got near the diplomatic compound the night of the attack. This completely contradicts what was reported on air by correspondent Lara Logan, who said that during the attack, the witness "scaled the twelve-foot high wall of the compound that was still overrun with al Qaeda fighters." In the interview, the witness told Logan he had personally struck one of those terrorists in the face with his rifle butt and, following the attack, he went to the Benghazi hospital and saw Ambassador Chris Stevens' body.
According to Post, the witness revealed none of those details in the incident report he wrote following the attack. Instead, he said that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa and learned of Stevens' death from a colleague. This paints a damning picture of the credibility of the supposed eyewitness -- and thus of the CBS report itself.
A network spokesman told the Post, 'We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday." This is not sufficient. When questions were raised about documents involving President George W. Bush's service in the Air National Guard, CBS appointed an independent panel "to help determine what errors occurred in the preparation of the report and what actions need to be taken." Similar standards must be applied in this case.
The 60 Minutes story should be immediately retracted and an independent investigative committee needs to probe all aspects of how the story was reported and get answers to the following questions:
- Were witnesses paid to talk?
- Did anyone bother to compare the witness' story to the written report he filed at the time?
- If the network was aware of the incident report, why did no one acknowledge the discrepancy in the witness' story?
- Who worked on the story at all levels?
- How was the story vetted and by whom?
The committee's findings should be public to and, if necessary, appropriate disciplinary action should take place.
In my most recent book, The Benghazi Hoax, I chronicled how the media has, for over a year, twisted the facts about what happened the night of the attacks. CBS' report was a new low. I hope you take this opportunity to reassure your viewers of your standards and accountability.
Chairman, Media Matters for America