60 Minutes

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  • Three Ways 60 Minutes’ Undercover Investigation Is Nothing Like CMP’s Deceptively Edited, Ideologically Motivated Smear Campaign

    60 Minutes Producer:  “We Can Never Lie About Who We Are Or Why We’re Someplace” And Were “Prepared To Come Clean If Confronted”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Last summer, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos, baselessly alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue-- earning CMP and its founder, David Daleiden, the title of Media Matters2015 Misinformer of the Year. Although CMP’s work has been largely discredited, the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has consistently cited illegally obtained and entirely unauthenticated documents provided by CMP as evidence.

    This week, CBS News’ 60 Minutes released their report, “Dialing for Dollars,”  an undercover  investigation using hidden camera footage to report on the “relentless pressure on members of Congress to constantly raise money.” Although 60 Minutes conducted their investigation in a highly-transparent way -- releasing an accompanying video report about their methods called “60 Minutes’ Decision To Use A Hidden Camera This Week” -- right-wing media figures have already compared this investigatory journalism to CMP’s deceptive work.

    In a series of tweets, Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway wrote: “Good news everyone! OK for journalists to secretly film again” and noted that CBS “not only edited the video, but used B roll for context (like we allow for 100% of non-fetal market stories)":

    Hemingway’s comments were also picked up and tweeted by the anti-choice news site, LifeNews which said “so CBS News can use a hidden camera but pro-life people can’t?”:

    Daleiden also retweeted Hemingway:

    CMP and the right-wing media who carry water for its work have defended CMP’s deceptively edited videos as “investigatory journalism.” Notably, Fox News hosts Steve Doocy and Bill O’Reilly have both compared CMP’s work to that of 60 Minutes. During a January 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Doocy argued that “journalists use these [undercover] techniques everyday” and gave the examples of “60 Minutes” and “20/20.” Similarly, in a March 6 segment from The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly alleged that if Daleiden was indicted for using fraudulent IDs, “all of 60 Minutes would be in jail, because they did stings all the time.”

    The form and substance of 60 Minutes’ investigation, however, was radically different than CMP’s ideologically motivated smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. In the supplementary report explaining their methodology and rationale for going undercover, correspondent Norah O’Donnell and 60 Minutes producer Pat Shevlin explained that “the decision to use a hidden camera wasn’t taken lightly” and that they were “scrupulous” about the process.

    There are at least three key ways that 60 Minutes’ use of hidden cameras differs from CMP’s: 60 Minutes did not conceal their identities to gain access, did not identify people on camera without consent, and did not alter their material to fit an ideological goal.

    1. 60 Minutes Producer: “We Can Never Lie About Who We Are Or ... Give A False Reason For Why You’re There”

    Unlike CMP’s deceptively edited videos -- where Daleiden and his associates intentionally misled clinic staff about their identities and intentions, steps which included creating a fake company and fake identities -- 60 Minutes never portrayed themselves fraudulently or lied about who they were or what they were doing to the people they filmed. In the accompanying 60 Minutes Overtime video report Shevlin said 60 Minutes “can never lie about who we are or why we’re some place” and that if you’re “challenged, you can’t give a false reason for why you’re there.”

    60 Minutes representatives gained access to the congressional call center legally and without misrepresenting themselves. CMP, on the other hand, cannot make such a claim. On January 26 a Houston grand jury indicted David Daleiden and one of his associates for gaining access to a Planned Parenthood clinic under deceptive pretenses using false identification. Meanwhile, over 13 state investigations have consistently cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

    2. 60 Minutes Did Not Identify People Filmed Without Their Consent

    In accordance with the advice from lawyers, 60 Minutes did not release footage with “identifiable faces” to the public.

    In CMP’s deceptively edited videos, however, Daleiden not only filmed providers without their consent he also provided additional identifying information including their names. These efforts to identify providers by name plays into a long history of anti-choice groups targeting abortion providers for harassment which has led to doctors who were later murdered or shot by anti-choice activists.

    More recently, the Congressional select panel has issued wide-ranging subpoenas targeting not only abortion providers but also "researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians, and administrative staff who are in any way involved in fetal tissue research." Democrats and reproductive rights advocates have warned that by collecting these names "Congress could be putting lives in danger."

    3. 60 Minutes Did Not Alter Their Material To Fit An Ideological Goal

    In the 60 Minutes report, correspondent Norah O’Donnell investigates a congressional representatives being told their “first responsibility” is not to serve their constituents, but instead to “spend around 30 hours a week” in a call center soliciting donations. O’Donnell explained the purpose in seeing these call centers, as that’s how “lawmakers are spending a lot of their time … that they could be in their office on Capitol Hill doing the people’s business.”

    Although CMP has argued their intentions were to bring a matter of public interest to the attention of authorities -- including their claims that laws involving sale of fetal tissue were being broken -- a February 5 decision by federal judge William H. Orrick strongly rebuts this claim. Orrick issued a preliminary injunction barring CMP from releasing further videos utilizing footage of National Abortion Federation (NAF) employees. According to Orrick, this injunction was justified because CMP did not “-- as Daleiden repeatedly asserts -- use widely accepted investigatory journalism techniques” to reveal a matter of public interest.

    Instead, Orrick argued that CMP relied on “repeated instances of fraud, including the manufacture of fake documents, the creation and registration with the state of California a fake company, and repeated false statements to a numerous NAF representatives and NAF members in order to infiltrate NAF and implement their Human Capital Project.” Orrick concluded that because of these deceptive means, the resulting videos were not “pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions … of criminal conduct.”

    CMP has removed material from their videos that would have disproven their allegations, inserted misleading images into their work, and coached testimony from a supposed witness to criminal activity.

    60 Minutes’ reporting -- and their effort to make clear why it meets common standards of journalistic integrity -- reaffirms the findings of many other journalists and media ethicists who argue that CMP’s work “can be called many things, but ‘journalism’ probably isn’t one of them.”

  • During Obama Interview, 60 Minutes Prioritized Clinton Email Process Story Over U.S. Gun Violence

    Gun Question Edited Out Of Televised Q&A

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Sitting for a rare one-on-one network television interview with President Obama that aired on 60 Minutes this week, CBS' Steve Kroft repeatedly pressed Obama about Hillary Clinton's use of private email when she was secretary of state. But CBS was apparently far less interested in the pressing public policy issue of gun violence, which has dominated the news in recent weeks. It's also a topic Obama has been speaking out on publicly.

    The interview seemed to be the latest example of the press giving the seven-month-old email story a disproportionate amount of time and attention.

    The bulk of the 60 Minutes interview centered on the unfolding foreign policy challenges in Syria. In the second part of the lengthy 24-minute interview that aired, Kroft repeatedly pressed Obama about Clinton using a private email account years ago. In response, Obama said he agreed with Clinton's assessment that using a private email account was a mistake, and emphasized that it posed no national security risk and that the allegations against her were being "ginned up" by her political foes.

    Still, Kroft again and again raised the topic with the president:

    STEVE KROFT: Did you know about Hillary Clinton's use of private email server?

    [...]

    STEVE KROFT: Do you think it posed a national security problem?

    [...]

    STEVE KROFT: What was your reaction when you found out about it?

    During the interview that aired Sunday night, Kroft pressed Obama six times about Clinton's emails.

    No questions about gun violence made it into the portions of the interview CBS aired. But it turns out Kroft actually did actually raise the topic of gun violence with Obama during the Q&A, but 60 Minutes editors cut that portion out of the final TV interview. (Viewers can only see Obama and Kroft's exchange about gun violence online.)

    In other words, the portion of the Q&A that focused on the well-worn process story of Clinton's emails was deemed by CBS to be far more newsworthy than Obama's discussion of gun violence, even though the interview came in the wake of several campus shootings this month.

    And at no time when addressing the email issue did Kroft mention that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently made headlines when he seemed to acknowledge that the Benghazi select committee, which is now focused almost exclusively on the email issue, was created in order to sabotage Clinton's White House run.

  • Journalism Professors Issue Letter Critical Of 60 Minutes Ebola Coverage

    Scholars: 60 Minutes' Ebola Coverage Managed To "Render People Of Black African Ancestry Voiceless And All But Invisible"

    Blog ››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

    60 Minutes' Ebola Coverage

    More than 150 writers and professors sent a letter to CBS criticizing 60 Minutes' Ebola coverage, which they described as a "frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent." 

    According to Politico, former New York Times foreign correspondent and associate professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Howard D. French, along with 150 academics and journalists sent a letter to 60 Minutes' executive producer Jeffery Fager, condemning what they called "many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa." The letter takes issue with 60 Minutes' failure to air the perspective of Africans during their reports on Ebola from areas like Liberia, noting that "the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease." The letter continued: 

    Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest. 

    [...]

    Liberians not only died from Ebola, but many of them contributed bravely to the fight against the disease, including doctors, nurses and other caregivers, some of whom gave their lives in this effort. Despite this, the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease.

    Taken together, this anachronistic style of coverage reproduces, in condensed form, many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa. To be clear, this means that Africa only warrants the public's attention when there is disaster or human tragedy on an immense scale, when Westerners can be elevated to the role of central characters, or when it is a matter of that perennial favorite, wildlife. As a corollary, Africans themselves are typically limited to the role of passive victims, or occasionally brutal or corrupt villains and incompetents; they are not otherwise shown to have any agency or even the normal range of human thoughts and emotions. Such a skewed perspective not only disserves Africa, it also badly disserves the news viewing and news reading public.

    In a statement to the Columbia Journalism Review, a 60 Minutes spokesperson responded that they have invited French to discuss the issue and said that "60 Minutes is proud of its coverage of Africa and has received considerable recognition for it."  French told CJR that he "would be happy to speak with them, but the only basis for sincere conversation that I can detect would be engaging on the points of my letter, and they have not done that." 

  • The 6 Most Ridiculous Attacks on Clean Energy In 2014

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    This year saw clean energy technologies become cost-competitive with fossil fuels and gain prominence worldwide. The fossil fuel industry, desperate to stymie clean energy's continuing expansion, enlisted conservative media to do their bidding and attack clean technologies in every shape and form. From stoking fears about public transit being a form of "government control," to providing one-sided stories falsely predicting clean energy's downfall, here are the media's six most absurd attacks on clean energy this year.

    1. 60 Minutes Produces "Poor Piece Of Journalism" To Attack Clean Energy

    In January, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a report titled, "The Cleantech Crash," which attempted to label clean energy a "dirty word." The report was widely criticized by reportersgovernment officials, and clean energy advocates alike for offering a one-sided look at renewable energy and narrowly focusing on a few failures while ignoring the majority of clean energy's success. Two of the guests interviewed in the report later criticized it for selectively airing their comments to provide an overly negative portrait of the industy and for "fail[ing] to do the most elementary fact checking and source qualification."

    Further, the report made no mention of climate change, which as energy reporter Dana Hull pointed out is "the whole point of cleantech, after all: using the promise of technology and innovation to try to wean our economy off of fossil fuels."

    60 minutes

  • 60 Minutes' Glaring Omission On Groundwater Scarcity

    CBS Ignores Connection Between Water Scarcity And Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    60 minutes

    A 60 Minutes report on groundwater depletion brought attention to a critical issue that many regard as a national security threat, but failed to mention the inherent connection between water scarcity and climate change.

    The November 16 edition of 60 Minutes featured a segment on the threat of groundwater scarcity titled "Depleting the Water." In it, host Leslie Stahl covered the severe droughts around the world that are leading people to extract fresh water from the ground at unsustainable rates, warning that "the wars of the 21st century may well be fought over water."

    But Stahl completely ignored climate change, which is projected to increase the severity and frequency of such droughts and is inherently linked to groundwater scarcity. A United Nations climate science report concluded earlier this year that manmade climate change will reduce groundwater resources "significantly in most dry subtropical regions," and a 2013 study from Simon Fraser University determined that climate change may already be exacerbating water shortages in many areas around the globe.

    The 60 Minutes segment highlighted that California's "record-breaking drought" is inducing farmers to drill for water in underwater aquifers at unsustainable rates -- without mentioning that this drought that has been directly linked by scientists multiple times to manmade climate change. Stahl also highlighted severe droughts across southern Asia and in the Middle East, regions that the National Center for Atmospheric Research and other scientific institutions have projected will experience worsening droughts as the planet warms.

    Stahl's comment that groundwater shortages may lead to political unrest also has roots in global warming. As Stahl pointed out, many aquifers that are being severely depleted are in "volatile regions" such as in Iraq and Syria. Many military officials have warned that unabated global warming could exacerbate wars and terrorism and pose a national security threat.

    The segment ended by asserting that if no action is taken, California's aquifers could end up completely depleted. But the only responses to the drought that the news magazine covered were a process in which sewage water is recycled into freshwater and a recently enacted law that regulates groundwater. 60 Minutes didn't discuss ways to combat climate change, which would work to prevent catastrophic droughts from happening in the first place.

    60 Minutes' failure to mention global warming -- in a segment focused on a problem related to manmade climate change -- follows the news magazine's widely panned report on clean energy, which also made no mention of climate change.

  • Fox Leaves Out Important Context Of Leon Panetta's Statement On Iraq Troop Withdrawal

    Blog ››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

    Fox News' Special Report left out necessary context when previewing former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's upcoming interview with 60 Minutes in which he stated, "it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq." 

    During his September 19 coverage of Panetta's statement, host Bret Baier depicted Panetta's account of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the latest in "a very public back-and-forth between the White House and the Pentagon." Baier added, "Now this weekend, 60 Minutes has an interview with former CIA director and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in which he will say the U.S. should not have pulled out all of its troops out of Iraq in 2011":

    But Baier failed to mention that the Iraqi government refused a deal to allow U.S. military forces to stay in Iraq. As the New York Times reported in 2011, "Iraqis were unwilling to accept" the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement to leave thousands of troops as a residual force. Fox News has repeatedly failed to mention this important detail.

    During his 60 Minutes interview with Panetta, CBS' Scott Pelley provided the crucial bit of context that the Iraqi government "didn't want the U.S. force." Watch: 

  • Lara Logan Back At CBS As Questions Linger Over Her Benghazi Report

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Lara Logan

    Lara Logan is reportedly back at work at CBS News' 60 Minutes after a six-month leave of absence, even as questions linger over the network's investigation of her botched Benghazi report.

    Logan and her producer Max McClellan took leaves of absence in November following an internal review into their October 27 report on the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, which the network was forced to withdraw. Logan's report was based on the unreliable testimony of an "eyewitness" named Dylan Davies and crumbled once it became clear that he had lied about being present at the besieged diplomatic compound during the attack, telling the FBI he had never been there. That triggered a firestorm of coverage, with media observers suggesting that the debacle had permanently damaged the brands of CBS News and 60 Minutes. The CBS internal review found that Logan's story "was deficient in several respects."

    According to the Associated Press on June 4, "CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said Wednesday that Logan is back. She had no details on when the correspondent resumed work and what stories she is working on."

    In a statement, Media Matters founder David Brock said:

    The flawed 60 Minutes report on Benghazi permanently damaged the credibility of both the show and of CBS. A New York magazine report made clear that a lion's share of the blame for massive errors in that report belongs to Lara Logan. CBS indicated that they were serious about rebuilding its brand and taking accountability. Having Logan back on 60 Minutes shows the exact opposite.

  • News Veterans Urge CBS News To Reopen Review Of 60 Minutes' Benghazi Story

    Lara Logan's Return "Very Difficult"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    News veterans and journalism ethicists are urging CBS News to reopen the investigation into the discredited 60 Minutes Benghazi report following new questions about correspondent Lara Logan's actions and concerns that an earlier internal review did not do enough to reveal all the facts.

    CBS was forced to launch an internal review into its discredited 2013 story after it was revealed that former security contractor Dylan Davies, whose claims were featured prominently in the report, had lied about his actions on the night of the attacks. 60 Minutes came under fire for failing to adequately fact-check Davies' claims, and not disclosing that a related book he had written had been published by Threshold, an imprint owned by CBS' parent company.

    The internal review by CBS News resulted in Logan and producer Max McClellan being placed on indefinite leave, but it included no independent reviewers and no change in 60 Minutes personnel. Speculation has arisen that Logan could return to the program later this year.

    But this week, New York magazine uncovered new internal details about the report and how it got on air, several of which were inconsistent with what was found in CBS' internal review and revealed more questionable reporting tactics by Logan. According to New York, Logan relied heavily on a highly partisan source, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, when crafting her report, while internal CBS office politics allowed the story to air without standard vetting - neither of which were disclosed by the initial internal review.

    Such new disclosures have prompted demands by longtime broadcast journalists for a further review, including several who suggested bringing in an independent outsider to investigate. They also raised new questions about whether Logan could ever return to 60 MinutesMedia Matters chairman David Brock sent a letter to CBS executives earlier this week calling on the network to reopen its investigation into the botched report.

    "I think that the questions that have been raised in the New York magazine piece are pretty devastating stuff," Lawrence Grossman, former NBC News president from 1985 to 1988, said in a phone interview. "I think CBS ought to take a look, as they probably are, and reevaluate particularly now that the whole Benghazi thing is surfacing again. And their role in what they have to do to come out to their viewers and say they made a mistake or that their emphasis was wrong or however they want to handle it. It's definitely worth reconsidering."

    Asked if CBS News should bring in an outsider to investigate, Grossman said"It certainly would be preferable I think, but if they put a bunch of major inside people on the case and were transparent about the findings, anything like that would be helpful ... I probably would just put together a panel to look into the whole thing and come up with recommendations."

    Kevin Smith, chair of the ethics committee of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), agreed.

    "Yes, I think CBS would be best at reviewing this again," he said via email. "I think they owe it to the public to not just correct the mistakes but be transparent about how this unfolded and who was involved. It's a painful, but necessary first step in recovering its credibility."

    For David Zurawik, TV and media critic at the Baltimore Sun, more review is the best option.

    "Transparency, transparency, transparency," he said in an interview. "What does it hurt to bring someone in, what does it cost you? If I was [CBS News Chairman Jeff] Fager, I would absolutely, unless I knew there was something I had to hide, I would find a stellar unimpeachable retired journalist to come in."

  • David Brock Calls On CBS To Reopen Investigation Into Botched 60 Minutes Benghazi Report

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters chairman David Brock is calling on CBS to reopen its investigation into the flawed 60 Minutes report on Benghazi after a New York magazine report raised questions about the validity of CBS' original findings.

    CBS came under significant criticism for its October 27, 2013 60 Minutes report on the attacks, in which correspondent Lara Logan prominently featured testimony from an eyewitness who later turned out to be untrustworthy. The segment also included several misleading right-wing talking points. After initially defending the report, CBS pulled the report, apologized to its viewers, and promised a thorough investigation into what went wrong.

    The results of CBS' review came into question on May 4, when a New York magazine article revealed problems with the investigation and raised new questions about the journalistic practices that the network employed.

    In a letter to CBS that was posted by Huffington Post's Michael Calderone, Brock called on CBS chairman Jeff Fager to reopen the investigation, highlighting discrepancies between the network's review and the New York magazine article and pointing to open questions that still have gone unanswered.

  • Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Call On 60 Minutes For A Correction

    And Thousands Asking CBS To Appoint Public Editor

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    60 Minutes Airs Hit Job on Clean Tech

    Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national community of over 850 business leaders, is calling on CBS to correct their most recent 60 Minutes report, "The Cleantech Crash." Simultaneously, a climate change advocacy group is calling for CBS to appoint a public editor to investigate its one-sided story, which followed a string of poor reporting from the program.

    "The Cleantech Crash" aired on the January 5 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, and shortly thereafter drew wide criticism from members of the clean energy industry and among energy reporters. In the segment, correspondent Lesley Stahl wondered if clean tech has become a "dirty word," and concluded,"instead of breakthroughs, the [clean tech] sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops." But critics have pointed out that Stahl focused too narrowly on the failure of a few companies and ignored most of the industry's success. In an interview with Media Matters, San Francisco Chronicle energy reporter David Baker called the segment "a pretty poor piece of journalism," adding, "There are areas of this field that are hurting, but there are others that are doing very, very well." 

    E2 is now asking CBS producers for a correction to the "misguided" report, writing, "it was shocking for those of us who know about creating businesses, jobs and clean energy to see a respected news organization get this story so wrong in so many ways." They concluded: 

    The litany of factual mistakes and distortions in 60 Minutes' piece cries out for a correction. While the networks by tradition are strangers to the concept of a public mea culpa, setting the record straight would continue CBS's more responsible position of owning up to the facts.

    At the same time, Forecast the Facts, a climate change advocacy group, is calling for 60 Minutes to appoint a public editor to investigate the "Cleantech Crash" segment and ensure that "all future reporting serves the public interest." The group organized a petition to be delivered to Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, asking him to "hire a Public Editor to investigate the broadcast immediately and ensure 60 Minutes' climate reporting is accurate." The petition already has thousands of signatures.