November 12, 2013

Late-night comedian media critic Jon Stewart last night caught up with the much-discussed “60 Minutes” mistake, in which its Oct. 27 investigative report on the Benghazi, Libya, attack relied on the account of a British security contractor stationed in Benghazi. That contractor, Dylan Davies, turned out to be a less-than-optimal source, having given conflicting stories to “60 Minutes” and to his supervisor and the FBI.

On Sunday night, Lara Logan, a “60 Minutes” correspondent, apologized for relying on a discredited source. Keying off of Logan’s confession that questions about Davies’s credibility surfaced after the story aired, Stewart riffed, “We thought of raising the ‘Is this true?’ question before airing these explosive allegations, but it’s such a pain in the a__ to check.” Stewart did not reference Logan’s Friday appearance on “CBS This Morning,” where she said that the news magazine had beaten the bushes in a quest to nail down Davies’ authenticity. It confirmed his identity and compared his testimony to congressional testimony and other accounts. All of which wasn’t even close to good enough.

With his critique, Stewart suggested that some guy working as a security contractor in a place as unstable as Benghazi ought to have served as its own little red flag: “If you cannot trust an international mercenary existing in the netherworld twixt assassin and bounty hunter whose very livelihood is predicated on the flexible morality predicated on the need to survive” in a lawless environment, Stewart asked, “who can you trust?”

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Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.