Lara Logan, CBS News’ hard-charging chief foreign correspondent, has repeatedly risked her life in pursuit of the story. She’s been shot at, arrested, blindfolded by militiamen, and physically assaulted by a mob while reporting from some of the most troubled places on earth.
But her mistaken “60 Minutes” report about a supposed eyewitness to the Benghazi consulate attacks has put Logan under a different kind of pressure. Despite two on-air apologies, including one Sunday night on “60 Minutes,” Logan, 42, has come in for widespread criticism and demands for a more complete explanation of how her Oct. 27 report went so wrong.
Until last week’s unpleasantness, the Washington-based journalist has lived an almost made-for-TV idea of a foreign correspondent. Glamorous and intense, she has reported — and reported well — from combat zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and across the Middle East for years. Among other reporting triumphs, she was the only journalist from an American TV network to broadcast live from Firdos Square in Baghdad in 2003 when American soldiers pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein.
She has been amply recognized for her work, having won an Emmy Award, an Overseas Press Club Award and the duPont Award, among others.
At the same time, Logan’s globetrotting lifestyle and striking looks have occasionally made her tabloid fodder. Her relationship with a security contractor in Iraq, Joseph Burkett, became the subject of gossip columns in 2008; Logan and Burkett were married to others at the time, although both were separated from their spouses when their relationship began. They married in 2008 and live in Cleveland Park.
Logan’s feminity often attracts as much attention as her reporting; virtually every profile of her mentions that she was once a swimsuit model. On Halloween, people who live in Logan’s neighborhood were startled to see the famous TV correspondent trick-or-treating with her children while dressed in a hot-pink bodysuit costume, set off with high heels.
Logan has also been outspoken about some of the stories she has covered. After Rolling Stone published a story by Michael Hastings in 2010, in which aides to Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal criticized Washington’s civilian leadership of the war in Afghanistan, Logan rushed to defend McChrystal. “Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has,” she told CNN.
Last year, she offered some unusually blunt public comments about the American response to the Benghazi attack. Speaking to a civic group in Chicago a month after the compound was assaulted on Sept. 11, 2012, Logan scoffed at the Obama administration’s initial statements about the incident as a spontaneous protest that spun into violence.
“When I look at what’s happening in Libya, there’s a big song and dance about whether this was a terrorist attack or a protest,” she said. “And you just want to scream, ‘For God’s sake, are you kidding me?’ The last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole, which was a prelude to the 1998 embassy bombings, which was a prelude to 9/11. And you’re sending in the FBI to investigate? I hope to God that you are sending in your best clandestine warriors who are going to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, its ambassadors will not be murdered and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.”
Questions about her Benghazi report began to swirl days after her “60 Minutes” story aired, when a Washington Post story revealed that her primary source, British security contractor Dylan Davies, had contradicted his account to Logan in an “incident report” to his employer. Logan had reported that Davies had raced to the compound amid the attack, scaled a wall and fought off terrorists who killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens.
Logan originally defended her reporting, but apologized to viewers Friday on “CBS This Morning,” saying the source had “misled” her. The drumbeat of criticism against Logan began almost immediately.
At the end of Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” Logan gave a second, on-air apology for the story. “The most important thing to every person at ‘60 Minutes’ is the truth, and the truth is, we made a mistake,” she said.
It may have only made things worse, for her and CBS.
Numerous critics and commentators have called Logan’s apologies inadequate. Some point out an obvious irony: that a program that has prided itself on getting to the bottom of controversial subjects has offered no details about how its own controversy came about.
“In this day and age, ‘60 Minutes’ needs to be transparent about this,” said Steven Reiner, a former “60 Minutes” producer who now directs the broadcast and digital journalism program at Stony Brook University in New York. “They should explain their verification process and how it broke down. . . . To simply say they were wrong and fooled is merely stating the obvious.”
Terence Smith, a former CBS and PBS correspondent, pointed to another troubling aspect of the story: Logan and CBS’ failure to disclose that Davies’ sensational account was timed with the publication of a book by Davies, “The Embassy House,” published by Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of CBS. The publisher withdrew the book Friday.
CBS needs “to do a thorough reconstruction of their reporting . . . and assure us that this was not done to help sell books for Simon & Schuster,” said Smith.
Logan, Smith said, “has major egg on her face.”
CBS News said Monday that its news executives are no longer giving interviews on the subject. Logan also was not available.
High-ranking CBS News sources said last week that they did not expect anyone to be fired for the flawed Benghazi report.