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'60 Minutes' suspends SA reporter over error

27 November 2013, 13:42

Washington - CBS News on Tuesday put a correspondent for its flagship programme 60 Minutes on leave over flaws in a critical report about last year's attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Lara Logan, a South African, also abruptly cancelled her scheduled appearance as the host on Tuesday of the Committee to Protect Journalists' awards dinner in New York.

In a memo to employees confirmed by AFP, CBS News chairperson Jeff Fager said the network had failed in vetting the story on the 11 September 2012 Benghazi attack. The assault killed four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, and President Barack Obama's handling of the incident quickly triggered criticism from his opponents.

"I have asked Lara Logan, who has distinguished herself and has put herself in harm's way many times in the course of covering stories for us, to take a leave of absence, which she has agreed to do," Fager wrote.

"I have asked the same of producer Max McClellan, who also has a distinguished career at CBS News," he wrote.

Davies's Book

A spokesperson for 60 Minutes declined to elaborate, saying only that the news magazine has conducted a review and "we are implementing ongoing changes".

Logan earlier apologised to viewers over the 27 October report, in which an ex-security officer named Dylan Davies gave a harrowing account of what he said happened during the attack, including his own supposed confrontation with one of the attackers.

But Davies, who wrote a book published by a division of the CBS, separately told US officials that he did not go to the compound until the day after the attack. Fager, in his memo, said that 60 Minutes should have known of and been alarmed by the disparity in accounts. The publisher has also since withdrawn Davies' book.

Fager also faulted Logan, who asserted in her report that al-Qaeda carried out the attack, for earlier publicly accusing the US government of misrepresenting the threat of the extremist network.


"From CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government's handling of Benghazi and al-Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story," Fager wrote.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said that Scott Pelley, a fellow CBS News journalist who anchors the network's evening broadcast and is a correspondent for "CBS News," was replacing Logan as host of the awards dinner in New York.

"Given the circumstances, Lara Logan did not want the fact that she was hosting the dinner to take attention away from our award winners," said Sandy Rowe, chairperson of the media rights group.

The organisation will present awards to four journalists who are "confronting severe reprisals" for their work including prominent Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who is in prison, and Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef, whose television programme was cancelled after his barbs against both the ruling military and the ousted Islamists.

The other recipients are Janet Hinostroza, a television journalist who has reported threats in Ecuador, and Nedim Sener, an investigative journalist in Turkey who faces prison time for allegedly trying to destabilise the government.


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