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CBS’ Lara Logan, producer on leave after discredited Benghazi report

Posted at 6:37 PM, Nov 26, 2013

(CNN) — Lara Logan, the CBS correspondent at the center of a discredited October 27 report about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, is taking a leave of absence from work, the network said Tuesday.

Logan’s longtime producer, Max McClellan, is also taking time off. CBS suggested that the leaves of absence were punitive measures for the shortcomings in the Benghazi report, which has stung the reputations of both Logan and the program that televised her report, “60 Minutes.”

With the staff announcements on Tuesday and the release of an internal review, CBS tried to demonstrate that it has figured out what went wrong with its Benghazi report and taken steps to stop similar mistakes in the future. “The ’60 Minutes’ journalistic review is concluded, and we are implementing ongoing changes based on its results,” a CBS News spokeswoman said Tuesday.

But the network declined to comment further on what changes were being implemented or on when Logan might return to work. Logan has not talked publicly about the Benghazi report since she apologized for it on November 10, and it looks unlikely that she will talk anytime soon; although she had been scheduled to host a high-profile fund-raising dinner for the Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday night, the committee says her colleague Scott Pelley, the anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” is going to fill in for her.

Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” said in an internal memorandum that he asked Logan and McClellan to take leaves of absence.

Fager said he, not Logan, was ultimately responsible for the mistakes associated with the October 27 report. “I pride myself in catching almost everything, but this deception got through and it shouldn’t have,” he said.

The exceptionally rare steps by CBS were applauded by Media Matters, the liberal media monitoring group that was among the first to criticize Logan’s conclusions about Benghazi.

“From the start of this controversy, Media Matters has demanded that CBS review the flawed ’60 Minutes’ report and take appropriate action. Today, the network has done that,” the group’s chairman, David Brock, said in a statement. “We hope this serves as a lesson learned to CBS about the danger of misinformation.”

The missteps in the report stemmed from an interview with Dylan Davies, a security contractor who was in Benghazi on the night of the assault, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Davies claimed in the interview that he was present at the compound, but that account contradicted what he had previously told the FBI, the State Department and his own employer.

CBS executives have said that they didn’t know the details of the government interviews of Davies but did know that he’d told his employer a different story.

“This crucial point — his admission that he had not told his employer the truth about his own actions — should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process,” said Al Ortiz, the head of standards and practices for CBS, in the network’s internal review, which was shared with employees on Tuesday.

Ortiz also faulted the “60 Minutes” staff with keeping its interview to itself — something that outside critics said weeks ago when questions about the report were first raised.

“The fact that the FBI and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to ’60 Minutes’ was knowable before the piece aired,” Ortiz wrote. “But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside FBI sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.”

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