All In   |  November 08, 2013

CBS feeling the heat for Benghazi story

Chris Hayes and the panel discuss the “trainwreck” series of events surrounding a “60 Minutes” report on the Benghazi controversy.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we begin with a story that has refused to go away and not because of the facts involved, but because of the concerted effort on the right to instill scandal. tonight, cbs news is apologizing for a story it brought on 60 minutes about the attack in ben benghazi that killed four last year. using a contractor who appeared to be an eyewitness, but was not in fact where he said he was on the night in question. the so-called eyewitness did not apparently see the events he claimed to describe.

>> you know, the most important thing to every person at 60 minutes is the truth. and today, the truth is that we made a mistake. and that's very disappointing for any journalist. it's very disappointing for me. nobody likes to admit they made a mistake, but if you do, you have to stand up and take responsibility and you have to say that you were wrong and in this case, we were wrong.

>> the explosive charge in logan's original report was that there was an eyewitness account from a contractor who used the pseudonym morgan jones , who claimed the u.s. could have sent back-up to the besieged facility because he himself was able to go enter it and do battle with the bad guys .

>> morgan jones scaled the 12-foot high wall of the compound still overrun with al-qaeda fighters.

>> one guy saw me. he just shouted, i couldn't believe that it's him because it's so dark. he started walking towards me.

>> and as he was coming closer --

>> i just hit him with the butt of the rifle in the face.

>> and no one saw you?

>> no. there was too much noise.

>> to a benghazi scandal fire that was finally in its dying embers, the report was a gallon of gasoline. the next morning, the fox news tour began.

>> cbs did this story on benghazi and i see criticism from the left. " 60 minutes " doesn't cover phony scandals.

>> if we don't have a joint committee , we're never going to get the truth and where are the survives? 14 months later, the people who survived have not been made able to the u.s. congress for oversight purposes, so i'm going to block every appointment in the united states senate until the survivors are being made available to congress.

>> because of the segment, lindsey graham is going to block every appointment made by the president. on that day, on that monday, it was apparent that the so-called eyewitness may have had some questionable motives. david brock on our show that night disclosed that even fox news itself was weary of using the other source.

>> and the other witness appears to be some type of british mercenary who apparently in conversations with fox news, asked for money to talk and so, you know, fox news even drew a line there, but it was good enough for cbs .

>> turns out, cbs was also publishing davies book. the connection did not disclose during that original report. while fox news may have shied away from him because he asked for money, it didn't stop the same fox news from running over 13 segments. mainstream validation was even comically evident at a rally for the now defeated virginia candidate, ken cuccinelli , a week before tuesday's election. his warm-up acts stalking the crowd with -- including congressman frank wolf .

>> the man who was going to get to the bottom of what's going to happen in benghazi .

>> i appreciate that introduction and we are going to get to the bottom and if anyone watched " 60 minutes " last night, you can see why --

>> then thursday, "the washington post " report thaging that the account in the book were different from the report he filed with his employer, but cbs stood by their story, continued to defend it, despite multiple queries. chairman and associate producer says he was proud of the program's reporting on benghazi and confident the source told accurate versions, but the bottom fell out yesterday when "the new york times" reporter that mr. davies told the fbi he was not in fact on scene until the morning after the attack.

>> what we now know is that he told the fbi a different story and that was the moment for us, when we realized that we no longer had confidence in our source and that we were wrong to put him on air and we apologized to our viewers. we will apologize to our viewers and we will correct the record on our broadcast on sunday night.

>> joining me now is bill carter , reporter for the "new york times." he wrote the story on this today. my head's spinning. how did this happen?

>> well, i think it happened because cbs was looking to get a new angle on the story. they got a book and in the book, this security man claimed he was there and went tr through what they considered a betting process and decided he was credible and put him on the air. i think they needed a new angle. they really needed this guy to be truthful and they were in the middle of this situation where you know, he was saying one thing to his boss and a different thing to them, but it was a credible reason for that, because he had left his villa when he was supposed to not go to the scene and what he told was a dramatic story and that added a lot of drama to what cbs wanted to report.

>> even when the issues start to be raised, then on thursday, there's a " washington post " report, it follows this kind of classic cycle, which is ignore, deny, double down.

>> yes. and i spoke to lara logan before it blew up and she was very adamant about how credible l this guy was.

>> when you talked to her?

>> yes, she said she believed in what he said and didn't think he had given two versions and the fbi report would prove that. that he gave the same report to the fbi that he gave to cbs and so, that became really the critical aspect with the fbi report. corroborates it.

>> two versions of the event, the report, i stayed in my villa, i wasn't there the night i said i saw these things. you have what he told the cbs cameras and the tiebreaker was what did he tell fbi , he was not there.

>> they interviewed him three separate times. each occasion, he told the story the way it came out in the incident report . he stayed at the villa, didn't go to the scene. i spoke to cbs about that last night and they were obviously taken aback by that. they then spent the next couple of hours themgs checking with their fbi sources and by this morning, they had gotten the same report we had.

>> i want to bring in eric, steven, former producer for " 60 minutes ." eric, well, you guys, in some ways, this is not to be uncharitable here, but i'll tell the truth. this is a little overdetermined in the case of media matters , like you guys are a liberal group . you fact check conservatives, benghazi , people might say maybe the clock stopped twice a day. you guys were right about this.

>> we have been fact checking the story to death and when cbs decided we want to piece of that pie, that right wing media narrative, there are lingering questions when there are none. when this story has been exhaustively researched by congress. military have talked about what the reenforcement responsible was. when they decided to sort of key into that buzz machine, you talked about you know, fox news the next day for an hour. the senator talking about it. what's the number one way to know you hit a home run? the next day, a senator's talking about your story. they knew it was all predetermined. they were no lingering questions. the conflicts of interest should have stopped them. the des crepesies should have stopped them. this whole thing is a train wreck.

>> i want to make clear here, steven, i don't want to like put a dagger in " 60 minutes ." i have tremendous admiration. in some ways, it's like a miracle it exists in television journalism, which i think is why all of us take it so seriously. what is it like in that building today?

>> it's obviously a very, very difficult day for everyone there, but my question is how much real self -examination is is being done there. i watched lara this morning on cbs this morning and even though there was an apology, and even though it was borderline mistakes were made, i don't believe there was still an adequate explanation of just what kind of vetting really was done. at the end of the day .

>> journalism 101. you have a single source . you have with --

>> most dangerous thing in the universe.

>> who is a self-interested source because the source is trying to sell books. then you have a story, which is a political hot potato , which can be red meat to certainly one side of the argument and it seems to me that raises the bar and makes it more crucial that you do your due diligence and i didn't hear anything in the explanation of what we did to vet that leads credibility to the argument we were fooled. you shouldn't have been fooled.

>> so, the piece is here is that this was basically, you see this story, you think this is going to light up the right. and it did and it's also like a box for us to check the next time we're accused of liberal media . remember, we did that benghazi story. the threshold is the imprint of simon and shuster,al l though it has now been recalled. being pulled out of -- we're trying to get video of them packing up the books.

>> by the way, that's a cbs decision.

>> conservative imprint that publishes books by glenn beck , sarah palin . i mean, that's the world this story is coming out of. those are some red flags .

>> they wants to key into it. there's an automatic audience there, but when you're going to wade into that, you have to be careful. you cannot stain your reputation just because you want to sort of fuel this. one other quick point. after the national guard story, you know, 2004 , " 60 minutes ," their last real huge embarrassment, they appointed a panel. did lots of interviews, hired lots of lawyers.

>> i want to talk about that. famously dan rathers producer on the story of the national guard documents, forged documents about president bush 's record in the national guard . had this to say, the story is done to appeal to more conservative audiences. they appear to have done the story to appeal to conservative audiences. you can't avoid the parallels here, bill.

>> you can't avoid them because everybody's going to think oift of it. but to me, this is a far lesser scandal because i don't see this as, people aren't doing this sort of in a presidential election , trying to influence voting. i think, i may be wrong, but i think people have to step back and say, look, there's a lot of agendas being played out here. you're saying cbs wanted to court the writer. but my sense is they weren't wanting to do something on benghazi , spent a lot of time, then this guy's book showed up.

>> it was a mini perfect storm . they needed to inject a big b12 shot into that benghazi story. one of the things we try to tell some of our students is how to watch television and be aware this that fellow's story, had nothing. i mean, in essence, had nothing to do with the same old story they were telling in the rest of the piece. this was a little bit of smoke and mirrors . let's inject a dramatic, heroic story.

>> i want to say one thing. getting involved in this, you then see the impact. because the state department didn't like this at all. they kind of went after this guy. they wanted to go after and so, reporting on this is a mind -- what does have to happen, or just do diligence and put up what appears to be a fabricator and put the credibility of the cbs news on the line. thank you, all, really.

>>> coming up, this is the city of pasadena's website. said here, we have the kind of community, culture and responsiveness attracting attention. they are for one thing related to their government. their effort to suppress the latino vote. why a texas ballot initiative was the most important election of the week you haven't heard about, coming up.