One of the things a journalist hates most is to thoroughly research a story, vet his sources, put out the truth to the public and then have the rug pulled out from under him by a source who kept a crucial detail to himself.
It’s impossible for a journalist to do more than is humanly possible to verify someone else’s eye witness account of a news event. If a witness turns out to be a skillful liar, then the result can be what just happened to “60 Minutes,” being forced to apologize for a report that probably is still substantially correct.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the aged news program aired a story about the Benghazi attack that reporters spent the better part of a year working on. (Some of that doubtless had to do with the unwillingness to slam President Obama before or immediately after his re-election.)
The gist of the story was that the White House knew immediately who was behind the attack, that it had nothing to do with protesters or a YouTube video, and that the attack was not a surprise to the Administration because al-Qaeda had posted its plans online.
The report had information from many sources, including cables from murdered ambassador Chris Stevens.
But one source who provided essential details was security contractor Dylan Davies, who told “60 Minutes” about entering the compound, confronting one of the attackers and later seeing Stevens’ body at a hospital.
Within days of the “60 Minutes” report, though, the Washington Post reported that Davies had filed a report with the FBI saying that he had not been at the compound the night of the attack.
What’s interesting is the amount of checking correspondent Lara Logan said “60 Minutes” did on Davies’ background and story, including verifying details with transcripts of congressional testimony.
That an FBI report undercutting Davies’ story would be found so easily by the Washington Post within a couple of days after the broadcast is striking, to say the least.
The “60 Minutes” report doesn’t hinge solely on Davies’ information, but there’s now a hole through the middle of the story that tends to diminish everything else.
The fact that the “60 Minutes” report marked one of the few mainstream media stories questioning the official record of Benghazi might be relevant.
The broadside to CBS’s credibility on the subject certainly is a disappointment to those who have been waiting for someone to push for the truth.
And what it ultimately means is that the subject of Benghazi is once again toxic to reporters. Journalists aren’t complete dunces, and the ones with brains will realize what probably happened here, that Davies was a plant, someone used to deliberately spread disinformation for the Obama Administration.
It’s a simple plan: Discredit one of the only major news organizations to even take up the issue of Benghazi, bury the issue. It’s effective and allows the bad guys to continue on their merry way with no worries that anyone else will come sniffing around for the truth.