"I see criticism from the Left where they go, 'You guys are covering a phony scandal,'" Steve Doocy, co-host of Fox & Friends, said two weeks ago. "60 Minutes doesn't cover phony scandals."
It turns out that isn't entirely true. Yesterday, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan apologized on 60 Minutes for a story the show aired featuring Dylan Davies, a security contractor who said he was at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, the night it was attacked.
In the now-retracted story, Davies talked about scaling the 12-foot walls of the Embassy during the attack, hitting an al Qaeda member in the head with the butt of his rifle, and seeing J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, dead in the hospital.
His supposedly firsthand account bolstered accusations that security at the compound was inadequate. Specifically, his claim that he disobeyed orders not to go to the consulate added to the perception that the Obama administration failed to send enough help on the night of the attack.
The problem? Davies told the FBI and his Britain-based employer, Blue Mountain, an entirely different story, saying that he never even reached the compound.
Before that came to light, Republicans were eager to push the CBS News report as evidence of the White House's incompetence in Benghazi.
The day after the October 27 piece aired, the Republican National Committee put out a press release titled "CBS Exposes Latest Benghazi Blunders." Several Republican politicians, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), some of the most fierce critics of the White House's response to Benghazi, passed the story around on Twitter.
The most drastic calls to action, however, came from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The day after the 60 Minutes report aired, Graham blasted the White House and claimed that he was "going to block every appointment in the United States Senate until the survivors are being made available to Congress."
So does the retraction hurt Graham's case?
Graham says no. Even after the 60 Minutes correction, Graham told CNN's Candy Crowley that his threat still stood because his core argument, and that of the 60 Minutes report, remains unchanged.
The 60 Minutes story says that the attack on the consulate was not a protest but a pre-planned al Qaeda attack that you could see coming for months. The people who said that were not the British contractors...
Oversight's important. I want to perform oversight — I'm not trying to prosecute a crime, I'm not trying to defend a British contractor...Fourteen months after the attack we haven't heard from those who survived the attack and that's what I'm after. Congress has a duty. [via The Guardian]
That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who said in a statement, "Our position on Benghazi hasn't changed. What happened with the 60 Minutes piece is on CBS and 60 Minutes."
There are certainly still legitimate questions that need to be answered about Benghazi, discredited witness or not. Who, exactly, planned the attack? What was the C.I.A. doing in the area? Why wasn't the U.S. consulate more prepared? Republicans have been pushing for answers on Benghazi long before Davies talked to 60 Minutes. The fact that he wasn't a credible eyewitness doesn't destroy their case against the White House.
But this latest round of outrage centered around the now-discredited 60 Minutes story and, likewise, should be apologized for, writes Politico's Marvin Kalb:
Republicans seized on the 60 Minutes story to call for new investigations of the Obama administration's defense of its actions during the Benghazi attack. Will Senator Graham now apologize for jumping the gun on the Benghazi story and lift his hold on Obama's two nominees? Tune in. In broadcasting, the story generally trumps the apology in impact and consequence. [Politico]
Saying producers at CBS aren't the "only ones who owe the public an explanation for having shown poor judgment," Steve Benen at The Rachel Maddow Show similarly argues that Graham should apologize and stop blocking the administration's nominations:
Graham seized on the 60 Minutes report to bolster his conspiracy theories, but the segment has been retracted and discredited. The senator has said he needs to block all pending nominees because he wants to talk to survivors of the Benghazi attack, but survivors have already agreed to deliver congressional testimony.
In other words, what we’re left with is a senator throwing a tantrum for no particular reason. He’s single-handedly bringing all Senate confirmation votes to a halt to get what he’s already been given, and because of a CBS report that CBS no longer believes. [The Rachel Maddow Show]
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