There’s a proverb that says “Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own” (Proverbs 26:17). So I may regret wading into the recent controversy about CBS News’ Lara Logan. Nevertheless, ever since I read that CBS News has put her on a leave of absence, I haven’t been able to get one aspect of this story off my mind.
Last month on “60 Minutes,” Lara Logan reported a story about the 2012 Benghazi attacks that left four Americans dead. Relying heavily on a single source, her report indicated that the U.S. government was derelict in its response during and in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks. Her reporting was political napalm—as controversial as it gets.
A few weeks ago, it came to light that Logan’s main source for her story was plainly and discoverably unreliable. On top of that, Logan failed to disclose that her source had just co-authored a book and that the publisher was owned by CBS (an obvious conflict of interest). In short, Logan blew it. By the standards of fair and thorough reporting, she blew it big time. She had to retract her report and issue an apology to viewers on behalf of “60 Minutes” and CBS News.
Since then, some have been wondering why she is still on the job. Some people have even said that she should have been fired already. Just today CBS News put her on a leave of absence, and no one is really clear right now where this is going. In any case, her future at CBS News looks pretty tenuous at the moment, and for understandable reasons.
So why has this been on my mind? All things being equal, it would appear to be an open and shut case. Logan made a big mistake. She got duped by an unreliable source selling a book—something that should never happen to a reporter working for a major news outfit like “60 Minutes.” So what is there to debate?
What I have a hard time forgetting is that Lara Logan is the reporter who was viciously assaulted by a mob in Cairo in 2011 while reporting on the Egyptian revolution for CBS News. The attack began while Logan was on camera filing a report, but it came to a horrific finish off-camera. Logan described the mob attack in appalling detail in 2011. Her account is difficult and disturbing to read, much more to watch. But it really did happen.
Has any other reporter ever sacrificed more in their work for CBS News? Have any of the executives deciding her fate ever come close to that kind of danger in their work for CBS News? It’s hard to imagine that they have. Perhaps more information will come to light that will alter my view of this. But right now, I am of the opinion that Logan deserves a mulligan on this Benghazi report. Yes, she blew it big time. Yes, she got duped. Yes, if anyone else had done this, they’d probably merit a demotion or being fired. But I have to say, I think hers is a special case. If anyone deserves a second chance, Lara Logan does. And I hope CBS News gives it to her.