Long Read: “Is Lara Logan too toxic to return to 60 Minutes?”

Just in time for Trey Gowdey’s clown circus! Joe Hagan’s report in NYMag is getting attention:

In the aftermath of the Benghazi report, the problems with its sourcing were glaring, the kind that should have raised red flags. Logan’s interview subject happened to be selling a book on a politically conservative imprint owned by CBS News’s own parent company.

After defending the report for more than a week, Logan was forced to apologize and later take an indefinite leave of absence while CBS conducted an internal inquiry. Her colleagues, including veteran CBS correspondents Steve Kroft and Bob Simon, were apoplectic about the damage to 60 Minutes’ reputation. Morley Safer, the only founding member of the cast left on the 45-year-old program, went into the office of CBS News chairman and 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager’s office last fall and demanded that he fire Logan.

Inside 60 Minutes, Logan’s flawed report is seen as the strongest evidence that the most celebrated news program in American TV history has lost its moorings under Fager, tarnished by the kind of partisanship the network has been at pains to avoid since Rather’s downfall.

In fact, one way of looking at Lara Logan’s rise at CBS is as an antidote to the network’s perceived bias. As a journalist, Logan is a product of the Bush years, her career defined by America’s Middle East wars and the military personnel and military contractors who were her sources and friends. For 60 Minutes, she delivered the kind of muscular reports that inoculated CBS against charges of a leftist agenda following the Rather incident, especially valuable in the patriotic climate after 9/11. She was part of the military culture, taking some of the same risks, imbibing its worldview. She also happened to have a telegenic sexual charisma, a highly useful attribute for a woman who wants to succeed in TV journalism. After Fager became chairman of the news division in 2011, he made Logan a permanent member of 60 Minutes, partly on the merit of her profiles of Navy seals and war generals, and partly out of corporate deference to Moonves’s enthusiasm for her.

As Logan rose, however, Fager was left to manage the risk inherent in Moonves’s asset. Logan had a zealousness that could cross the line into recklessness, a confidence that could come off as arrogance. A common view among current and former colleagues (keeping in mind that not-for-attribution backbiting and Schadenfreude are a stock-in-trade of TV news) is that Logan’s star power blinded her superiors to her flaws. “She got everything she wanted, always, even when she was wrong, and that’s been going on since the beginning,” says a former CBS News producer who worked with her.

And, with the wars finally winding down, the 2012 attack in Benghazi became the biggest journalistic prize, with the potential to bring down presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. It was the kind of story a reporter like Lara Logan would take risks to get.

“It’s not an accident that Lara Logan fucked up,” says a colleague at CBS News. “It was inevitable. Everybody saw this coming.”…

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54 replies
  1. 1
    Chris says:

    In fact, one way of looking at Lara Logan’s rise at CBS is as an antidote to the network’s perceived bias. As a journalist, Logan is a product of the Bush years, her career defined by America’s Middle East wars and the military personnel and military contractors who were her sources and friends. For 60 Minutes, she delivered the kind of muscular reports that inoculated CBS against charges of a leftist agenda following the Rather incident, especially valuable in the patriotic climate after 9/11. She was part of the military culture, taking some of the same risks, imbibing its worldview.

    So, conservatives squealed about bias because they weren’t being told what they wanted to hear, and the network finally caved and started biasing themselves in the other direction.

    The entire purpose of the “liberal media” slur.

  2. 2
    The Dangerman says:

    The utterly stunning thing about the Benghazi story is that the very same people that will excoriate endlessly any politicization of deaths at places like Sandy Hook will respond to any criticism of their Benghazi mania with a response like “but there are 4 dead Americans” without the slightest bit a capacity to see the rank hypocrisy.

    I hope the Democrats tell Boehner to take his invitation to this Select Committee and cram it.

  3. 3
    Richard Shindledecker says:

    She is not a journalist and 60 Minutes is no longer journalism. CBS has been eclipsed by Comedy Central and the Onion. Sic Transit Gloria.

  4. 4
    Citizen_X says:

    OT (at least before Bob in Portland shows up). Russia has released propaganda of all kinds, but now they have resorted to their most insidious form of propaganda of all: adorable Russian grandmothers. In this subtitled video, this woman calls out to “Obamushka” (my dear Obama), tells him not to start a war, but to help fight the fascists (or at least the Ukrainian ones, not the Russian ones), and she’ll make him pancakes. Includes kitteh appearance!

  5. 5
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Interesting article, validating my decision of several years ago to stop watching 60 Minutes (and virtually all other network and cable “news” shows).

    Loved the “All About Eve” ending to Joe Hagan’s story.

  6. 6
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    What’s a producer to do? Reporting the facts makes the right look bed – that’s just the way it is. I know; you hire someone who can make shit up and get away with it – until they get carried away with themselves and blow the entire show’s credibility to smithereens. Live by the lie, die by the lie.

  7. 7
    Mnemosyne says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    “What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin’ at her rear end.”

    Thelma Ritter, greatest character actress of all time.

  8. 8
    smintheus says:

    The most astounding revelation about Logan, if true, was the allegation that, with Les Moonves totally over the moon for her, she had a habit of telling others at CBS (if they objected to anything she wanted) “I could get you fired with one phone call.” No wonder she ended up in a spectacular prat fall.

  9. 9
    Suffern ACE says:

    Yeah. Last I watched sixty minutes, they were going after those disability cheats in rural america. Which I found odd. They used to chase after businessmen involved in scandals. Do they spend their time now chasing folks with back injuries instead?

  10. 10
    mai naem says:

    When you have producers and fixers refusing to work with you because they think you’re too reckless, you ain’t no journalist.

    I went to a talk tonight at ASU with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day OConnor. The notorious RBG really is a treasure. I don’t know the age difference between the two – I am assuming OConnor is older – but OConnor’s mind is slipping a little and she’s way more frail than RBG.

  11. 11
    NotMax says:

    @Mnemosyne

    Edna May Oliver.

  12. 12
    smintheus says:

    @The Dangerman: I asked a wingnut friend how it would have helped to rush even more forces to defend the CIA compound that night when those who were killed were killed by mortar shells raining down on them in the middle of the night. Wouldn’t that have just resulted in more dead Americans killed by mortars? He had no answer.

    The simplest of questions never occur to them to ask.

  13. 13
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I love everything I’ve ever seen Thelma Ritter in (I expect I’ve missed a lot). She was a stalwart of the ’50s comedies that were my staples as a kid and teenager.

  14. 14
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @NotMax:

    Her too. She owned Aunt Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield.

  15. 15
    NotMax says:

    @SiubhanDuinne

    “Janet! Donkeys!”

    Also too, Marjorie Main, Hattie McDaniel and Mary Wickes.

  16. 16
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @mai naem:

    O’Connor was born in March 1930. RBG was born in March 1933. So…

    [counts]
    [subtracts]
    [uses fingers this time]

    …so O’Connor is 84 and Ginsberg is 81.

  17. 17
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    Nope. Sticking with Ritter, if only on the basis of this movie, for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

    (Though there are plenty more to go around.)

  18. 18
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    Also, too, Una O’Connor. And who could forget Eve Arden?

    “Now I understand why alligators eat their young.”

  19. 19
    NotMax says:

    @Mnemosyne

    Nothing against Ritter (richly deserved her nomination for The Song Must Go On).

    Personal view is that I find all of Fuller’s movies to be disjointed (in varying degrees) and lacking cohesion, much like a cake that has not fully set in the oven. There’s depth and flavor present, but they never quite make it all the way to home plate for me.

  20. 20
    Kay says:

    the story fit broadly into the narrative the right had been trying for months to build of a White House and State Department oblivious to the dangers of Al Qaeda, feckless in their treatment of their soldiers and diplomats, then covering up their incompetence.

    That’s a good run-down of the political objective, I think, if we’re keeping a scorecard. 1, 2, 3 Oblivious, feckless, incompetent. That’s what the hearing will “prove”.

    I wonder if they didn’t breathe life into the fake-scandal because Christie went down so now they need payback – get Clinton. They’re like that. Even the score. I still think they’re going to eventually get Eric Holder on something or other as revenge for Gonzales having to resign.

  21. 21
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    See, and if I had a first-born son, he would be named Samuel. If there’s a more insightful movie about how America crushes men than Shock Corridor, I don’t know what it is.

  22. 22
    jl says:

    A lot of war correspondents get a little goofy from spending too much time covering war, which is a mess that goofs people up, but good.

    Michael Ware comes to mind. Except when you look like Michael Ware, and you go goofy, who wants to put that on TV?

    Logan looks better, and probably a bigger ratings draw, so maybe they let her problems go on for far too long, and kept her on the beat and on the air.

    I had the opportunity to look at 2 days worth of CNN earlier this week in waiting rooms while dealing with a family health issue. The sheer cheap cheesiness of that network is astounding. They basically repeat the same 4 or 5 canned stories all day long, but just rotate the useless talking heads, who are clearly encouraged to atttudinalize in way that they think will grab the audience. I guess that approach is cheap enough so they can make their quarterly profit goals. I guess CBS is step higher, but it must be a small one.

  23. 23
    NotMax says:

    @Mnemosyne

    Always get the impression (again, purely personal) that Fuller lost interest in each of his films somewhere along the way, and lackadaisically finished them to a point where they could be released to screen rather than completed them.

  24. 24
    Suzanne says:

    @mai naem: I’m jealous—was it awesome? I wanted to go, but my kid had an event.

  25. 25
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Kay: I thought holder has already said he’s leaving this year. They’ve got to be quick if they want to force him to resign.

  26. 26
    SmallAxe says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Lindsey Graham angle from the story. He pulled a complete Cheney>NYT Judy Miller Plant > MTP deal by meeting with her more than 6 times before the story aired, giving her some vague BS about AQ involvement which she breathlessly reported without sourcing and then Graham went and used the 60 minutes piece as his reason for blocking all appointments etc. this can not be highlighted enough I think.

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    More that he had a tendency to run out of money — Fuller was one of the very few independent producers of the 1950s and never worked for a studio, so he was always scrambling for financing and distribution. But working outside the studio system also allowed him to work outside the Production Code, so he was able to make films with plotlines like an interracial romance where one of the actors was actually Asian, not a white dude in yellowface.

    And don’t forget the old adage: Films are never completed, only abandoned. There’s no director on Earth who ever felt their film was finished before it was released.

  28. 28
    Betsy says:

    @mai naem: I was there as well. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is just fantastic, and I was so thankful that we could see her and Sandra Day O’Connor in person. RBG is incredibly sharp and gave detailed answers to almost every question (the one question she avoided had to do, broadly, with friendships between justices). Particularly interesting to me were her comments about the Lilly Ledbetter case and her minority opinion, which she read from the bench. She spoke very optimistically about the future, saying that well-researched and written dissent opinions sometimes end up, some years or decades later, becoming the settled law of the land as other cases on the topic work their way through the courts. We are so very fortunate to have her working so hard to protect the rights of all of us.

  29. 29
    Kropadope says:

    @SmallAxe: It’s the perpetual outrage machine at work. It’s amazing how Rs work the media,

  30. 30
    Kropadope says:

    @Betsy: Working stiffs just can’t catch a break. So many in positions of government power will allow or even assist employers in pushing their negotiating advantage against employees. Free market’s only free for the favored,

  31. 31
    NotMax says:

    @Mnemosyne

    IIRC, Fuller was given his first break into film by Otto Preminger, whose talent is evident but who was also a walking collection of neuroses.

  32. 32
    NotMax says:

    @Mnemosyne

    Also IIRC, Burt Lancaster had quite a successful stint as an independent producer in the 50s.

  33. 33
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    Story time! I got to see a screening of Angel Face where Jean Simmons appeared and she said that Preminger made her cry so much that Robert Mitchum offered to beat Preminger up for her. She declined, but she thought it was very sweet of Mitchum to offer.

    There are also the persistent rumors that Preminger’s crew tried to kill him by dropping a light on him, but no one can seem to agree which film it happened on.

    And Preminger was the protege of none other than Ernst Lubitsch, if you can imagine that. Preminger directed most of the last two films credited to Lubitsch because Lubitsch’s heart problems meant he couldn’t work long days on the set anymore.

  34. 34
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    Not quite the same — Lancaster still worked within the studio system and had his films distributed by major studios. Fuller’s true peers were independent producers like Samuel Z. Arkoff or Roger Corman. There’s a reason Fuller didn’t think he’d made an “A” picture until The Big Red One. He was always a low-budget guy.

  35. 35
    NotMax says:

    @Mnemosyne

    The one and only time met Preminger, was forewarned not to disturb anything in his office before he arrived, as his NY office had been decorated, equipped and laid out exactly as was his Hollywood office, and he would notice if so much as a pencil was in the wrong spot and his reaction to such an infraction could be unpredictable.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    There are some people from classic Hollywood I would have loved to meet, and others I’m pretty sure I could do without. Preminger is on that second list. Talented, yes, but not nearly as talented as he thought he was.

  37. 37
    NotMax says:

    @Mnemosyne

    You might enjoy a book by Peter Biskind called My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles.

  38. 38
    Mnemosyne says:

    @NotMax:

    G has it and I should probably borrow it. He says you can tell from the transcript exactly when Welles got to the bottom of the third bottle of wine in that day’s conversation.

  39. 39
    Betsy says:

    @Kropadope: I know, but I left feeling somewhat better about the future for my daughter and three granddaughters. At this point, at my advanced age, I’ll take what I can. Otherwise, it just gets too depressing. It seems like we’re going backwards.

  40. 40
    Kathleen says:

    @mai naem: Amen. She put her career trajectory above the lives of “the little people” in the crew. Disgusting. And CBS let her get away with it. Jackals all. Love the “All About Eve” references in comments here. Hadn’t thought of that. So true. There is karmic justice.

  41. 41
    Kris Collins says:

    Answer to original question: Yes, Lara Logan destroyed her own career and did enormous damage to CBS News and 60 Minutes with her shoddy and biased reporting on Benghazi. On the other hand, she was enabled by her bosses who were kowtowing to the right-wing in the aftermath of the Dan Rather incident. A f&%kup all around.

  42. 42
    Kris Collins says:

    OK, not to be a pill, but I don’t think this was an Open Thread_( if I am wrong, shoot me, or whatever) so what is all this crap about movies? It’s very interesting, I am into Film, but it does not seem relevant to this thread.

  43. 43
    Kris Collins says:

    I didn’t go back to look for the references, but somebody said “All About Eve” was mentioned and this person seemed to think that made sense. That person is terribly confused.

  44. 44
    Kris Collins says:

    Logan was not manipulated and deceived by anyone, she was the manipulator and deceiver. But, just so I don’t look like an idiot, since I didn’t read the original piece, explain to me how it is something different? What did I miss?

  45. 45
    raven says:

    @Kris Collins: You’re not from around here are you?

  46. 46
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    This week 60 minutes had BP on to whine about how much they’re being made to pay for the deep water horizon blowout damage. Boo hoo.

  47. 47
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Kris Collins:

    I didn’t go back to look for the references, but somebody said “All About Eve” was mentioned and this person seemed to think that made sense. That person is terribly confused.

    I was the one who first mentioned All About Eve. No, the author of the NYMag article about Lara Logan didn’t specifically reference the film by name. That was me actually connecting the theme of what I had just read with the theme of a classic (iconic, even) cultural touchstone. There’s only one person here who’s “confused” by this, and it ain’t me. Maybe you would understand if you were to (a) watch the movie and (b) read the article.

  48. 48
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Kris Collins:

    OK, not to be a pill, but I don’t think this was an Open Thread_( if I am wrong, shoot me, or whatever) so what is all this crap about movies? It’s very interesting, I am into Film, but it does not seem relevant to this thread.

    Anne Laurie has said more than once that we should consider any AL thread an Open Thread, whether or not it has the tag.

    Anyhow, this is Balloon Juice. If the conversation gets long enough, sooner or later we always (okay, often) end up going off on various tangents, no matter the front-pager or the stated topic. It’s just how people are. Personally, I find it one of the most appealing things about this blog.

  49. 49
    jake the anti-soshul soshulist says:

    I have been wondering what the source of the corpse abuse stories thrown out by the wingnuts I deal with. Is there an actual reliable source for this? Or are they just fever dreams of people who have seen Black Hawk Down too many times.
    I don’t know whether there is any truth to the stories or not.

  50. 50
    jake the anti-soshul soshulist says:

    Why am I always waiting moderation? I try to make the proper mispellings.
    Is it just a FYWP thing?

  51. 51
    jake the anti-soshul soshulist says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I suppose I should check who did win over Ritter that year. But she did deserve the nomination.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....detailpage

    Fuller did have problems pulling everything into a coherent whole. Perhaps part of it was his ambition over-reaching his talent.
    But, as imperfect as his films were, He is still one of my favorite directors. He took on things seriously that usually only were
    fuel for the exploitation market. It is a shame, but the studio’s refusal to release White Dog ended his career in the US and
    pretty much overall.

  52. 52
    kindness says:

    I am certainly enjoying the deliciousness of this schadenfreude. It is so sweet. Yes it is karmicly poor of me to have such an emotion/thought but I am also aware I am not Budda, Jesus or any other savior. I just want to work to getting there and recognize I am not there.

  53. 53
    kindness says:

    Again, the commentors over at that New York Magazine might as well all be Fox trolls. They aren’t suspending caution at all. They see ‘one of their own’ being attacked and they fight back even though all the facts have come out to since have shown Logan is a right wing nut job without credibility.

    The consumers of the MSM have become a tad too tribal for my liking.

  54. 54
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    Anyhow, this is Balloon Juice. If the conversation gets long enough, sooner or later we always (okay, often) end up going off on various tangents, no matter the front-pager or the stated topic. It’s just how people are. Personally, I find it one of the most appealing things about this blog.

    That is the main reason I almost always read threads all the way to the end.

    ETA: And eight times out of eleven, the thread is thoroughly dead by the time I get there. Poor, poor pitiful me…

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