Accuracy in Media

Much has been made over the past week about the false writings and “60 Minutes” appearance of one Dylan Davies, also known as “Morgan Jones,” co-author of The Embassy House. The book, which purports to give a Westerner’s eyewitness account of the dramatic events that happened last year on September 11 and 12, during the Benghazi attacks, was published by a CBS Corporation subsidiary, Simon & Schuster. On November 8, the publisher announced that all formats of the book are being “withdrawn from publication and sale,” and they are “recommending that booksellers do the same.”

CBS’s “60 Minutes” advertised the book without explaining their relationship to it, a fact for which journalist Lara Logan said the broadcast “erred.”  “It was an oversight,” she said. At the time she was still defending the account given by Davies.

I questioned in a column last week if publishing the book was “CBS’s way of compensating Morgan.” That was well before these latest revelations. Adam Housley of Fox News had said that Davies requested payment for his information, a fact that Davies has repeatedly denied. In her apology for the broadcast, Logan said that Davies never asked for payment.

Davies appeared on “60 Minutes” on October 27 and dramatically declared that the jihadis in Benghazi that night had said they were there to kill Americans exclusively, and not other foreigners. In the book he said that he showed British documentation to the jihadis, and they spared his life. And in an incident report he noted that members of the Ansar Al Sharia brigade were threatening toward Americans but said that the British were okay. Davies is British.

He worked for the Blue Mountain security group training the local guard force, which was unarmed.  He also took pictures of the burned out buildings and destruction at the Special Mission Compound following the attacks. These two things can be verified.

The rest of his story appears to be fabricated out of whole cloth, according to recent news reports. “In Davies’s 2 1/2-page incident report to Blue Mountain, the Britain-based contractor hired by the State Department to handle perimeter security at the compound, he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa,” wrote Karen DeYoung for The Washington Post. “Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, ‘we could not get anywhere near…as roadblocks had been set up.’”

In the book, Davies claimed to have seen the deceased Ambassador Chris Stevens in the hospital and snapped a picture of the body. In contrast, according to the incident report, “He learned of Stevens’s death, Davies wrote, when a Libyan colleague who had been at the hospital came to the villa to show him a cellphone picture of the ambassador’s blackened corpse,” reported DeYoung.

According to the book, Davies scaled the wall of the Special Mission Compound to look for his State Department comrades—who had already been saved by the CIA quick response team—and meanwhile engaged the enemy. He then, allegedly, was interviewed about these facts by the administration within days. Again and again, in the book Davies places himself at the center of events—a star player in what happened at Benghazi. This very egotism should have evoked skepticism from CBS, especially since his job placed him at the sidelines of the events in Benghazi.

But they were apparently taken in by this charlatan. And, as with the George W. Bush National Guard story in 2004, CBS and “60 Minutes” doubled down. Even when the incident report came out, Lara Logan defended Davies’ original account because she apparently already knew that he had lied to his employer. “If you read the book, you would know he never had two stories. He only had one story,” Ms. Logan said earlier this month.

“The account in my book is consistent with what I gave to the F.B.I. and U.S. authorities about what happened in Benghazi,” said Davies in a statement on November 5. If Davies was lying, that would be pretty hard to disprove if an FBI investigation is underway, right?

Wrong. The Obama Administration likely took exception to some of Davies’ more choice words in the book. For example, Davies writes of the Accountability Review Board: “No one in Washington seemingly takes the rap for any of this, yet at the same time justice is somehow seen as being done.” He also points to the work of Special Operations Speaks and House Resolution 36, a resolution to form a special investigation committee on Benghazi.

Davies’ sense of security evaporated when Obama Administration officials took the time to out him over his story as well. “Mr. Davies told the F.B.I. that he was not on the scene until the morning after the attack,” reported The New York Times on November 7. “The information he provided in an F.B.I. interview was described Thursday by two senior government officials as completely consistent with an incident report by the Blue Mountain security business, which had been hired to protect United States interests in Benghazi,” reported the Times. “The officials who spoke said they had been briefed on the government investigation.”

The administration regularly uses the ongoing FBI investigation as a reason why Congress should not interview witnesses who were on the ground that night. But when a British security officer criticizes the administration and makes false accusations, the administration is quick to jeopardize the investigation by telling The New York Times exactly what a witness has said—for political reasons? Coming from the Obama administration, this use of a double standard is not the least bit surprising.

Logan and CBS stuck by the story until this latest revelation regarding the FBI. They have since issued an apology, and intend to air an apology on the November 10 edition of “60 Minutes.” But just because Davies’ anti-administration account may have been a lie, does not mean that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama are exonerated. The original “60 Minutes” story did not mention Hillary or Obama by name one time, and didn’t seemed interested in holding the administration accountable.

While Davies’ account may have been a lie, the administration still has much to answer for. Firstly, they failed to send troops to the rescue, excluding, of course, the two special operations commandos from Tripoli. Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta explained this by saying that “You can’t just willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of the place without knowing what’s taking place.”

Regarding our F16s located nearby in Aviano, Italy, Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey maintains that we could not get them there within 20 hours and that they would have been the “wrong tool for the job.” But Admiral James Lyons (Ret.) disputes that finding, saying it “is simply not true.” Lyons, who is a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, stated that “We had two squadrons of F-16 fighter aircraft stationed at Aviano. As part of their normal readiness status, designated aircraft are kept on alert to be able to respond instantly to any mission.” He concluded that “Even if we allowed 10 minutes to ‘hot-refuel,’ the F-16s could have arrived over Benghazi in 90 minutes. There is no question they would have made a difference.”

Also, it remains clear that the administration still lied and tried to cover up the fact that the Benghazi attack was a planned, premeditated attack, instead blaming the YouTube video, the Innocence of Muslims, for inflaming Muslims sentiment in Libya.

The media, including CBS News, helped cover this up leading up to the 2012 elections. In particular, “60 minutes” failed to air part of an interview with President Obama in which he answered the question whether he thought Benghazi was a terrorist attack. The question was asked September 12, 2012; it was released by “60 Minutes” on November 4, 2012, two days before the election.

Then again, CBS News president David Rhodes’ brother is a deputy national security advisor to President Obama, and was “instrumental in changing the [Benghazi] talking points in September 2012,” according to The Daily Caller. “David Rhodes has been the president of CBS News since February 2011.”

Maybe “60 Minutes” can re-examine the rest of the material from their hundred or so interviews they did for the segment, and come up with a hard-hitting story, that is also accurate. As Lara Logan said in the “60 Minutes Overtime” website-only feature, which has been pulled from the “60 Minutes” website: “So, we left about 98 percent of what we learned on the floor—didn’t even report it—because unless we could substantiate it with primary sources that we truly trusted and whose motivations we trusted, then we didn’t even go there.”

Many lies have circulated regarding the Benghazi attacks of last year. This wasn’t the first. That is why Accuracy in Media founded the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, which is searching for the truth behind the attacks.

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