CAIRO (MCT) - CBS on Friday retracted its account of what took place last year at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, a stunning setback for its venerated "60 Minutes" news show that underscored another reality: Fourteen months after jihadists stormed the complex and a nearby CIA compound - killing four Americans, including the ambassador - there's still no accepted narrative of what happened.
It was security contractor Dylan Davies' unheard account of the events of Sept. 11, 2012, that made the "60 Minutes" piece a journalistic sensation after what the news program said was a yearlong investigation. That account differed dramatically from what other reporters and witnesses had said about that night, and it prompted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to threaten to block all White House appointments until the Obama administration released notes from the interviews the FBI conducted with survivors of the attack to congressional investigators.
In the end, however, Davies' claims to "60 Minutes" that he'd jumped a 12-foot wall to get into the compound, where he clubbed an attacker in the head with the butt of his rifle, were undone by statements he'd given to the FBI two days after the assault. Those indicated he'd been nowhere near the compound when the attack took place, which matched a report Davies had given his bosses at the Blue Mountain security company - a document that somehow escaped the notice of "60 Minutes" investigators.
Other parts of his "60 Minutes" account didn't match published reports of what happened that night. For example, Davies claimed he'd sneaked into the Benghazi Medical Center and spotted the body of Ambassador Christopher Stevens lying on a gurney. The doctor who treated Stevens, however, had told McClatchy that no Westerners arrived to pick up the ambassador's body until 6 a.m. Sept. 12, more than six hours after Libyans had taken the unconscious Stevens to the facility.
Davies' statement to the FBI two days after the attack said he'd learned of Stevens' death on Sept. 12, around the time when Libyans and Americans confirmed it.
On Friday, CBS correspondent Lara Logan, whose 15-minute "60 Minutes" piece aired Sunday, appeared on the network's "This Morning" and apologized for the piece, saying Davies was no longer credible. Logan said she was misled, adding: "We made a mistake."
She said she didn't know about the FBI incident report until after her piece aired, but she offered no explanation for how it had escaped notice. CBS had removed the story from the "60 Minutes" website and apps overnight.
"What we know now is he told the FBI a different story to what he told us," Logan said. "That was the moment for us when we realized that we no longer had confidence in our source and we were wrong to put him on air, and we apologize to our viewers."
The retraction fueled already-looming questions over the events of that night and raised mounting concerns among some about whether what happened will ever truly be known - and whether those involved will be prosecuted.
(c)2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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