In 2013, CBS News, once the home of giants in journalism like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Conkrite, was caught deliberately misinforming its viewers about a series stories in the news — the Benghazi attacks, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the NSA. For these other Fox News-worthy exercises in propagandizing for the right wing, Media Matters has named CBS News its 2013 Misinformer of the Year:
The Benghazi fact sheet will likely haunt the network for years:
On October 27, 60 Minutes featured Dylan Davies, a British security contractor who claimed to be a “witness” of the September 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities; a witness who claimed that during the attack he heroically scaled a wall of the U.S. compound and knocked out a terrorist with his rifle butt. The action-packed tale Davies told was the same one he spelled out in a book published by CBS subsidiary, which meant the 60 Minutes report was helping to juice sales for a CBS-affiliated book. (60 Minutes did not inform their readeres of that conflict of interest.)
The story Davies told CBS though, was wildly different than the subdued account he gave his work superiors, according to an incident report that was obtained by The Washington Post on October 31. Davies had told his security contractor employer that he “could not get anywhere near” the compound the night of the attack.
With his story under fire, Davies responded that he lied to his employer because he didn’t want his boss to know he’d disobeyed strict orders that night to stay away from the Benghazi compound. While acknowledging that deceit, Davies claimed he told the truth on 60 Minutes and told the truth in his book, and said he would be vindicated by the FBI’s report on what he told agents shortly after the attack.
Then the Times reported that the FBI report actually showed that Davis also told agents he failed to make it to the U.S. compound on the night of the attack, and therefore did not engage in a night’s worth of heroic deeds.
In the days that followed the original airing of the troubled Benghazi report, CBS did nothing to re-report or fact-check the story after holes began to appear.
- Bogus Healthcare Reporting:
On October 28, in one of the first national Obamacare “horror stories,” [CBS News reporter Jan] Crawford profiled a distraught Florida woman who said her insurance premium was going to skyrocket from $54 a month to nearly $600. (She was quickly invited onto Fox News to tell her tale.) But CBS’s Crawford managed to leave out all kinds of crucial information about the woman’s old plan and what the likely new costs for her would really be.
When outsiders re-reported Crawford’s completely misleading tale, they discovered the Florida woman was actually eligible for health insurance plans through the Obamacare exchanges that would increase her premiums modestly to $200, and that because of Obamacare she’d enroll in a much better, much more comprehensive, health insurance plan. When a reporter explained to the women what her options would be, she said she would “jump at” the opportunity to pay more a month for those superior coverage options, calling it “a blessing in disguise.”
So much for that “horror story.”
- NSA Puff Piece:
Fittingly, the year ended with 60 Minutes once again receiving a barrage of criticism for another one-sided report, this one about the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, causing media observers from Politico to National Review to ask what’s the matter with a program once considered to be the gold standard for network news magaizine programs.