When CBS aired a 60 Minutes special on Benghazi last month, conspiracy theorists and tea partiers alike rejoiced. Finally, they said, the mainstream media was reporting on how the terrorist attacks in Benghazi were all Obama's fault, and how the Obama administration was desperately engaged in a massive operation to cover up this "fact."
There is one small problem, though: Last night, CBS admitted that their main source for the story — a supposed eyewitness to the events on the night of Sept. 11 of last year — lied. What did he lie about?
As CBS wrote in a statement released last night, "60 Minutes has learned of new information that undercuts the account told to us by Morgan Jones of his actions on the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound. We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction."
The New York Times deserves much of the credit for uncovering the lies. In an article released yesterday, Bill Carter and Michael S. Schmidt wrote that Dylan Davies — the real name behind the pseudonym "Morgan Long" — "told the F.B.I. he did not go [to the diplomatic mission] the night terrorists attacked it on Sept. 11, 2012." This is notable because in the 60 Minutes report embedded above, Davies makes some extraordinary claims about his experience that night, asserting that he scaled the 12-foot wall of the compound, fought off an attacker, and saw the body of Ambassador Chris Stevens firsthand.
Most importantly, Davies' story on 60 Minutes is at odds with the report he filed with his own employer, Wales-based security firm Blue Mountain. In this account, as reported by Salon, "he said he had been at his seaside villa throughout the siege that resulted in the deaths of four U.S. personnel, including the Ambassador, whose charred body ... he had seen in a photograph sent to him by a colleague."
Personally, I don't blame CBS for this story. I blame the GOP's rampant Benghazi-scandal machine — which won't shut up no matter how much contradictory evidence comes out — and the pressure it is putting on the mainstream media to "be fair" and give consideration to "both sides" of the story. But while the media has an obligation to be fair, there's a huge problem when one side of the story is absolutely bogus. The Obama administration has nothing to hide as far as Benghazi is concerned, and the GOP needs to stop exploiting the death of Chris Stevens to score political points. It's time to move on.
Alas, I doubt the CBS scandal will faze Republicans. House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has been leading the Bengahzi hysteria from the beginning, so far hasn't responded to the collapse of his pet conspiracy project. Instead, he's been busy harping on another manufactured controversy — the IRS's supposed targeting of Tea Party groups.
Daily Kos put it best: "That's the great thing about having multiple bogus scandals to investigate, because to keep your base happy when inconvenient facts emerge about one of them, all you have to do is flash a shiny new object to draw attention to one of the others. And nobody is better at it than Darrell Issa."