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November 18, 2013

LYONS: CBS still has some explaining to do

The comic figure of the braggart soldier first appears in Plautus’s play “Miles Gloriosus” in roughly 200 B.C., although the Roman dramatist acknowledged a now-lost Greek model. So it’s surprising that somebody who’s spent as much time in war zones as “60 Minutes’” Lara Logan failed to recognize the type: a swaggering, self-anointed hero describing military feats nobody witnessed but him.

Bars near military bases around the world harbor fakers like Dylan Davies, aka “Morgan Jones,” as “60 Minutes” called him, although they do have to be careful who they lie to. It’s mainly a tactic for fooling gullible women. I used to know a fellow whose girlfriend forgave his drunken blackouts because of his terrible experiences in Vietnam — a war that ended when he was nine.

That said, Logan’s apparent naivete is far from the most objectionable thing about CBS’s ill-fated attempt to pander to the far-right’s odd obsession with the Benghazi tragedy. See, “60 Minutes’” Oct. 27 episode supposedly falsifying the Obama administration’s version of what happened that terrible night in Libya wasn’t so much TV journalism as an infomercial for a book in which CBS had a financial stake — a manifest conflict of interest “60 Minutes” neglected to mention until MediaMatters.org called its hand.

Exactly how generous an advance Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Editions bestowed upon Davies for his heroic tale about singlehandedly fighting his way into the besieged U.S. compound where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three fellow Americans were killed by a terrorist mob hasn’t been revealed. Presumably enough, however, to give the one-time British mercenary ample reason to concoct a narrative pleasing to its readers’ expectations.

Having previously published books by such innovators in the art of storytelling as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Jerome Corsi, Threshold editors would appear to be less than rigorous about fact-checking. So excuse me for saying so, but that makes Davies virtually a paid source, and “60 Minutes” a practitioner of checkbook journalism that could ruin its well-deserved reputation.

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