Lara Logan Returns to TV as a Right-Wing Heroine at Sinclair, Condemning ‘Moral Cowards’ at CBS
Reporter Lara Logan, who is joining Sinclair Broadcast Group, condemns her critics at former employer CBS, and claims her flawed Benghazi story has ‘over time been proved right.’
It has been, for Lara Logan, a long and bruising tumble from CBS News’s 60 Minutes—the pinnacle of broadcast journalism, where she was a much-lauded and undeniably courageous war correspondent until her brilliant career exploded in a scandal over sloppy reporting—to a temporary gig at Sinclair Broadcast Group.
There, Logan will cover the immigration controversy for the Donald Trump-friendly television conglomerate’s 191 local stations.
“Nobody else is asking me to do that down on the border, and that’s a story that needs to be told, right? There’s a lot happening down there,” the 48-year-old Logan told The Daily Beast on Tuesday night as news of her deal was announced.
“My stories are going to be on CBS and ABC and NBC and Fox,” Logan added—although they will actually appear on local Sinclair stations affiliated with those national networks. “They’re affiliates, but they’re still carrying the banner of CBS, they’re still carrying the banner of ABC, they’re still carrying the banner of NBC,” she argued, “and none of those organizations asked me to go and report down on the border.”
She added with a laugh: “It’s a new battlefield.”
Logan, who has emerged in recent weeks as a vocal critic of the mainstream media for their faultfinding portrayals of the 45th president, has signed a three-month contract to produce around 24 reports for the publicly traded media company.
Sinclair is best known for its enforced fealty to Trump and for requiring its hundreds of local anchors across the country to recite from the same script (written by executives at corporate headquarters outside Baltimore, Maryland) parroting Trump’s complaints about “biased media,” “fake stories” and “false news.”
Given Trump’s effusive praise for Sinclair—“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased,” he tweeted in April 2018—it was a shock last July when his handpicked Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai, blocked the company’s widely expected purchase of Tribune Media.
This merger would have created a right-wing media powerhouse of more than 230 stations reaching 70 percent of U.S. viewers.
Six months after Logan’s CBS contract quietly expired—her final 60 Minutes piece, an investigation of rhinoceros poaching in Africa, aired last May—it hardly comes as a surprise that she landed at Sinclair.
There, Logan will join her former colleague Sharyl Attkisson—another CBS News correspondent who became something of a heroine to conservatives when she wrote a 2014 tell-all claiming that CBS News had gone toothless, swooning over the arrogant obfuscations of President Obama and his minions while thwarting the worthy efforts of public-spirited reporters.
“I'm very excited to have her contribute some pieces and keep her in the mix. She’s an excellent reporter," said Attkisson, who left CBS in March 2014, and hosts Sinclair’s Sunday public affairs program Full Measure.
In Sinclair, Logan will be working for a company that requires its stations to run the five-day-a-week pro-Trump cheerleading of decidedly untelegenic loyalist Boris Ephsteyn, and whose chairman, David Smith, once told future-president Trump: “We are here to deliver your messages.”
Indeed, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly boasted to a group of business executives that he’d struck a deal with Sinclair for favorable coverage in return for regular access to the candidate.
“I didn’t know about that—but anyway,” Logan said about Kushner’s boast. “David Smith owns Sinclair and he can do whatever he wants…I don’t care. I have absolute freedom with this, and no one has suggested in the slightest way interfering with my stories…They know exactly what they’re getting. They’re getting an independent, honest journalist who’s not owned by the left, and I’m not owned by the right either.”
As for sharing screentime with Ephsteyn, “I have no influence over what he does or doesn’t do,” Logan said, noting that she has never watched Ephsteyn’s commentaries and doesn’t plan to.
“To me, a guy standing in front of a camera giving his opinion is very obviously a guy standing in front of a camera giving his opinion, and I don’t think anyone would be so concerned about that if his opinion was a very liberal one and he hated Trump, right? If he was the anti-Trump man of record, nobody would care in the media. It’s such hypocrisy and such a double standard.”
Logan added that many establishment journalists are motivated by “abject hatred of this administration” and that “many of those people are propagandists, pretending to be experts.”
It is now 5 ½ years since the catastrophically flawed Oct. 27, 2013 60 Minutes segment that derailed her career. Logan’s report presented a supposed witness’s false account of the lethal terrorist attack on the American diplomatic post, and the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya.
The segment was withdrawn by CBS News and earned Logan and her longtime producer, Max McClellan, a disciplinary suspension after an internal CBS News investigation concluded that they improperly relied on the fabricated testimony of State Department security contractor Dylan Davies (who was promoting a book about the attack under a pseudonym, published by an imprint of the CBS subsidiary Simon & Schuster), and failed to properly vet his assertions.
“The fact that the FBI and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to 60 Minutes was knowable before the piece aired,” wrote CBS News standards and practices director Al Ortiz in a damning summary of findings.
“But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside FBI sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.”
Ortiz also singled out Logan for a speech she gave in October 2012, a month before starting work on the Benghazi story, “in which she took a strong public position arguing that the U.S. Government was misrepresenting the threat from Al Qaeda, and urging actions that the U.S. should take in response to the Benghazi attack.”
Ortiz added: “From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story.”
As the scandal was erupting, Logan was compelled to apologize for the bogus report on CBS This Morning, telling cohost Norah O’Donnell: “The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth, and today the truth is that we made a mistake. That's very disappointing for any journalist. It's very disappointing for me.”
Yet, surprisingly, in a lengthy interview with The Daily Beast, Logan passionately defended the discredited report, claiming it was largely accurate and her career-damaging error was insignificant—that airing Davies’ fabrications was relatively unimportant.
“The attack on me and 60 Minutes was so intense it tells me that they regarded the substance of our report to be extremely threatening,” Logan said.
“You know the harder they come after you, the more you know you got it right. And I’m not defending one person’s account in the story that was the least important and only parts of which have been called into question. I’m not defending that. I’m saying that over time, our story has been proved right…All those people who said my Benghazi mistake was a result of shoddy reporting—my reporting on Al Qaeda was absolutely true.”
A former CBS News executive who asked not to be further identified responded: “I am so angry about all of this. Where does someone get the nerve to do this after completely inventing a phony story about what happened at Benghazi? A story that could have easily been debunked by one phone call to a government agent. And she did not do that because she was biased and wanted that story to be true. She turned into a right-wing ideologue as she covered these wars and hung out further and further with all these right wing military guys…She is off the rails.”
Logan scoffed: “A former CBS executive who doesn’t have the balls to put their name to what they’re saying? They’re cowards, they’re moral cowards. And I don’t care how angry they are. Their anger is their problem. It’s not my problem.”
A year after her close friend from the war zone, retired four-star general and former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to a felony—lying to the FBI—Logan continues to defend him.
“Does anyone honestly think that Mike Flynn didn’t know that his conversation [with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak] was recorded?” Logan demanded. “Journalists say Sally Yates was concerned that Flynn was vulnerable to being blackmailed by the Russians? How? How was he vulnerable? What could they have known that the CIA and our own organizations didn’t know?”
Logan conceded: “He did plead guilty to lying to the FBI and I don’t know all the details of that circumstance and how that came about... It’s been reported widely that the two FBI agents who spoke to Mike Flynn both concluded that he wasn’t lying… I don’t know why Mike pled guilty. But they accused him of a lot of things. They accused him of treason. They accused him of being a Russian agent.”
It is sentiments such as those that have made Logan a very welcome guest on Fox News and other right-leaning outlets, where she regularly dismisses mainstream journalists as “propagandists” who have joined in an unholy alliance with the liberal press watchdog Media Matters for America and operatives of the Democratic Party.
On Tuesday afternoon, appearing on pugnacious former Trump White House aide Sebastian Gorka’s syndicated radio show, Logan compared Trump’s journalistic critics and political adversaries to insects.
“The good part about this is that people all across America are seeing this for what it is,” she asserted. “It was almost like the lights came on in the wake of the election and all the cockroaches went scurrying.”
Logan is especially censorious of CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter. She accuses him, along with such journalists as Politico’s Michael Calderone and magazine writer Joe Hagan (who wrote an epic 2014 New York Magazine profile of Logan’s odyssey from swimsuit model in her native South Africa to swashbuckling witness to wars), of conspiring with Media Matters to spread liberal propaganda and punish reporters they disagree with.
“These people all work together. They all mirror the talking points of Media Matters for America,” Logan asserted, calling the non-profit founded by David Brock “the most powerful propaganda organization in this country….They have a staff of people working day and night to target me.”
Stelter and other press critics, meanwhile, are apparently colluding with Media Matters to slime independent journalists, Logan claimed. “Either it’s a miracle that rivals the Second Coming, or it’s by design,” she said. “They target other journalists and people they disagree with, with little regard for the truth.”
Stelter shot back: “Labeling facts as partisan propaganda, or pretending those facts don't exist, doesn't change the truth.”
A Media Matters spokesperson told The Daily Beast: “These days Lara Logan is talking about Media Matters a lot more than Media Matters is talking about Lara Logan. In fact, until Logan publicly and repeatedly attacked us in February of this year, she hadn’t been tagged in a piece of content on our website since 2014.”
Calderone said: “I don't get why she's now blaming other journalists years after admitting she was misled by a source and made a mistake.”
Hagan declined to comment.
Among some former colleagues at CBS, Logan continues to command respect for her willingness to put herself in harm’s way in pursuit of journalism, while bullets fly and bombs fall.
She seems just about recovered from the horrific sexual assault—by a vicious mob of men—that she sustained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the 2011 Egyptian revolution that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak. In the aftermath of the attack, Logan said, she made multiple hospital visits to treat internal injuries, and even consulted a psychiatrist, who pronounced her psychically healthy and emotionally grounded.
Logan, who said she’s also working on a book proposal with Washington’s Javelin literary agency (fired FBI director James Comey’s agents), described herself as “the breadwinner” for her family of five.
She lives in the wilds of the Texas Hill Country with three kids and her second husband, Joseph Burkett, a secretive former defense contractor she met in Afghanistan and began dating amid the war in Iraq, who she says has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.
She is held in high regard by such CBS News veterans as Bernard Goldberg, who accused the network of tilting left back in 1996, when he published a Wall Street Journal op-ed that enraged his CBS bosses (and nearly got him fired), and later wrote a best-selling book of media criticism, titled Bias.
“I’m a big fan of Lara Logan,” Goldberg, who until last year was a Fox News contributor, told The Daily Beast. “I think what she’s saying is true, that too many journalists in the mainstream media really don’t like Donald Trump and are out to get him. Of course, Donald Trump brings a lot of this on himself with his pettiness, his dishonesty and his vindictiveness.”
Since February—when Logan, freshly jobless, burst upon the scene as a relentless center-right media critic in a 3 ½-hour long podcast with former Navy Seal Mike Ritland—she has appeared on Fox News programs so often (four times on Hannity, twice on The Ingraham Angle, and once each on Watters World and Life, Liberty and Levin), to say nothing of the favorable mentions on Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Five, that media observers assumed she was publicly campaigning for gainful employment, or at least signaling her availability.
“Why do I need to signal that I’m available?” Logan demanded, noting that her longtime agent, Carole Cooper of UTA, has been testing the market since her CBS contract was ending. “Do these people know anything about this business? For goodness sake. Apart from everything it’s just stupidity to think that. Why do I need to signal it? My agent has relationships with these people going back 40 years…And does it look like I’m in desperate need of trying to get people to hire me? Come on!”
And now Sinclair has come knocking. The next chapter of Logan's tumultuous career story has begun.
Additional reporting by Maxwell Tani