Salon: 'Notorious Pro-Military War Hawk' Lara Logan's High Profile on CBS News a Gift to Angry Conservatives

In a Tuesday column for Salon, Heather Digby Parton argued that the Dan Rather Memogate scandal had a sequel of sorts, in which CBS News, attempting to "appease the right wing" -- including the Bush administration -- gave "notorious pro-military war hawk" Lara Logan a prominent role in its programming, only to have it blow up in their faces when Logan's "60 Minutes" story about the Benghazi attack proved seriously flawed.   

In Parton's view, Rather at CBS had "a stellar career of war reporting, muckraking and speaking truth to power" and now, on Mark Cuban's AXS TV, "does some really interesting work," though she acknowledges that "only a handful of people see" it.

From Parton's piece (emphasis added):

Remember Rathergate? Of course you do. It was the biggest “Liberal Media” scalp the right wing ever took...Rather was forced to leave the network for which he had been a star reporter and anchor for decades. It was a humiliating end to a stellar career of war reporting, muckraking and speaking truth to power with which CBS, in its heyday known as the “Tiffany Network,” had built its reputation...

It happened at the height of Iraq invasion-mania, one of the low points of American journalism. It was unusual during that time for any network to pursue partisan political stories that reflected badly on the White House, an abrupt departure from the practices of the previous decade in which no story was too old or too obscure to be splashed on the front page and featured as a shocking scandal of epic importance. Conveniently for the Bush administration, the media decided the public suffered from “scandal fatigue” and, in any case, the nation was far too busy fighting evil to spend any time delving into the past. And so Dan Rather was gone.

But the Bush administration was not amused. They called the head of CBS to the White House and gave him a stern talking to:


 

In an effort reportedly intended to repair relations with the White House in the aftermath of CBS’ publication of unauthenticated memos concerning President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS president Andrew Heyward met with then-White House communications director Dan Bartlett in January 2005. According to Broadcasting and Cable magazine: “Heyward was ‘working overtime to convince Bartlett that neither CBS News nor Rather had a vendetta against the White House,’ our source says, ‘and from here on out would do everything it could to be fair and balanced.’ “

The use of the Fox News tagline was a nice touch. And CBS was very accommodating from that point forward. So accommodating, in fact, that it promoted Lara Logan, a notorious pro-military war hawk, as its star correspondent... 

...[A]ccording to [a] New York magazine story, [Logan] and her conservative producer had free rein at the network to do what they liked. Logan was given the Benghazi story all to herself at “60 Minutes,” but it wasn’t until Logan’s producer was offered an early look at the hoaxter’s book, which was set to be published by CBS publishing’s conservative imprint, Threshold Editions, that she was able to find the angle she’d been looking for... 

None of this is to say that Logan didn’t have a right to her viewpoint. There really is no such thing as “unbiased” journalism, and her worldview is as legitimate as Dan Rather’s or any other reporter’s. The point is that in similar fashion to Judith Miller, who also famously attached herself to the national security state apparatus and helped them spread lies, Logan’s biases led her to be similarly uncritical of the military’s often unsparing disdain toward politicians — something that’s been true of the military since time began. Logan seems to have taken the usual griping by the brass and turned it into a crusade. And it made her into a propagandist, something CBS appears to have known was a potential problem long before she fell for the hoax...

...[Logan] was highly valued for her star quality. But that’s not the problem. All organizations feature some of that and the TV news business is also show business, where good looks are a commodity for both men and women. The real problem is that CBS cut a deal a decade ago when it entreated the Bush White House for forgiveness and promised that it would be “fair and balanced,” which in modern media parlance stands for bending over backwards to appease the right wing. And they never looked back.

Dan Rather, the veteran newsman, was sent packing for his sins. He now has a show on AXS TV, where he does some really interesting work that only a handful of people see. CBS is apparently still mulling over Logan’s future. From the sound of it they see their failure to smoke out the hoax as the error — when, in fact, it was their executive decision to become supplicants to power nearly a decade ago that led them astray.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters