AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – A former foreign correspondent for “60 Minutes” claims in a $25 million defamation lawsuit that she lost her job on the CBS news show because New York magazine published a hit piece about her story on the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
Lara Logan sued the magazine’s owner New York Media LLC and reporter Joe Hagan on Friday in Austin, Texas, federal court. She is represented by Ty Clevenger of Brooklyn.
Logan, 48, started her journalism career in 1988 at a newspaper in her hometown Durban, South Africa.
After CBS hired her in 2002, Logan says, she reported on the Iraq War while living in Baghdad for five years, as well as the Afghanistan War, the Arab Spring protests in Egypt in 2011 and the Iraq military’s 2016 campaign to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters. She won an Emmy and other awards for her work.
But the lawsuit says her career was derailed by a story on al-Qaida terrorists’ Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on an American diplomatic compound and CIA station in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were killed.
Logan says she and her “60 Minutes” team spent more than a year on the story and interviewed dozens of people, including Dylan Davies, a British man who supervised and trained Libyans who stood guard at the diplomat compound’s gate.
Davies told Logan that, after he was notified of the attacks, he left his apartment and went to the compound and scaled its 12-foot perimeter wall.
“Once inside, he said he encountered an enemy combatant,” Logan’s complaint avers. “Davies stated that he hit the would-be attacker in the face with the butt of his rifle. Davies claimed he saw Ambassador Stevens’ body later that night in the hospital.”
Logan claims Davies was not a key source for her story. She says her main sources confirmed accusations made by Republican lawmakers in numerous congressional hearings that President Barack Obama’s administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had left the mission to Libya exposed and without the military presence needed to fend off a terrorist attack.
After careful vetting by CBS producers, Logan says, the network aired the story on “60 Minutes” in October 2013.
In the segment, Davies, identified with a pseudonym, recounts the story he told Logan.
But days after the piece aired, the Washington Post published a story in which it stated, citing anonymous State Department officials, that Davies had given his employer a different account of his whereabouts the day of the attacks.
The New York Times ran a story shortly thereafter citing senior government officials, who said Davies “told the F.B.I. that he was not on the scene until the morning after the attack,” consistent with the report he had given his employer, according to the lawsuit.
“After publication of the New York Times article, CBS decided to retract the Benghazi report,” the complaint states. “The decision to pull the story was driven by politics. The Benghazi report contradicted the Obama narrative that al-Qaeda was on the run.”
Logan says at the urging of then-CBS News Chairman Jeffrey Fager, she went on “CBS This Morning” and apologized to viewers for putting Davies on the air. CBS then placed and her producer on a leave of absence.
She claims the backlash reached new lows in an article written by Joe Hagan that New York magazine published in May 2014 with the sexist headline “Benghazi and the Bombshell.” According to the lawsuit, the magazine’s owner New York Media LLC had an “axe to grind” against then-CBS CEO Leslie Moonves.
Logan says the article, quoting an unnamed CBS staffer, called her “Moonves’ asset” and stated that she became a permanent reporter on “60 Minutes” because Moonves had pushed her on the show’s executive producer.
“The purpose of the Hagan Hit Piece was to smear Logan, embarrass Moonves and raise questions about both Moonves’ judgment and Fager’s performance as executive producer,” the complaint states.
The article, which was shared by millions of social media users, also defamed Logan by claiming her Benghazi report was “deeply flawed” and that her “star power blinded her superiors to her flaws,” according to the lawsuit.
Hagan’s article included this assessment: “Inside 60 Minutes, Logan’s flawed report is seen as the strongest evidence that the most celebrated news program in American TV history has lost its moorings.”
Logan says she and her team on the Benghazi story were prevented from verifying Davies’ accounts by a nondisclosure agreement they had signed with the publisher of his book on the attacks, “The Embassy House.”
She alleges the article damaged her finances, as CBS cut her salary from more than $2 million to $750,000.
Logan lives in central Texas. She claims her reputation had been so badly damaged that from 2015 through 2017, CBS did not assign her to cover Texas stories like the flooding from Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast in August 2017 and the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs in November 2017.
CBS aired Logan’s last “60 Minutes” story in July 2018, she says, and two months later the network told her it would not renew her contract.
She wants $25 million in damages on claims of defamation and business disparagement.
New York magazine declined to comment on the allegations.