Lara Logan messed up bad. In an Oct. 27 60 Minutes story, she reported that during the 2011 terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the British security contractor Dylan Davies had “raced to the compound amid the attack, scaled a wall and fought off terrorists who killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.” Days after the story ran, it became clear that Davies had told a different tale in an incident report filed with his employer, and may not even have been at the scene. Davies’ forthcoming Simon & Schuster book — “The Embassy House” — was quickly recalled.
It’s the perfect opportunity for Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi to take a fine-tooth comb to Logan’s previous missteps. Like her Halloween costume. Anonymous sources found it incredibly skanky.
After zipping through Logan’s journalistic war stories (“She’s been shot at, arrested, blindfolded by militiamen, and physically assaulted by a mob while reporting from some of the most troubled places on Earth”) and listing her awards (“She has been amply recognized for her work, having won an Emmy Award, an Overseas Press Club Award and the duPont Award, among others”), Farhi launches into past criticism of her work. “At the same time, Logan’s globetrotting lifestyle and striking looks have occasionally made her tabloid fodder,” Farhi reports. “Logan’s femininity often attracts as much attention as her reporting; virtually every profile of her mentions that she was once a swimsuit model. On Halloween, people who live in Logan’s neighborhood were startled to see the famous TV correspondent trick-or-treating with her children while dressed in a hot-pink bodysuit costume, set off with high heels.”
Let’s break that down: “Logan’s femininity often attracts as much attention as her reporting” is a self-fulfilling statement: Logan is in hot water because of what she reported, not because of what she looks like. Farhi’s the one making the choice to turn the attention to her “femininity.” Similarly, writing that “virtually every profile of her mentions that she was once a swimsuit model” is just an excuse to mention that she was once a swimsuit model. And harping on her “globetrotting lifestyle and striking looks”? That’s particularly gross given that in 2011, while “globetrotting” in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a mob of over 200 men sexually assaulted and beat her for 25 minutes, tearing her clothes to shreds, hitting her with flagpoles, and attempting to rip off pieces of her scalp, which Farhi only mentions in passing.
Also, why are we even talking about this? Lara Logan messed up — big time — so let’s get to the part where we rip into her journalistic credibility. After running down her swimsuits and her bodysuits, here’s what Farhi’s got: Two previously reported controversial public statements Logan has made (about Michael Hastings and the Obama administration); a brief rehashing of the endlessly reported “60 Minutes” incident; some stale quotes from media experts who have commented on it elsewhere. Take out all the aggregation, and slutty Halloween is the only scoop in the whole piece. Farhi is nothing without the hot-pink bodysuit, and his piece, which should have skewered Logan, says a lot more about his reporting than it does hers.
Amanda Hess is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She blogs for DoubleX on sex, science and health. Tweet at her @amandahess.