You paraded an absolute fabrication in front of the world and gave assurances that it was the verified, vetted truth. The subject of this report was so serious, and the accusations it made so vile, that the story made a deep and immediate impact on the business of the nation. In a Congress already beset by deliberate stalling and obstruction, this one report provided succor to those trying to halt the gears of government. It acted as an excuse to delay appointments from the courts to the FCC. It is not an exaggeration to say that the cost of this mistake can be measured in lost jobs, lost dollars, and lost opportunities.
The cost can also be measured in the horrible emotional blows it landed. A swift kick to the families of those who lost their lives in Benghazi, who could easily conclude from this report that their loved ones had been cruelly abandoned. A slap in the face of those in the military and State Department who did all they could to help, and whose motives and actions were again called into doubt.
Your story brought on anguish, misery, and political turmoil. For a lie. But if that was the worst of it, if being "mislead" was your only failing, this pared down apologia might be sufficient.
The thing is, the story itself was the least of it.
It's not that you made a mistake. It's that you sold that mistake with such vigor. You maintained that the report had been verified by FBI sources. It hadn't. Instead, sources in the FBI quite readily acknowledged that the story your source had provided to them did not match your information. You were already aware that Dylan Davies had given a different account of events to his employer. More than that, you were certainly aware that months of congressional testimony and investigations had produced information that directly contradicted the information in your story. The narrative provided by Davis should have been subject to the kind of extraordinary proof that such extraordinary claims demand. Far from validating the information, you deliberately and knowingly withheld information that made your source appear less reliable, and clearly you did not carry out the level of validation you maintained. That's not being misled. That's abetting a lie. That's collusion.
Why would you take this action? Well, the reporter in the story admitted openly that she had a direct, political motive. She wasn't passing along information to enlighten the public. She didn't even make a pretense at neutrality. She called for vindictive action against people who had done nothing wrong, on the basis of a story she knew—knew—was at best the unverified second (if not the third) version of a story told by a confessed liar. In running her story without validation, you endorsed that position.
Finally, you ran the story with no admission that CBS' parent organization had a direct, financial interest in raising the profile of this tale and it's author. It's not the first time that a network has failed to divulge its clear interest in promoting other media properties in their portfolio, but it may be the most egregious.
A completely fabricated story? Yes, but that's not the real issue. Dylan Davies may have lied to you, but you lied to us. You pretended to verification you didn't do. You accepted a story from a reporter working toward an acknowledged political goal. And you ran a story in which you had an undisclosed, but clear financial interest.
That's journalistic malpractice in the first degree. "Whoops," is not going to cut it.