Lara Logan, Once a Star at CBS News, Is Now One for the Far Right
When Lara Logan reached the heights of American journalism more than a decade ago, as the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News, her bosses didn’t think twice about sending her to cover the biggest stories in the world. Producers clamored to work with her as she landed interviews with a Taliban commander, chronicled the Arab Spring and tracked the Ebola outbreak. Former President Barack Obama called her to wish her well after the most traumatic event of what seemed like a limitless career: She was sexually assaulted while covering a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011.
But today Ms. Logan cuts a far different figure in American media. Instead of on national news broadcasts, she can be found as a guest on right-wing podcasts or speaking at a rally for fringe causes, promoting falsehoods about deaths from Covid vaccines and conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
Recently, she downplayed the seriousness of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol on one of those shows. “This is now the crime of the century?” she asked sarcastically. She has echoed pro-Kremlin attacks on the United States, accusing Americans of “arming the Nazis of Ukraine.” And she has compared Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Hillary Clinton to some of Hitler’s most notorious henchmen.
Her latest project is a forthcoming documentary on voting machines called “Selection Code” that is being financed by Mike Lindell, the chief executive of My Pillow, who has helped spread some of the most outrageous myths about the 2020 presidential election.
From the outside, Ms. Logan’s path has been one of the most puzzling in the modern history of television news. Her reporting for “60 Minutes” and the “CBS Evening News” helped inform the nation’s understanding of the toll that a decade of military conflict was taking on American forces. CBS News executives envisioned her as a next-generation star in the mold of a Mike Wallace or Dan Rather.
But her transformation, into a star of far-right media, is one that former colleagues who worked closely with her said did not completely come out of nowhere.
More than half a dozen journalists and executives who worked with Ms. Logan at “60 Minutes,” most of whom spoke anonymously to discuss private interactions with her, said she sometimes revealed political leanings that made them question whether she could objectively cover the Obama administration’s military and foreign policy moves. She appeared increasingly conservative in her politics over the years, they said, and more outspoken about her suspicions of the White House’s motives and war strategy.
Some said her opinions started to dovetail with the views of Obama critics she relied on as sources then who have since become close allies of former President Donald J. Trump, including Lindsey Graham, the hawkish Republican senator from South Carolina, and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who aided efforts to attempt to overturn the 2020 election and has embraced numerous other conspiracy theories.
Still, Ms. Logan’s turn has disappointed many who considered her bright and fearless and admired her for returning again and again to Iraq and Afghanistan despite nearly losing her life in 2003, when an American military vehicle she was in was hit by Taliban fire. She lay unconscious while her crew and military personnel scrambled to drag her to safety, thinking she was dead.
“She was extraordinarily courageous in her war reporting,” said Ira Rosen, a former “60 Minutes” producer who wrote a book about his years with the network, “Ticking Clock.”
“When I think of Lara,” Mr. Rosen added, “I want to remember the Lara who put her life on the line reporting for CBS News in Afghanistan and Egypt. The one now I almost don’t even want to know about.”
When reached for comment, Ms. Logan said she wouldn’t participate in “a hit piece,” and added, “I’m not interested,” before abruptly hanging up. But today she speaks often to conservative talk show hosts about her days at CBS, describing what she views as a culture of conformity in the mainstream media.
“The moment I wasn’t toeing the line, then I was, ‘Oh, she used to be great, what happened to her?’” Ms. Logan said on a recent episode of Mr. Lindell’s web show, “The Lindell Report.”
“‘Oh, she’s unhinged and disgraced,’” Ms. Logan added, referring to the criticism and ostracism she has faced in recent months after making disparaging comments about public health officials like Dr. Fauci, among others.
In November, after she compared Dr. Fauci to Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who performed inhumane experiments on concentration camp prisoners, Ms. Logan was dumped by the production company that made a show she starred in on Fox Nation, the streaming service for Fox News. Her longtime talent agency also severed ties with her, according to one news executive.
Since then, she has been relegated even further into the periphery of conservative media, where vaccine skeptics and election deniers host her and hail her as a whistleblower who, in their telling, is exposing mainstream media cover-ups. In interviews in recent weeks, she has taken aim at a range of seemingly unrelated targets — railing against “open border ideologues” and the United Nations bureaucrats she accuses of supporting them, so-called smart meters that record energy consumption in homes, and activists working to reverse climate change, which she has called “another load of B.S.”
Though she expresses views that are hard right today, some former CBS News colleagues recalled that her politics were not always easy to pigeonhole as conservative when they worked together. One said that Ms. Logan, who was raised in South Africa, once expressed dismay at the prevalence of guns in the United States and said she did not understand the affinity that many Americans have for the Second Amendment. She spoke with pride about her family when she described them as dedicated opponents of apartheid, they said.
Several who worked alongside her said her fearlessness in war zones was double-edged — it produced some good television but also sometimes made them question her judgment. On occasion, they said, she led her producers and crew into situations that they thought were not worth the risk. Some cameramen refused to work with her, one of the former colleagues added, and she could be dismissive of the security teams the network hired to keep its journalists safe.
One former CBS producer who worked with her, Peter Klein, said in an interview that the structure of a large newsroom was a moderating influence. “There’s a system in place in newsrooms that offer checks and balances,” said Mr. Klein, founder of the Global Reporting Centre in British Columbia, a nonprofit. “Most of us need that system — but she really needed that system. And we knew that from the beginning,” he said.
“Now she’s just unfiltered,” Mr. Klein added.
The former CBS journalists said that spending more than a decade reporting from war zones started to take its toll on her emotionally, as it would on almost anyone repeatedly subjected to the trauma of combat. And they said they noticed a considerable change in her demeanor — seemingly more paranoid at times, erratic and deferential to her military sources — after she was sexually assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. In that attack, a mob of men grabbed her, separated her from her crew and tore off her clothes in what she described as a “merciless” attack. She was hospitalized for several days.
The next year, Ms. Logan gave a speech that would presage her downfall at CBS. The American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, had just been attacked, killing four Americans and igniting a firestorm among Republicans who accused Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, the secretary of state at the time, of underestimating the threat terrorists posed to Americans.
Sounding more like an advocate for the military than a reporter, Ms. Logan told her audience in Chicago that she hoped the government was getting ready to deploy its “best clandestine warriors” to “exact revenge.” The world should know, she added, that the United States would not be attacked and then “stand by and do nothing about it.” And she accused the Obama administration of playing down the threat from the Taliban, and of lying “about who they really are.”
Then, about a year later, she began telling people she was working on a story that “was going to blow the lid off Benghazi,” according to one person’s recollection.
The story she came up with was the kind of work known inside “60 Minutes” somewhat dismissively as a “book report” because it was based in part on a forthcoming book. Ms. Logan interviewed the author, a security contractor stationed in Libya, who said in a segment that aired on Oct. 27, 2013, that he had helped defend the compound on the night of the attack. He described in harrowing detail how he came face to face with the enemy.
The New York Times reported several weeks later that the contractor had, in fact, told the F.B.I. that he was not inside the compound that night. After initially defending Ms. Logan and the report, CBS News retracted it and apologized. Ms. Logan and her producer were placed on a leave of absence, and she acknowledged having made a “disappointing” mistake.
The network’s chief and executive producer of “60 Minutes” at the time, Jeffrey Fager, later called the story “the worst mistake on my 10-year watch.”
Ms. Logan quietly left the network in 2018 after her contract expired. In a defamation lawsuit she filed in 2019 against New York magazine over a 2014 profile she claimed had harmed her ability to find other work, she said CBS cut her salary to $750,000 in 2015 from $2,150,000 in 2014. (A federal judge dismissed the case.) She moved from Washington to the Hill Country of Texas with her husband and children, a relocation she told People magazine in 2016 allowed her to focus more on being a mother, especially to her son with a learning disability.
Ms. Logan’s banishment from mainstream media has hardly restricted her access to the center of gravity in the Republican Party.
This month, she made a trip to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida estate, for a screening of a new film by the conservative author Dinesh D’Souza. Other guests included General Flynn, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, and Kyle Rittenhouse, the man acquitted of murdering two people during a political demonstration that turned violent in Kenosha, Wis., in 2020. As guests mingled on the grounds, Mr. Rittenhouse stopped to have his picture taken with Ms. Logan.