Lara Logan’s Cairo Ordeal Starts An Ethics Train Wreck

A female CBS correspondent gets cut off from her security while doing live coverage of the demonstrations in Cairo, is surrounded by a group of Egyptians in the crowd, attacked, and sexually assaulted. She is rescued by Egyptian police and flown back to the U.S., where she is hospitalized.

This what happened to “60 Minutes” Correspondent Lara Logan, and you wouldn’t think such an unambiguous example of brutality and criminal conduct would raise any ethical controversies. But the already nasty incident has metastasized into a full-fledged Ethics Train Wreck, with both the Left and the Right taking turns disgracing themselves.

And the media, of course.

CBS sat on the story and didn’t report it for five days, although it had first-hand information, including a veteran journalist who was the victim. The conflict of interest here is a tough one, but professional news organizations are supposed to be able to handle such dilemmas correctly. Instead of fulfilling its prime directive—report the news—CBS decided to protect its own. As terrible and unethical journalism goes, this is an especially human and understandable variety, but it is a serious breach of journalistic ethics nonetheless. When, by happenstance, bad luck or otherwise, a news organization becomes part of the news, it may not duck its responsibility out of organizational interests or personal bias. What happened to Logan was awful, and a personal catastrophe, but it was a major development in a big international news event. Yet to protect the privacy of its reporter—something CBS would never have done if, for example, one of Fox News’ interchangeable blondes was similarly attacked—the network buried the story until other news organizations reported it. This was unprofessional and irresponsible. Nice, however—but news organizations are not supposed to be “nice.’ They are supposed to tell the truth, and quickly.

The conspiracy-mongers on the Right had a field day with this, as you might expect, violating Occam’s Razor to argue that CBS had a political motive to avoid reporting the brutal assault on their reporter. Michael Graham, for example, suggested that CBS, like the most of the media cheering on the anti-Mubarak protesters, wanted to avoid putting Islamic people in a bad light. This line of reasoning was echoed on talk radio, where Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, among others, darkly suggested that the sexual assault proved their  assertion that we were trading in a “stable” and loyal dictatorship for mob of crazed, West-hating, brutal Muslims.

What an intellectually dishonest and unfair argument. I learned from my days on Sixties college campuses, not to mention on the streets of Boston celebrating sports championships— that mobs in any country, with any population, for any cause, were unpredictable, and that there were always—always—elements in the crowd capable of criminal violence.

From the Left came an especially nauseating attack, as posted a series of Twitter feeds by Nir Rosen, a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security….

“Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger”….”Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse then I’m sorry.” . . .
“ah fuck it, I apologize for being insensitive, it’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.”

A “war monger” …meaning a journalist who was not sufficiently critical of U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, doesn’t deserve as much sympathy when she is beaten and raped as someone Rosen’s politics are more in tune with.  Rosen lost his fellowship as the result of his display of partisan hate. Good.

Debbie Schlussel, on the other side of the aisle, topped Rosen with her own brand of hate. Schlussel is a sometime Fox blonde and talk show host who makes Sean Hannity look like Sean Penn, and her response to Logan’s ordeal was to write:

“How fitting that Lara Logan was “liberated” by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the “liberation.” Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdilllullah [praise allah]….it warms my heart when reporters who openly deny that Islam is violent and constantly promote it get the same kinds of threats of violence I get every day from Muslims. Because now they know how it feels. They aren’t so dismissive of the threats when those threats are directed at them, instead of at us little people. And yet they still won’t admit that THIS. IS. ISLAM. Lara Logan was among the chief cheerleaders of this “revolution” by animals. Now she knows what Islamic revolution is really all about.”

A young woman was attacked by a criminal element in an Egyptian mob, as she was trying to do her job. Her network should have reported the attack, and everyone else should have resisted the impulse to exploit it as ammunition for their ideological skirmishes, and instead expressed their sympathy and wishes for her health and recuperation.

One would think that all of that would come naturally. But the ethics rails couldn’t keep the train on track, and we got a wreck instead, and an ugly one.

18 thoughts on “Lara Logan’s Cairo Ordeal Starts An Ethics Train Wreck

  1. Jack, you didn’t mention the Egyptian women who reportedly surrounded the attackers and also rounded up the police to help. If indeed it is true that they did this, I would say that they deserve to be heralded as Ethics Heroes (or Heroines) as a sidebar to this post. Do you know if the reports were correct?


  2. Why isn’t Lara Logan not being charged with prostitution since she was allegedly having sex in the street multiple times? Shouldn’t she have waited at least until she got back to a room at the hotel? It’s amazing what some tramps will do.

    • Nobody’s made that accusation yet, but she has been accused of being naively provocative, a very attractive young woman in Western dress in a country where such open displays of pulchritude are considered immoral.

    • Do you read news? First you should clear your own biases, then you should comment. Read sexual aspects of the Muslim world. They are sex deprived. I feel sorry for anybody in Lara’s place (Male ,female). It should not happened.
      May god give her strength to over come this tragedy.

  3. I have only sympathy and horror at Logan’s unbelievable ordeal. But let’s see here. She was not the only American journalist attacked by rebels; perhaps it was dumb luck that the others happened to be MEN.

    In any case, some perspective might help, though it will not obviate the horror of the attack on Logan. For decades the US has supported the despotic regime of Mubarak because it served its purposes in the Middle East. (Regimes in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Panama come to mind.) This has been our modus operandi for decades.

    Suddenly, we are thrilled that the citizens of Egypt rebel against their despot, and we send scores of reporters to describe the unrest. A victory for democracy? Perhaps. But consider how at least some of the Egyptian rebels view the US — supporters of their tyrant because it has been convenient for us, regardless of what the citizens themselves have suffered. The basic concept of a free press is totally alien to them, much less our much vaunted “fair and balanced” idea. They have no idea whatsoever of what that means. I am not supporting mob psychology, only recognizing that it exists.(They have lived in an almost totally controlled world for generations. Anyone think of Russia and its new-found freedom after the fall of Gorbachev? Gee whiz, they’re “free”now, with Putin (former KGB) being elected president and then declaring himself President for Life, and a huge and growing Russian Mafia. Americans are basically morons, but they possess more knowledge about how the world works than any Egyptian rebel — however brave or noble — has ever had.

    Why didn’t CBS understand the same thing?

    So hordes of American reporters descend on Cairo, and the rebels are supposed to trust them, confide in them, be pleased they are there, and trust that they will “get the word out?” Nonsense.

    It is entirely CBS’s fault that they sent an almost inevitable victim to report on the goings-on there. Whether Logan thought this would be a career-maker for her or not, CBS should have made the call and NOT sent a beautiful, blonde, American and very foreign woman to this chaotic situation. CBS put her in danger. Period. And if they didn’t report the grotesque attack she suffered in a timely fashion, it’s because they were caught dead to rights on their dubious decision-making, and knew it.

    It’s not journalistic ethics. It’s greed (beautiful blonde reporting from hell), lack of perspective, and pure stupidity that sent Logan to the gates of hell. And I hope CBS executives end up there, too.

    • I suppose part of their thinking was “Hey, she survived some pretty intense stints in both Iraq and Afghanistan, how’s Egypt gonna hurt her?” Then again, she generally had a bunch of soldiers with her when reporting in the war zone.

      • It’s almost good that she may be a bit sore, that’s what she wanted and that’s what she got. Hopefully though, I do hope she is criminally charged with banging so many guys in the public streets.

  4. If combat troops have some restriction to send their female soldiers to the front, I suppose the same logic applies to Lara. As to the question of ethics is concerned, wholehearted support is needed for Lara at this moment of crisis and not to air an intellectual discussion on the unfortunate event. From my country too some of the bright female TV crew went to Egypt to cover the event and many including those who are opposed to some of them here in India were greatly concerned about their safe return. I abhor the comments by michellefrommadison.

  5. Thank you Penn, it is appropriate to deal with the actual facts and the misconduct of Lara while she was in a foreign land not abiding by the county’s morals and ethics. Jack Marshall summed it up best: “but she (Lara Logan) has been accused of being naively provocative, a very attractive young woman in Western dress in a country where such open displays of pulchritude are considered immoral.”

  6. Ethics is subtler than the subtle. In order to bring into the real life adoption of ethics in an environment the subtlest element has to be brought into a creative process for self as well the organization one works for. The creative process ends as a substance that is identifiable as a qualitative statement of ethical values one has to follow that goes through the process of conceptualization, communication, formation and formulation before it emerges as a substance. The Quality of a substance cannot be separated from it, nor the work associated with it. Meaning the action that ensues is again identifiable and co-related to the quality of the substance created. Between an individual adhering to ethical values and the organization communicating it, one is personal & voluntary and the other compulsory. The organization that sent Lara had failed miserably to have created a set of ethical standards and communicating the same before sending their crew to a war zone. Is there a guarantee the same is not repeated now, sending the crew to Bahrain? Ethics must question the media houses. Lara is the unfortunate victim of lack of ethical values never prescribed by the media. Let the anger and sarcasm be on the media not on the victim that shall be the most appropriate.

  7. Lara Logan is not a victim, infact she was being paid while doing her tricks in the streets. That’s not a victim, that’s a whore, with all due respects.

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