What’s the matter with 60 Minutes?

Updated below:

“What’s the matter with 60 Minutes?”

That was the question asked by many, after the program on Sunday aired what has since been slammed as an inaccurate portrayal of the cleantech industry.

Besides the fact that the piece made no mention of climate change — which is one of the stronger arguments behind cleantech — the report largely passed over the recent explosive growth in wind power, solar power, LED lights and electric vehicles.

But it’s not like 60 Minutes wasn’t told about the recent major successes in the clean tech industry. Robert Rapier, Chief Technology Officer at Merica International, was interviewed by 60 Minutes, and spoke to them at length about cleantech’s many successes. But the only comments included were ones about cleantech investor Vinod Khosla, who CBS asserts is “known as the father of the cleantech revolution” (he is not).

Rapier spoke with ClimateProgress on Monday about what got left out of the interview. Some of the answers below were edited for clarity.

See all at Climate Progress.

Smashed StopwatchIt was a sorry sight to see last night as Leslie Stahl made the case that somehow the Chinese were benefiting from tax-payer funded start ups, implicitly saying the Chinese were doing something wrong, and that government –read tax payer– funding was misguided.  She said nothing about US VC reluctance to invest in clean -tech, or what pathology keeps them focused on tomorrow but not next week.  This follows a number of other dubious shows — which suggest to me that a libertarian, if not tea-party troll is at work inside the once great show.

Update from The Nation:

“I’m exhausted,” claimed 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl on Sunday, as she ticked off a list of clean energy companies that have failed in recent years.

What’s really getting exhausting is the amount of shoddy reporting that has aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes in recent weeks, from a retracted account of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi to segments on the National Security Agency and Amazon’s drones that were more infomercial than news.

The latest hack job is “Cleantech Crash,” a report on the green technology sector. Stahl claims that cleantech has become “a dirty word,” and highlights a handful of failed companies to suggest that private and public investment in renewables has led to “ a string of expensive tax-funded flops.” The report is anecdotal, and ignores key evidence in favor of handwringing about wasted taxpayer dollars.

Update from Joe Romm at Think Progress /Climate

For those who want the facts of the cleantech boom, a good place to start is the DOE report:

  • In 2012, wind was America’s largest source of new electrical capacity, accounting for 43 percent of all new installations. Altogether the United States has deployed about 60 gigawatts of wind power — enough to power 15 million homes.
  • Since 2008, the price of solar panels has fallen by 75 percent, and solar installations have multiplied tenfold. Many major homebuilders are incorporating rooftop panels as a standard feature on new homes.
  • In that same five years, the cost of super-efficient LED lights has fallen more than 85 percent and sales have skyrocketed. In 2009, there were fewer than 400,000 LED lights installed in the U.S.; today, the number has grown 50-fold to almost 20 million.
  • During the first six months of 2013, America bought twice as many plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) as in the first half of 2012, and six times as many as in the first half of 2011. In fact, the market for plug-in electric vehicles has grown much faster than the early market for hybrids.

60 Minutes Banghazi Follow Up

As I thought would happen….

NEW YORK — Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of ‘”60 Minutes,” informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine’s discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.

Though, I didn’t know this:

Ortiz also wrote that Logan’s October 2012 foreign policy speech, in which she spoke of the need for “revenge” for the Benghazi attack, was also problematic. “From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story,” Ortiz wrote.

One question that remains unanswered is how “60 Minutes” first reached Davies and what role his writing a book for Threshold Editions -– an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of CBS –- could have played in him appearing on air. There’s been speculation that Logan’s husband, a former defense contractor, could have been involved in getting him on air as well.

So, added to the rush to get a new angle, and the failure to notice the flying red-flags, there is a bit of an ideological issue here….

60 Minutes and the Benghazi Report Debacle

60 Minutes, the venerable and highly respected Sunday new magazine at CBS aired a report on October 27 featuring a claimed participant in  the defense of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept 11, 2012.  It turns out that Dylan Davies was either at the consulate and lied to his employer, XXX and the FBI in several interviews, or he was not there and lied to 60 Minutes.  It also turns out that he has a book coming out under the right wing Simon & Schuster [owned by CBS] imprint, Threshold Editions.

There is plenty available to get you up to date, here, here and here.

What is baffling to me however, is what was pushing 60 Minutes to put together the story at all, much less to depend so exclusively on one source who had outright told them he had lied to his employer — that the story 60 Minutes had was the true story.  Why on earth?!

The nasty suspicion is that CBS was trying to curry favor with the rabid right — known for loyalty if not to accuracy.   At least one former 60 Minutes producer shares the suspicion.

“My concern is that the story was done very pointedly to appeal to a more conservative audience’s beliefs about what happened at Benghazi,” Mary Mapes told Media Matters. “They appear to have done that story to appeal specifically to a politically conservative audience that is obsessed with Benghazi and believes that Benghazi was much more than a tragedy.”

Another thing no one is talking about is that Lara Logan, the lead reporter on the piece, is the same Lara Logan who was attacked and sexually assaulted in Cairo February 2011.  One wonders if her terrifying experience led her to press into a similar story which, by reporting on, she could control, or by imagining in detail could quiet her own personal trauma.

CBS is apologizing.  Firings may follow — if only to put a serious face on trying to stop the hemorrhaging of the 60 Minutes brand.  It would be too bad if Logan is attacked again, but it may happen.

Most important is to understand who led the charge?  Who decided that the much debated and investigated attack and failure to defend the consulate in Benghazi, was worth re-visiting?

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham who was in quite a tizzy after the first (erroneous) report, praising 60 Minutes [not a typical gesture from the right] for its sterling reporting and proof that the Obama administration was indeed covering up their failure to defend, has gone silent.  Next thing we know he’ll point out that 60 Minutes is a known liberal outlet and not to be trusted — but he’ll keep his promise to put a hold on all Obama’s appointments — just in case.