Lara Logan: Who’s To Blame?

Celebrated photojournalist Harry Benson argues that the beautiful CBS war correspondent — victim of a brutal sexual assault in Egypt — should not have been sent there on assignment

I am a stalwart supporter of the women’s movement with a full understanding of what it means to be an equal opportunity employer. But as a photojournalist, I have experienced similarly dangerous situations to the one CBS reporter Lara Logan faced in Egypt, and would like to comment her recent, horrific assault there.

I have been in skirmishes and riots in many places, including Cyprus, Somalia, Watts, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bosnia, and I have seen the way women are treated. Once in Croatia, a woman reporter and I were taking a ferry across the sea, as it was quicker than going by land. The reporter was a smart, pretty woman. It was a lovely, sunny day and she said she was going up top for some fresh air. After a while I decided to venture to the upper deck, too. The reporter was lying flat on her stomach with her bra undone sunning herself. She was surrounded by what looked to be 30 workmen who happened to be on the ferry. I literally had to pull her away to get to the lower deck. Although nothing occurred, the situation was potentially dangerous for the obvious reasons.

The last place for a young, attractive woman to be is in the middle of an extremely dangerous situation surrounded by an angry mob. Not only does it put her in harm’s way, but it compromises her co-workers as well, since they have to try to protect her as best they can – sometimes an impossible task. The crew usually consists of the sound man, the cameraman and one or two others. Some might be middle-aged or retirement age. Do the assigning editors think of the rest of the crew’s safety? Not to sound insensitive, but needless to say, their ability to cover the news is affected as well.

Who should take part of the responsibility, part of the blame? To my mind, it should be the editors who gave her the assignment in the first place. Lara Logan is lucky to be alive. The problem is that the production team thinks everything will be alright because the team is staying in a luxury hotel with all the amenities. But what they don’t realize or take into consideration is the risk to a young, beautiful woman with long flowing blond hair in the middle of an angry, hysterical, fearless mob living for the moment. I would like to know what the crew with Ms. Logan had to say. The crew in these situations might have to pay a very high price for the anchor’s ambition and willingness to take these risks.

Being a photographer, I always tried to go on assignments alone, as I could then make my own decisions and take calculated risks. If I happened to have a reporter with me, it cut my productivity in half.

I am all for women doing whatever job that men do. Honestly, many times I find the women I work with to be smarter than the men. But shame on the editors at CBS who assigned a beautiful woman to cover a very dangerous situation. Their lack of judgment should have been tempered with a little common sense. Their decision about whom to send to cover the uprising and political unrest should not have been made for fear of being politically incorrect.

Editor’s Note: Scottish-born photojournalist Harry Benson has shot for an international array of magazines and newspapers. He has photographed eleven American presidents from Eisenhower to Obama, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., and has photographed luminaries from Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II to Frank Sinatra, Brad Pitt and The Rolling Stones. The most published photographer in Life magazine, Harry has had forty one-man exhibitions of his work in the US and Europe, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. He lives in New York and Florida with his wife, Gigi.

30 comments so far.

  1. avatar Linda Myers says:

    I watched the report on her career, she has spent most of her time in war zones and on battlefields with ammunition flying. It is what she does, she did say though since she got married and has small children fears related to something happening and the affect on her family now crosses her mind. I agree a blond in Egypt was maybe not the best approach but she is seasoned to her assignments and had been through much worse. What happened to her could have happened at anytime in this country as well. Her choices in what she does in the future, hopefully will still be her choices without being restrained because she is a woman or blond. She is an ace at what she does. Nobody tells Diane Sawyer where she can report from.

  2. avatar Susan Smith says:

    This incident points out how hard it is to overcome gender bias. Someday I want to read about a reporter who was attacked not an “attractive woman.” I want to read about the heroism of a soldier on the front lines not a female soldier with children. I want to read about the CEO of a company without knowing she is married with children. I want to read a history book that gives credit to the people involved regardless of gender or race. How do we ever get to names and nouns instead of adjectives?

  3. avatar V B says:

    Someone tell Hilary Clinton, Condoleesa Rice, Madeleine Albright that they can’t go there either.

  4. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Lara Logan’s ordeal could have happened in any country at any time. If there is blame to be laid it was in not having enough protection for the entire crew. More than one journalist was roughed up or jailed during those protests. Had she been male the mob mentality could have taken her life. This is not about women in a war zone it is about men degrading women. It happens all around the world. Some men are taught that violence is a way of controlling women this is especially true in the Mideast where women are stoned for allegedly (often doesn’t happen) having affairs. Let’s not forget the honor killings by male family members. I detect gender bias that a woman would be allowed to cover national news. Ms. Logan was an experienced reporter familiar with conditions in Egypt. Let’s not drag her through the mud by insinuating that she was asking for what happened by being there. I think Ms. Logan’s presence in Egypt should be no more in question than that of a male reporter unless you are saying attractive women can’t perform their jobs.

    • avatar Anais P says:

      This is one of the best comments on the subject of Lara Logan’s assault and where the responsibility lies. Can we also agree that responsibility for the assault also rests with the criminals who assaulted her? I agree there was not enough security for her crew. She did not have a problem until she was separated from the rest of the crew. Bravo to the group of Egyptian women and soldiers who rescued her, and best wishes to Logan on her recovery.

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      Thank you Chris for a beautifully written and thoughtful piece.  I too, wish for Lara Logan’s speedy recovery and a time when sufficient security is in place for all reporting teams.  Thank you as well to Anais for your comments.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Harry Benson, where do I begin? There is so much that is wrong about what you have written in this article, you have left me stunned.
     
    First of all the incident that you offered up about the young reporter who was “sunning herself with her bra undone” not only was that irresponsible and reckless on her part, but that would have been the case if she was 50 and flabby. So that is not applicable to this situation.
     
    Lara Logan will be 40 years old this year. She is far from being a pretty young thing that can’t handle herself among a throng of out of control men. To the contrary, her celebrated history covering some of the world’s more volatile uprises proves she has the chops to hold her own. What happened to her, could have happened to any woman in her place. Her looks I would argue had nothing to do with it.
     
    This was a situation of high emotions, testosterone and a gang mentality. I have heard it used before when discussing this horrific event and I think it is valid to do so. Think of the “wilding” that took place in New York’s Central Park some years ago where women where brutally sexually assaulted and raped. Did the young men convicted of these heinous acts set out that day to rape and abuse women? Or did the high emotions of the moment overtake any sensibilities they may have had? Were they swept up in the emotions that were swelling and building around them?
     
    My point Mr. Benson is, famed reporter Helen Thomas could have been where Lara Logan was and she too would have been abused. You say that you are a supporter of women’s rights, but in this instance, in my opinion, your comments come across as misogynistic. To expect an editor to dispatch their in the field reporters based on some random and completely arbitrary and shallow guideline of beauty…”I’d do her, so maybe we shouldn’t send her…she’s fat and old, she’s safe to send” that smacks of not only bias but extreme misogyny.
     
    Beauty and looks should never be a factor when deciding who should or should not cover a news story. Competence and intellect should.

    • avatar Maizie James says:

      “Beauty and looks should never be a factor when deciding who should or should not cover a news story. Competence and intellect should.” – Belinda Joy

      Great post, Belinda. Thanks for sharing your sensible opinion.

    • avatar alice ruth says:

      Belinda Joy — Good response to this article. I have always thought Lara Logan was one of the best reporters on the events in this region of the world. I hope she recovers quickly and is able to continue the great work she is doing.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Belinda…

      Stunned by Mr. Benson’s post—but still capable of kicking his ass, I see.  You rock, as always.

  6. avatar Katto says:

    Who’s to blame?  Her attackers are to blame.  I have heard reported that other women were attacked that day as welll…….old, young, veiled, not veiled.  She was attacked  because she was a woman and the men felt they could get away with it.

  7. avatar Rose says:

    At which point do you as a reporter, look into a seething, angry crowd of male protesters, in a country where women are not respected to begin with, and decide that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t really the right time to go risk your safety and the safety of your co-workers?  Yes, she was doing her job.  Yes, she’s experienced.  But I wonder if she’d make the same decision twice.

  8. avatar Lila says:

    Mr. Benson, shame on you.  Lara Logan  was just one among dozens upon dozens of journalists who have received very similar, brutal “warnings” that  some forces do not  want  the press in Tahrir Square.  But she is the  only one WE (YOU) seem interested in talking about.
     
    Don’t dare to suggest that some people, based on looks, should not be allowed to do their jobs.  If you were truly fair and realistic, you would also advocate pulling the following off of their assignments:
     
    Greg Palkot and Olaf Wiig, who were seriously injured; Anderson Cooper and his crew were beaten; Mark Strassman and his cameraman were  beaten and Maced; Marie Colvin was threatened with knives; Jean-Francois Lepine and his crew were attacked and beaten, until rescued by the military; Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed; photographer Andrew Burton was surrounded and beaten; Seffen Jenson was clubbed while on the air; Petros Papaconstantinou was beaten and stabbed; Bert Sundsrom was stabbed in the stomach; Christiane Amanpour’s vehicle was attacked as she fled a confrontation; Katie Couric had to flee a confrontation; the list goes on and on.  Dozens more from many different countries have been either assaulted by the crowd or arrested by the police or Army, and had their equipment confiscated.
     
    Whose fault is it?  Duh, the goons engaging in the violence.
     
    So back off.  What happened to Ms. Logan was not unique to her, not unique to women, not even unique to foreigners.  It is a highly volatile situation for JOURNALISTS.  Pull all of them out, or shut up and let her do her job.

  9. avatar Bonnie O says:

    Who is to blame?  The attackers of Lara Logan, of course.

    Who should share in the blame?   The members of the Egyptian media who spread false rumors that journalists covering the events in Tahrir Square were members of the Israeli secret police.

    Given the fact that women in parts of the Middle East continue to be treated second-class and millions of young girls are still forced to undergo sexual mutilations to reduce their sexual desires, should western female journalists travel within these nations?   Not without considerable thought and knowledge of the risks they face.  But to forbid women journalists from covering the news in Egypt or anywhere else is not only unfair but definitely wrong even though the profession is at times very dangerous and can be deadly.

    I hope Lara Logan continues to recover. 

  10. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Harry Benson of course is what every criminal defense attorney looks for when selecting a jury for a sexual assault trial. The kind of guy that will pay attention when the criminal defense attorney plays the ”guilty victim” card.  “Little lady, men will be men. Were you not luring men when you chose to wear a short skirt and a tight sweater without a bra?”
     
    Whoever at wowOwow chose to run this should ask themselves why they did.  Harry Benson may be celebrated for his photography but at this point he is also celebrated for his absolutlely appalling attitude towards women. 

  11. avatar Maizie James says:

    Shame on Harry Benson for inferring that Logan’s ‘beauty’ triggered the ‘beast’ who brutally attacked her.  Lara Logan is among the few professional journalist I admire and respect.  I don’t ever recall seeing Logan cover tabloid type topics, or badger those she interviews.  Rather, her reporting style reminds me of the reporters of years past when journalist’s integrity and high standars was critical to the credibility of the stories they covered.  60 Minutes is the only prime-time weekly news show I watch, and the segments that featured reports covered by Logan were exemplary. There was never a hint of flaunting her femininity.  I also admire Leslie Stahl for her professionalism.
    Most week nights I watch PBS NEWS HOUR because I prefer straight news reporting followed by interview panels.  However on occasion, I watched Katie Couric after Charlie Gibson left CBS.  I thought she did a great job.  Yet, I stopped watching when in some segments, [directors?] began showing broader view anchor desks shots of her posed sitting with her legs crossed … presumably showing ‘skin’ to lure younger viewers and/or satisfy sponsors marketing goals??? Frankly, I was baffled and disappointed, wondering why CBS producers made this decision and why Couric allowed her gender ‘advantages’ to play a role in delivering the nightly news.
    No.  Lara Logan is NOT the blame for her brutal beating and rape.  It is her vicious attackers who are the villains.

    • avatar Maizie James says:

      *I apologize for my blunder; misstating that I watched Katie Couric after Charlie Gibson left CBS.
      As I mentioned, I watched PBS NEWS HOUR weeknights as my primary source of news.  However, a few times a week I watch the network news, which airs prior NEWS HOUR.  It is during this time that I used to watch Charlie Gibson on ABC until Dianne Sawyer took over the anchor position.  It was then that I switched to watch Katie Couric on CBS.
       
      Not to offend Sawyer, however it was difficult for me to take her seriously as a news anchor – in the tradition of the nightly news anchors of the past, because I’d [only] seen Sawyer on a few tabloid type news shows.  I think it was a few segments on 20/20 which aired years ago. It was similar in content to those ‘Oprah-isk’ shows which exploits and promulgates sensationalism, and propagates the victimization of human suffering and tragedy.  48 Hours is another ‘tabloid’ type show that I don’t care for.  Yet, 60 Minutes remains faithful to profession investigative journalism.
      PS: I don’t watch morning news programming. Because I was ALWAYS too busy.
       

  12. avatar Miss Lee says:

    As a tall, buxom blond traveling around central Mexico in the 1970′s, I learned pretty quickly that I was a walking neon sign.  I could not go out in public without male escort without being approached, touched and generally harassed.  I have been places in the US where I have been in very similar situations.  I learned long ago that, in certain situations, men can be brutes and no amount of political correctness can restore their thin veneer of civility.  This is certainly less true in the US but in someplace like the middle east, on a good day, you are a target if only for unwanted attention.  In a mob of out of control men, your chances are slim.  It’s not fair but it is reality.   I can understand why she wanted to be there but not why she and her people took the chance.  Surely they understood the risks to all of them. 

  13. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    The men who attacked her were to blame. Period.
    “Shame on CBS for assigning a beautiful woman to cover a very dangerous situation.”  Really? Really?  You think only “beautiful” women get beat up, raped and brutalized in any number of situations?

    Anderson Cooper got punched around on two occasions.  Let’s not send handsome men to cover dangerous situations.   

    I am astonished.
     

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Thank you so very much, Mr. Wow. When I was 16, and held a virtual prisoner in a 65 year old family friend’s house, and brutally sexually assaulted at least twice a day, I was far from a beautiful young woman. I have known several women who were victims of rape, and they were not stunning blonds, with flowing tresses, camera-worthy faces, and perfect bodies who deliberately went into dangerous, or even potentially provocative situations.
       
      Of course, they were still thinking, feeling, perhaps beautiful women on the inside…but that can be taken away very quickly by a world, and a nation, and those like Harry Benson who still believe that certain women should be labeled as “advertisements for rape”. Rape has nothing to do with sex…but these anachronisms from the Victorian Era, when the law did not even acknowledge that rape existed…don’t understand that this is an act of dominance, terrorism, violence, hatred and humiliation, and that a functioning penis isn’t even necessary to engage in the cruelty. Any vaguely phallic object will do.
       
      O, and I am tired of hearing people state that she should have had more security. From who, and with what? Had they brought guns into the mob, the situation would have certainly exploded into all out warfare had her security fired even one shot in her defense, and hundreds, or even thousands might have been killed, most of them innocent. She was the foreigner, and she was abiding by the law…no weapons. I don’t think she went into the situation with her eyes closed…during revolutions, the possibility of coming to serious harm, or even being killed increases dramatically for the press, male or female.
       
      Lara Logan did not go into the Egyptian mob as a Paris Hilton on a stunt to gain the attention of the paparazzi. She did not go into the streets as a beautiful woman out to prove something. She was doing her job, period, end of story. Those women who choose careers that take them into territory that was previously staked out as belonging soley to the male of the species need to stop being treated as different, somehow “special” beings. They are people doing jobs, and frequently doing them extremely well.
       
      The men who whipped, beat, and raped Lara Logan are the only criminals in this case. It was not because they were Muslim…this happens everywhere and anywhere a mob rules, and control has not been established. It happened in Chicago, and Baltimore, and Birmingham, and Watts. It’s happened in Europe, in France, and in what was formerly Czechoslovakia, and in Russia. It’s happened all through Central and South America. And remember, the women, and the men who rescued Lara Logan were Muslim too.
       
      We must not grieve more for female soldiers who lose their lives on the front lines than we do for the men. They would not appreciate our making such a display, I think. And we must not hold up what happened to Lara Logan as a dark beacon that proves that beautiful women, in fact, all women, must be protected, and sheltered, and kept in their place, as helpless, potentially dangerous, foolish, attention-seeking lesser beings that are worthy only of pedestals, sensationalist media reporting, glamor and as talk show hosts pandering to the bored and anti-intellectual, as long as they stay at home, where they belong.
       
      It’s just another version of barefoot and pregnant, but with designer clothes and make-up and hair artists. Is this really an ideology that should be promoted?

  14. avatar anneh says:

    I wish I could say I was “astonished” by this piece of mysoginistic drivel but unfortunately I am not.  Men like this author who proclaim to be “stalwart supporters of the women’s movement” we don’t need.  The obvious inference that only “young attractive” women are in danger overseas from this kind of horrendous sexual abuse is outrageous and so very wrong.  Even the picture chosen to accompany this lousy piece of writing is awful.  I agree with Mr. Wow on this – if we take this kind of sick logic to its extreme we won’t allow “young attractive” women OR men to report on dangerous situations around the world.  This awful piece of drivel really saddens me.

  15. avatar Elle Kaye says:

    Just in case you haven’t gotten the message, Harry Benson, here it is again:

    Greg Palkot and Olaf Wiig, who were seriously injured; Anderson Cooper and his crew were beaten; Mark Strassman and his cameraman were  beaten and Maced; Marie Colvin was threatened with knives; Jean-Francois Lepine and his crew were attacked and beaten, until rescued by the military; Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed; photographer Andrew Burton was surrounded and beaten; Seffen Jenson was clubbed while on the air; Petros Papaconstantinou was beaten and stabbed; Bert Sundsrom was stabbed in the stomach; Christiane Amanpour’s vehicle was attacked as she fled a confrontation; Katie Couric had to flee a confrontation; the list goes on and on.  Dozens more from many different countries have been either assaulted by the crowd or arrested by the police or Army, and had their equipment confiscated
     
    Lara Logan is an extraordinarily bright, intuitive, well-spoken and experienced journalist.  She feels a personal obligation and has the right to be wherever she needs to be to do her job.  Mob mentality, specifically targeted or whatever the reason for the attack, she experienced a horrendous crime.  We express our concern and support for her.  Worldwide concern and support for Ms Logan and condemnation of the actions of the thugs will continue.  Hopefully, security issues for all journalists are being reviewed and improved.  But wars and riots are not known for safety, security or lack of risk for anyone on the front line.
    Coulda, woulda and shoulda don’t help.  We DO support and honor her.  We WILL continue to condemn rape and violence perpetrated on all human beings.  Send your judgmental writings to Fred Flintstone, so he can file them just behind the Tyrannosaurus.  Stick with clicking pics.
     

  16. avatar spinneo says:

    What???  Did you just compare one reporter’s presence in Egypt to another sunbathing topless on a boat.  Why on earth would you believe that to be relevant?
    I will skip your posts from now on.

  17. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I suspect Harry Benson would be wise to keep his sexist self to himself in the future and just take pretty pictures.  And one of the “wowOwow”ers should keep him to herself as well.  Truly not wowOwow’s finest moment. 

  18. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Who’s to blame? Nobody but the thugs who attacked her.  That’s was their choice, it’s their responsibility alone.   With that said, Lara Logan, I am sure, was well-aware of the added threat to her by being a blonde woman going into a misogynistic society, not to mention a strife-ridden area as well.  But that’s her job, that’s what she does.  Doesn’t give anybody the right to attack her.   In America it’s anyone’s right to walk into a bad neighborhood wearing expensive jewelry.  Can a person expect to be mugged?  Probably, but it’s not the victiim’s fault for being mugged.  Remember the woman who claimed to be raped by Mike Tyson?  She was blamed for going to his room to begin with.  So what, maybe she went for sex, but rape ain’t sex people.   Look, like anything, bad exists in the world and we take precautions to avoid it.  But sometimes it’s unavoidable and sometimes putting ourselves in danger is necessary.  But never blame the actions of others on the victim.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      But never blame the actions of others on the victim.

      ________________________________

      But that is what we do in this country. Blame the vicitm for becoming a victim.  Makes us feel as if we will never become one I suppose. We are in control of our lives and so if we become a victim, whether it’s a victim of a rapist or a victim of a Bernie Madooff, well, we only have ourselves to blame.  So why is Bernie Madoff in prison?

      One of the worst of the “New Age/Pop Psychology” maxims is this “There are no victims, only volunteers.” No doubt a maxim put forth by a victmizer. We are a country of victimizers and their victims.  And anyone who blames a victim for becoming a victim is a victimizer. 

      And of course victims sometimes believe it and then become victimizers themselves. Which is how we ended up in Afganistan and Iraq. Convicing ourselves that a war for oil is a war on terror. It is a war for oil That we are losing.  But, well, hey, we only have ourselves to blame. And in this case, well, I do agree we only have ourselves to blame. For allowing ourselves as victims to respond to 9/11 by becoming victimizers.

  19. avatar BigMouthFrog says:

    I am getting the distinct vibe that if Lara Logan looked like Rosie O’Donnell, this guy wouldn’t be feeling the need to write this article at all. Maybe it’s the “beautiful” comment but still it slaps right back to the fact that if a guy finds a women attractive, she should be handled by a different set of rules; thus; protected.
     
    LL has been doing this for years already! She may never want to go back there again and has every right not to, she’s paid her dues. But for a bunch of men to make a decision whether to let this highly capable mid-east correspondent go and cover a story based on beauty; that in my book is just a lessor extreme of those middle eastern men not letting their women out of the house with out male entourage. It’s sexist and patriarchal to the hilt! Lara Logan and all the other attractive women should be able to decide for themselves!

  20. Benson’s focus on Lara Logan’s appearance is only one facet of the paternalism displayed in this article.

    I would like to first challenge-on it’s face -the notion that any journalistic practice that marginalizes the reporting by women as a group could be complete and uphold the tenants of journalistic integrity. The underlying belief in Harry Benson’s suggestion that female journalists should leave the dangerous reporting to men, reveals not only a paternalistic judgement in the inherent frailty of women but more significantly that that men’s voices are primary, authoritative, and on their own–complete. That is to say, they won’t be prefaced as the male reporting on the popular uprising in Egypt, but rather as simply reporting with no mention of male subjectivity. The implication is that male voices are inherently authoritative, they speak for all. This is fundamentally misogynistic.
    Moreover, as a man his attitude conveys little responsibility or a sense accountability for men’s violence against women. Rather, his solution is for men to do whatever they will do and for women to stay in the ‘safety’ of their homes. We all know that the domestic sphere is as violent as the public one for women. In his familiar argument, women are asked to modify their behavior, while men are not and women are held ultimately responsible for men’s behavior.
    It’s important as well to look at the language we are using. Violence against women is not committed in the abstract. The term ‘violence against women’ is in itself misleading and incomplete as Sut Jhally points out in his extensive work on this subject. The term presents an action (violence) and an object (women) with no subject. Let’s speak accurately, the term is Men’s Violence Against Women. Men commit 90% of the violence against women. The vast majority of men are not violent but we need to question what is the responsibility of men within a conversation about men’s violence against women? The reason that men’s violence continues at an unprecedented rate is because men don’t take this on as their issue, don’t stand in solidarity with women, and blame women for being attacked.
    Significantly, as is revealed in Benson’s remarks, many men take for granted the belief that male authored narratives, governance, historical records, art, etc are fundamentally authoritative and complete, a troubling but hardly surprising idea.