Karen Ocamb

CBS News' Lara Logan Sexually Assaulted in Egypt, Stirs Internet 'Debate'

Filed By Karen Ocamb | February 18, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: anti-Islamic bigotry, CBS News, Egypt, Lara Logan, sexual assault

The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz reported Wednesday morning that the extraordinary CBS News correspondent Lara Logan has recovered sufficiently from her brutal sexual attack and beating in Egypt to leave the US hospital and be re-united with her two children.

Lara Logan in Tahrir Square just before the assault Photo: CBS News

Lara Logan is a longtime frontline war correspondent for CBS News who had previously been arrested in Egypt. She returned to cover the revolution, during which, in the initial stages, pro-Mubarak forces targeted, beat and arrested journalists. Tahrir Square, otherwise known as Independence Square, was supposed to be somewhat safer in the hands of pro-democracy activists.

But CBS News disclosed Tuesday that Logan had been in Tahrir Square, was separated from her crew, surrounded by about 200 men and “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.” She flown out the next morning and was hospitalized when she returned to the US.

Kurtz reported:

"Sources familiar with the situation say Logan has recovered to the point that she was expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday and reunited with her two young children. She is described as being in remarkably good spirits despite her ordeal."

Here's more background from Kurtz on what happened:

CBS News correspondent Lara Logan Photo: CBS News

"As CBS News’ chief foreign correspondent, Logan has reported extensively from the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, sometimes coming under fire while embedded with U.S. military units. She has repeatedly put herself in the line of fire. But an Egyptian mob celebrating the toppling of Hosni Mubarak on Friday turned out to be more dangerous, for Logan, than wars fought with bullets and bombs.

She had returned to Egypt to interview Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who played a key role in organizing the uprising that led to Mubarak’s ouster. The interview was to be done for 60 Minutes, and Harry Smith wound up conducting it instead.

Logan went to Tahrir Square simply because she was drawn there by the remarkable spectacle of the protesters who had gathered by the hundreds of thousands over 18 fateful days, the sources said. But “she and her team were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration,” CBS said. “It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy.” And she was separated from her crew “in the crush of the mob.”

The assault occurred a week after Logan and her crew wound up in the custody of Egyptian military authorities. At first, she was essentially confined to her Alexandria hotel. “It was literally like flipping a switch,” Logan said in a video. “The army just shifted dramatically to a much more aggressive posture."

Logan and her crew were taken into custody after they tried again.

Kurtz picks up the story:

“We were detained by the Egyptian army,” Logan told Esquire. “Arrested, detained, and interrogated. Blindfolded, handcuffed, taken at gunpoint, our driver beaten. It’s the regime that arrested us. They arrested [our producer] just outside of his hotel, and they took him off the road at gunpoint, threw him against the wall, handcuffed him, blindfolded him. Took him into custody like that.”

There was more: “They blindfolded me, but they said if I didn’t take it off they wouldn’t tie my hands. They kept us in stress positions--they wouldn’t let me put my head down. It was all through the night. We were pretty exhausted... We were accused of being Israeli spies. We were accused of being agents. We were accused of everything.” In the process, Logan said, she became “violently, violently ill.” The army eventually released Logan and the crew. And then, because it is hard to keep Logan away from a hot foreign story, she went back.

Logan was among at least 50 other reporters - including CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Fox News’ Greg Palkot and reporters for The New York Times and Washington Post - who were attacked or arrested by pro-Mubarak forces. But - as Kurtz points out - "the Middle East remains a particularly dangerous place for women."

"And it is hard to imagine that this was some random attack, that members of the mob didn’t realize that she was an American television correspondent.

There are obviously unanswered questions about what happened. Was anyone arrested? How was she saved? How bad were her injuries? But CBS isn’t providing further details out of respect for Logan’s privacy. At least we know how the story turned out, with Logan recuperating and heading home."

Logan sits on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which released a statement condemning the attack:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by news that CBS correspondent and CPJ board member Lara Logan was sexually assaulted and beaten in Cairo on Friday while covering rallies marking the resignation of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. "We have seen Lara's compassion at work while helping journalists who have faced brutal aggression while doing their jobs," CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger said. "She is a brilliant, courageous, and committed reporter. Our thoughts are with Lara as she recovers."

Logan joined the CPJ board in October 2008. That same year she spearheaded an effort to raise funds to pay for multiple surgeries for an injured Iraqi reporter, Jehad Ali, whom she befriended while reporting in Iraq. Ali eventually made a full recovery. Logan currently serves on CPJ's Journalist Assistance Committee, which oversees the program that provides financial and other support to journalists around the world who have been victims of violence and repression.

But apparently, as AOL News contributor Steven Hoffer notes, Logan's sexual assault (apparently more so than her beating) has generated an avalanche of ugly responses and "debate" - some of which looks like "she asked for it" because she's beautiful. One dispute, Hoffer wrote, involved the LA Weekly:

3. Salon scolds LA Weekly
LA Weekly writer Simone Wilson’s piece “Lara Logan, CBS Reporter and Warzone ‘It Girl,’ Raped Repeatedly Amid Egypt Celebration” contained enough poor word choices for Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams to remind everyone “what not to say about Lara Logan“:

“Wilson managed to mention Logan’s ‘shocking good looks and ballsy knack for pushing her way to the heart of the action’ before getting to the assault itself. She then went on to imagine how it happened: ‘In a rush of frenzied excitement, some Egyptian protestors apparently consummated their newfound independence by sexually assaulting the blonde reporter.’ Well, sure, what other motive for an assault could there be, given that Logan is, in Wilson’s words, a ‘gutsy stunner’ with ‘Hollywood good looks’? And how else do Egyptians celebrate anyway but with a gang assault? It’s not like she deserved it, but well, she is hot, right?”

The Weekly's Wilson updated her post to make it perfectly clear that she thinks "rape is awful."

"Update: Well! Never has this girl’s inbox been so thoroughly inundated with hatred. Scary stuff, guys.

Just so we’re clear: Rape is awful. Logan’s rape was not her fault. Nothing she did before or during the February 11 attack could have possibly invited or justified the heinous crime that was committed against her. And, just so we’re clear, nowhere in providing links to her highly publicized past did we mean to suggest those facts had somehow led to her assault.

Seriously though. We may be wordy and nosy and over-saturated, but we know our human rights."

The terrible irony here is that on the same day the Internet burned with a "debate" over the horrific ordeal Logan endured - 15 veterans and active-duty servicemembers announced a lawsuit against Sec. Gates and the Pentagon for, as AOL News reported, allegedly

"condoning, ignoring and implicitly encouraging sexual abuse in the ranks.” The "42-page complaint filed in federal district court in Alexandria, Va.,… contains phrases like “f—ing whore,” “bitch” and “troublemaker.” The plaintiffs, who include two men, come from every military branch. They charge they were victimized twice — once by their assailants and again by the institution they served."

AOL reports that "[t]he lawsuit cited the Pentagon’s own statistics that reported 3,230 rapes and other sexual assaults in 2009. Because the military acknowledges that 80 percent of victims don’t report the crime, the real number may be more than 16,000."

Not a whole lot of discussion about that, though – including the connection between sexual assault and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

(Crossposted at LGBT POV)

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Let us remember that during the months after the downfull of Sadam Husseing, the US military targeted journalists in Baghdad - firing on their hotel rooms - and killed them. You don't have to look to Mubarak's regime to find brutal repression of journalism and freedom of the press. It's alive and well in Washington, DC. Which, of course, is the main source of support for Mubarak.

CassandraToday | February 19, 2011 12:16 PM

The fact that Logan is pretty is a meaningless detail. Of course she is; like it or not, being good-looking is a job requirement for on-camera TV reporters, male or female. So how come nobody has mentioned Anderson Cooper's good looks when reporting the assault on him? Oh, that's right -- he's a man. Only in a woman is beauty equated with sexual availability. And that prejudice is alive and well not only in Egypt, but right here as well, as we've seen by the endless, breathless reporting of the attack on Logan. Damn, but we have a long way to go.

I think it's interesting that CBS News is keeping the details of this to themselves out of concerns for Ms. Logan's "privacy". If it wasn't one of their reporters, wouldn't they be screaming about "freedom of the press"? Not that I don't think she deserves her privacy. But I hate double standards. If this were Britney Spears, they'd be sneaking microphones in with her Jell-O.