02.15.11

Lara Logan's Egypt Nightmare and Her Recovery

The hard-charging CBS News correspondent was attacked in Tahrir Square, sexually assaulted and hospitalized. Howard Kurtz on the mob she faced, and her first steps toward recovery.

The hard-charging CBS News correspondent was attacked in Tahrir Square, sexually assaulted, and hospitalized. Howard Kurtz on the mob she faced, and her first steps toward recovery.

Lara Logan had already been arrested in Egypt when she decided to go back for what turned out to be the closest call of a danger-filled career.

CBS News disclosed that Logan was surrounded in Tahrir Square 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 was hospitalized upon her return to the United States.

Video screenshot


Logan reports from Alexandria on February 2

Egypt: Unsafe for Women

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Logan has recovered to the point that she was released from the hospital on Wednesday and is now at home with her two young children. Sources familiar with the situation say she has been in remarkably good spirits despite her ordeal.

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.

“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.”

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. They have absolutely prevented us from filming anywhere today—no cameras, no cameras, is what we're being told." She said when her crew went out to shoot so-called beauty shots, "they were intimidated and bullied, and in fact marched at gunpoint through the streets, all the way back to our hotel—a very frightening experience, and one that was repeated throughout the day for us."

After that video was made, Logan and her crew tried again, and were taken into custody.

"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.

Numerous Western journalists, from CNN's Anderson Cooper to Fox News' Greg Palkot to reporters for The New York Times and Washington Post, were attacked, beaten, or arrested when pro-Mubarak thugs tried to turn the tide of the demonstrations that were threatening to end his three-decade grip on power. It became clear during that 48-hour period that journalists were being deliberately targeted as a tactic to minimize coverage of the revolt.

But the sexual assault and beating that Logan endured underscores that 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 at home.

Howard Kurtz is The Daily Beast's Washington bureau chief. He also hosts CNN's weekly media program Reliable Sources on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. The longtime media reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, Kurtz is the author of five books.