WASHINGTON — After four years of living in Baghdad, war was taking its toll on Lara Logan.
As CBS’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, she regularly risked her life by accompanying American forces in combat. But there were more personal strains as well.
Her mother had died after a lengthy coma.
She and her husband, Jason Siemon, a Camanche, Iowa, native, had agreed to a separation long ago.
Last November, she broke off an intense relationship with another journalist in Baghdad.
Soon afterward, Logan, who wrote for the Quad-City Times from Afghanistan at the start of the war to oust the Taliban, started dating Joseph Burkett, a federal contractor stationed in Iraq who was separated from his wife back in Texas.
Now, having just moved to Washington with an expanded portfolio for the network, Logan finds her romantic life reduced to tabloid fodder. And there is a new complication: She recently discovered that she is pregnant.
“Nobody likes to read about themselves like that, especially the way it’s been sensationalized,” Logan says of the coverage that spread to the front page of the New York Post, which called her a “sexy CBS siren” and “in-bedded reporter.”
“I hated it. But I’m just going to rise above it and keep going.” The baby is due in January, she said, and she is “looking forward to being a mom.”
Logan, 37, says she and Burkett plan to marry eventually. Her divorce is slated to become final in two weeks, and Burkett’s divorce trial is likely to end next month. But the case has turned decidedly messy, with Burkett’s estranged wife Kimberly, the mother of their 3-year-old daughter, charging that Logan broke up her marriage.
Much of the media interest is fueled by the South African native’s rapid rise to stardom, which has brought her both celebrity status and a string of journalistic prizes, including an Emmy Award, Overseas Press Club Award and, last week, an Edward R. Murrow Award.
While some may accuse her of tawdry conduct, what happened to Logan is an all-too-familiar tale of someone consumed by a career and needing a partner who understands the pressures involved.
“I just surrendered myself completely” to the Iraq story, Logan said. “If you give yourself 100 percent to the people around you, it’s very hard to have anything left. Being away for long periods, when you come home, you can’t explain what it is you’ve been doing to someone who’s never been through it.”
CBS News President Sean McManus called Logan a “fearless” reporter with “a dynamic quality that just jumps off the screen.”
He said he transferred her to Washington to get her on the air more often and that “depending on her situation with her child, I’d anticipate she’d be covering the war in Iraq again.”
“All the distractions happening now will at some point be behind her and behind CBS News and she will succeed based on the quality of her work,” McManus said.
Logan married Siemon, a former professional basketball player in Europe who now works as an energy lobbyist in Chicago, in 1998. Soon after that, her career began to take off.
She had spent years as a freelancer for CBS, NBC, CNN and British television and various newspapers, including the Quad-City Times.
She landed a job as a CBS correspondent and “60 Minutes II” contributor only after talking her way into Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Not long afterward, she was in a Humvee with members of the 10th Mountain Division on the Afghan-Pakistani border when the vehicle was struck by an antitank missile, causing a fall that tore the skin inside Logan’s mouth and bruised her face. When U.S. forces led the Iraq invasion in 2003, CBS withdrew all its correspondents, but Logan drove back in 10 days later.
“I’m not some Hollywood star,” Logan said in her first interview on the subject. “It’s not about a career for me. It’s who I am. I do this because I believe in it.”
Logan also has drawn attention for her striking looks and provocative comments on such programs as “The Daily Show,” where last month she demonstrated how she curses with soldiers. The British press often refers to her as a “former swimsuit model” because of part-time work she did as a student.
As the Iraq conflict dragged on, Logan grew apart from Siemon, who could not be reached for comment. Last year, about two years after they separated, she began a relationship with Michael Ware, a CNN correspondent in Iraq. Shortly after that romance ended in November, she started dating Burkett, a friend she had met years earlier when both were working in Afghanistan.
Despite his government contracting duties, Logan says, “we always respect each other’s boundaries. We agreed never to talk about our work.”
Burkett was then separated from his wife of 31/2 years. He had been in Afghanistan and Iraq, away from their Texas home, for most of their marriage and his wife’s pregnancy, according to a family friend who declined to be identified because of a confidentiality agreement in the divorce case.
The friend said the marriage had long been rocky and that Kimberly Burkett had asked for a divorce several times. Joseph Burkett would not be interviewed.
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In January, Burkett flew home to file for divorce, and acknowledged to his wife that he had begun a relationship with Logan. Kimberly, 32, was hospitalized after taking an overdose of tranquilizers, according to the family friend.
At a court hearing that month, Joseph Burkett told the judge he was having an extramarital affair, and his attorney said that was not the reason for the divorce.
The National Enquirer reported last month on what the tabloid called Logan’s “torrid affair with a married man.” Kimberly Burkett’s lawyer, Susie Chmielowiec, told the supermarket tabloid that “Kimberly believes Lara stole her husband — and now they’re trying to steal her little girl.” The divorce case includes a custody dispute between Burkett and his wife.
The Enquirer quoted Kimberly Burkett last week as saying “Lara Logan deserves to be canned” and that her CBS promotion is “a slap in the face to everyone who believes in marriage.”
Carole Cooper, Logan’s agent, says the publicity has been unpleasant, “but she’s coping fine. She’s a strong woman.”
Logan became pregnant shortly before leaving Baghdad in April, although she did not know it at the time, and flew to New York to sign a new contract that would compensate her for her expanded responsibilities in Washington.
At CBS, Logan said “they let me run around the world doing everything I want to do. It’s a dream job, but it comes at a cost.
“Since 9/11, I’ve spent 95 percent of my time on the road, and I do need to have a home at some point. I do need to settle down. I’ve been living like a refugee.”
THE LARA LOGAN FILE
Born: In South Africa in 1971, moved to Paris at age 17 to study
Education: Bachelor of commerce degree at University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.
Married: Since December 1998 to Jason Siemon, a native of Camanche, Iowa. They met at a beach in London, and married months later.
Excerpt: “It tested my patience and understanding to the limit at times, but this desolate land and remarkable people stole a small piece of my soul. It was humbling to witness their courage and strength.” From her farewell column from Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2001, in the Quad-City Times.
To read the dispatches Lara Logan wrote for the Quad-City Times, go to http://qctimes.com/shared-content/fckeditor/editor/www.qctimes.com/pages/tags/?q=lara"> www.qctimes.com/pages/tags/?q=lara