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February 1, 2005
Did Eason Jordan Accuse US Military Of Assassinating Journalists?

Forumblog, the blog dedicated to covering the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, reported last Friday that CNN chief Eason Jordan accused the US military of targeting journalists for assassination, and succeeding in twelve cases (via Hugh Hewitt):

During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

Due to the nature of the forum, I was able to directly challenge Eason, asking if he had any objective and clear evidence to backup these claims, because if what he said was true, it would make Abu Ghraib look like a walk in the park. David Gergen was also clearly disturbed and shocked by the allegation that the U.S. would target journalists, foreign or U.S. He had always seen the U.S. military as the providers of safety and rescue for all reporters.

Eason seemed to backpedal quickly, but his initial statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group). The ensuing debate was (for lack of better words) a real "sh--storm". What intensified the problem was the fact that the session was a public forum being taped on camera, in front of an international crowd. The other looming shadow on what was going on was the presence of a U.S. Congressman and a U.S. Senator in the middle of some very serious accusations about the U.S. military.

To be fair (and balanced), Eason did backpedal and make a number of statements claiming that he really did not know if what he said was true, and that he did not himself believe it.

To be fair, I can't find anything on this other than the Forumblog source. A Google on Eason Jordan Davos journalist doesn't immediately produce anything on topic other than references back to Forumblog. I have no reason not to trust Forumblog, but I also don't know much about Forumblog. One link does confirm Jordan's participation in the conference, but it's just a roster.

If true, this boggles the mind. Eason Jordan, who represents a news agency, gets up in the middle of an economic forum and claims that America's military has a policy of assassinating journalists -- and then backs off by saying that he's just passing on rumor? Bloggers wouldn't do that, let alone reputable journalists. And if Jordan said this, then why hasn't CNN reported on it? A search of the CNN site for military target journalist reporter returns nothing germane to Jordan's accusations. The second link takes the reader to the death of three reporters in Baghdad during the battle in April 2003. Jordan's own network has not a single mention of this stunning news.

Jordan has admitted to a skewed sense of journalistic ethics in the past. In a shocking column he wrote for the New York Times in April 2003, Jordan admitted that he had spiked news stories that reflected badly on Saddam Hussein to maintain CNN's favor with the genocidal maniac:

Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff. ...

A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for "crimes," one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home.

I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely.

The question must be asked of Eason Jordan, especially in light of last week's events in Davos, as to his true motivations of his oddball sense of ethics. He refuses to report real stories of atrocities when they involve genocidal tyrants that just happen to oppose the United States -- but has no problem passing along rumors of atrocities that slander the American military. Does the protection of innocent life really lie at the heart of Jordan's calculations, or is it something more sinister and political? From where I sit, it looks like Jordan has a lot more interest in damaging American security interests than in reporting truth to the world.

Memogate pales in comparison to this. Memogate could be explained as an out-of-control producer working in a biased environment that allowed her to run wild, although I think it was much more than that. In this case, Jordan runs the news division. If he's passing rumors off as truth, especially in an international forum such as Davos where the damage to US prestige could be fatal to our troops in the field, it could be the worst scandal for American journalism in long memory. It could destroy CNN as a news organization almost overnight.

Jordan needs to come clean about his statements in Davos, and David Gergen should either confirm Jordan's accusations or clear the record. If indeed Forumblog reported this honestly, then Jordan needs to either produce the evidence for such charges or resign in disgrace, with his last action an apology to the US military aired in CNN's prime-time news show. If not, CNN's entire news organization loses all credibility as long as he remains in it.

UPDATE: GayPatriot actually covered this yesterday and lists OpinionJournal's Political Diary (subscription required) as a confirming source:

I'm no fan of openly gay Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, but when at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he did something which surprised -- and pleased me. And I've got to give him credit for questioning a ludicrous claim made by a CNN Executive.

According to Friday's Wall Street Journal Political Diary (available by subscription), Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive at CNN, implied that the American military was deliberately killing journalists in Iraq. He even "offered the story of an Al-Jazeera journalist who had been 'tortured for weeks' at Abu Ghraib, made to eat his shoes, and called "Al Jazeera boy" by his American captors."

And then, this liberal Democrat pressed Mr. Jordan to be more specific, putting the CNN Executive on the spot. The newsman rambled on a bit and mumbled some sort of response about how "'There are people who believe there are people in the military who have it out' for journalists." He could provide no evidence to buttress his claims, then "offered another anecdote: A reporter who'd been standing in a long line to get through a checkpoint at Baghdad's Green Zone had been turned back by the GI on duty. Apparently the soldier had been displeased with the reporter's dispatches, and sent him to the back of the line."

I think we can start thinking about dropping all the "ifs", and start demanding some answers from CNN. If Jordan has evidence of this military practice, why hasn't CNN reported it? And if he has no evidence, why would the chief of a worldwide news agency spread unsubstantiated rumors? What else has CNN reported that is similarly sourced, and what else has CNN suppressed with solid sourcing?

The first symptoms of the cancer may have appeared at CBS, but obviously the malignancy runs much deeper and wider than that.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 1, 2005 6:57 PM

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