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February 8, 2005
New York Sun On Eason's Fables: More Than Kurtz Can Do

Roderick Boyd writes on Eason's Fables in today's New York Sun and manages to scoop Howard Kurtz after working on the story only a few hours. In his report, Boyd discusses all three documented instances of Jordan's accuations agains the US and Israeli military forces and the corroboration of several witnesses at Davos of his latest outrages:

The head of CNN's news division, Eason Jordan, ignited an Internet firestorm last week when he told a panel at a World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, that the American military had targeted journalists during operations in Iraq.

Mr. Jordan, speaking in a panel discussion titled "Will Democracy Survive the Media?" said "he knew of about 12 journalists who had not only been killed by American troops, but had been targeted as a matter of policy," said Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat of Massachusetts who was on the panel with Mr. Jordan.

In an interview with The New York Sun, Mr. Frank said Mr. Jordan discussed in detail the plight of an Al-Jazeera reporter who had been detained by American forces, was made to eat his shoes while incarcerated in the Abu Ghraib prison, and was repeatedly mocked by his interrogators as "Al-Jazeera boy."

A man who said he was a producer with Al-Jazeera at the network's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, said he was unaware of any such incident, "although we have had problems with American troops in and out of Iraq." The Al-Jazeera producer refused to give his name.

That last part is news to me; I hadn't yet heard that. Jordan argued at Davos that the US also tortured journalists in their custody? I know he claimed that at Portugal, but not at Davos. Ironically, not even al-Jazeera backs up Eason's Fables on that score, as Boyd notes. Howard Kurtz seems to have missed this in his conversation with Barney Frank, although it sure looks like Frank wanted to talk about it.

Boyd also discusses the other incidents that we've noted here at CQ:

This is not the first time that Mr. Jordan has spoken critically of the American military's conduct toward journalists. In November, he reportedly told a gathering of global news executives in Portugal called News Xchange that he believed journalists had been arrested and tortured by American forces.

And in October 2002, at a News Xchange conference, he accused the Israeli military of deliberately targeting CNN personnel "on numerous occasions."

Mr. Jordan's remarks might have shocked the American attendees, but they certainly played well among some in the audience. The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens, who covered the panel for his paper, told the Sun that after the panel concluded, Mr. Jordan was surrounded by European and Middle Eastern attendees who warmly congratulated him for his alleged "bravery and candor" in discussing the matter.

His "bravery and candor" go only so far, of course, and that limit appears to be the Atlantic Ocean. Jordan has refused to comment on his remarks while back in the United States, understanding that calling the US military a bunch of torturers and murderers without any proof doesn't get the backslaps it gets among the cognoscenti of Europe and the Arab world. Barney Frank still hasn't heard from Jordan, despite Jordan's promise to answer Frank's questions:

Within minutes of making the comments, Mr. Frank said, CNN's Mr. Jordan began to immediately "pull back" on the assertion that 12 journalists had been killed by American forces. He instead focused on the deaths of two reporters killed when a missile fired from an American jet struck the 15th floor of Baghdad's Palestine hotel, where many reporters and film crews stay when in Baghdad.

Mr. Frank said he tried to get information out of Mr. Jordan so that he could forward it to the appropriate congressional investigative authorities. "I think Congress has demonstrated with Abu Ghraib that we will aggressively pursue reasonable allegations," he said. Mr. Frank said he has tried repeatedly over the past few days to get Mr. Jordan to provide evidence of crimes against journalists. He said Mr. Jordan promised to get back to him, "but I haven't heard anything yet," Mr. Frank said.

Note the phrase "within minutes" in describing Jordan's retreat. That sounds quite different than the earlier assertion that Jordan misspoke in the heat of rhetoric and immediately withdrew his most heated accusations. Frank says that Jordan didn't "walk" anything back until he got challenged by the Congressman, which given the political leanings of Frank, probably shocked Eason Jordan -- but then, courage and integrity always shocks those who lack both.

I spoke with Roderick Boyd yesterday afternoon, probably at Hugh Hewitt's suggestion, whom Boyd quotes for the article. Boyd got this story yesterday on top of another assignment due at roughly the same time (on the financial performance of two NY media stocks). Yet he managed to investigate the entire story, get new information out of Barney Frank, talk to at least two of the bloggers involved in keeping this story alive, and publish a news article instead of a facile shrug meant to bury the story. Compare this to Howard Kurtz's effort, after having the story and an interview with David Gergen for over a week. Kurtz should be embarassed with his wan performance.

Frank noted that he offered Eason Jordan the Congressional hearings I suggested yesterday if Jordan had any substantiation for his allegations. I heartily endorse that idea, as I did before, and I think Rep. Frank needs to press for them as quickly as possible -- and I think he needs to subpoena Jordan to get the CNN chief over his trans-Atlantic shyness.

UPDATE: The Boston Globe also covers this story today, but does little more than rehash Howard Kurtz's Post piece.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 8, 2005 5:34 AM

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