The Washington Times becomes the first major daily to take Eason Jordan’s paranoid rantings to task since the Wall Street Journal initially reported Congressman Barney Frank’s challenge to the CNN chief. The Times issues a measured reprimand to Jordan for his predilection for making unsubstantiated allegations about atrocities:
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during a discussion on media and democracy, Mr. Jordan apparently told the audience that “he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted,” according to a report on the forum’s Web site (www.forumblog.org). …
[I]t’s an assertion Mr. Jordan has made before. In November, as reported in the London Guardian, Mr. Jordan said, “The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the U.S. military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by U.S. forces.” This is very serious stuff, if true. Yet aside from Mr. Jordan’s occasional comments, there’s no evidence to support it. Mr. Jordan’s almost immediate backpedaling seems to confirm this. In a statement to blogger Carol Platt Liebau, Mr. Jordan said, “To be clear, I do not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists in Iraq. I said so during the forum panel discussion. But, nonetheless, the U.S. military has killed several journalists in Iraq in cases of mistaken identity.” He added, “three of my CNN colleagues and many other journalists have been killed on purpose in Iraq.” He didn’t elaborate by whom.
According to information on CPJ’s Web site (www.cpj.org), between 2003 and 2004, 12 journalists were killed as a result of U.S. fire. None was from CNN.
Read the whole thing; the editorial takes a fact-checking approach to Jordan. He left himself open to this by tossing around accusations without any shred of proof, and the Times exploits the opening well. However, I think that the fact-checking strategy doesn’t get to the heart of the matter and allows the argument to rest on interpretations of a far-too-lenient interpretation of what Eason Jordan claimed. It’s a lawyer’s trick — changing the context of the statement by focusing on alternate definitions of a single word, in this case target. Forumblog and Rebecca MacKinnon both reported that Jordan clearly wanted to communicate to the Davos crowd that American GIs had a plan to take out journalists — and in fact, he has a pattern of making precisely the same accusation.
The pattern of making unsubstantiated allegations, especially while overseas and out of earshot to almost all of CNN’s domestic audience, is the real issue. Eason Jordan lies about our military in order to impress foreigners who are already inclined to believe the worst about us. What does that say about the foreign news services Eason Jordan delivers to them?
Kudos, however, to the Washington Times editorial board. At least they advanced the story to the mainstream press. That’s something almost every other news outlet refused to do.