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CNN Executive Says G.I.s in Iraq Target Journalists
Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2005 by the New York Sun
CNN Executive Says G.I.s in Iraq Target Journalists
by Roderick Boyd
 

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.

Mr. Jordan's comments - prompted by a broader discussion of the dangers of covering the war in Iraq, in which some 63 journalists have been killed - left Mr. Frank, usually an outspoken war opponent, speechless.

"I was agog," he said. "I took a few seconds and asked him to basically clarify the remarks. Did he have proof and if so, why hadn't CNN run with the story?"

A CNN spokeswoman did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment. Last week, CNN put out a statement that said Mr. Jordan's remarks had been taken out of context by several Web logs and that he was merely responding to an assertion by Mr. Frank that the dead journalists were "collateral damage."

Mr. Frank denied that he used the phrase. The panel's moderator, Harvard University professor and columnist David Gergen, did not return a call seeking comment, but he told online columnist Michelle Malkin yesterday that the remarks left him "startled."

"It's contrary to history, which is so far the other way. Our troops have gone out of their way to protect and rescue journalists," Mr. Gergen said. He told Ms. Malkin that the remarks could have been due to Mr. Jordan's recent return from Iraq, where he was likely "caught up in the tension of what was happening there."

The office of Senator Dodd, a Democrat of Connecticut who attended the panel, released a statement that said he "was not on the panel but was in the audience when Mr. Jordan spoke. He - like panelists Mr. Gergen and Mr. Frank - was outraged by the comments. Senator Dodd is tremendously proud of the sacrifice and service of our American military personnel."

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.

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.

Mr. Stephens broke the news of Mr. Jordan's statements for his paper's "political diary" blog.

Since then, some blogs have made Mr. Jordan's remarks a rallying cry for conservatives who have long harbored an animus against CNN for an alleged anti-American bias.

Radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt has turned his well-trafficked blog into a clearinghouse of information on what he called "Easongate."

It would be a "pretty grave mistake on the part of CNN" if they failed to take into account the power of blogs to refocus popular opinion, said Mr. Hewitt, citing the popular outcry against CBS News's report on purported gaps in President Bush's 1970s Texas Air National Guard service. "You would think that they would learn their lesson."

© 2005 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC

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