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
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
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
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
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."
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