CNN’s Chief News Exec Quits
Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, who led much of the network’s war coverage, resigned late Friday in the wake of contentious comments he recently made about journalists killed by U.S. troops in Iraq.
During a Jan. 27 panel discussion in Davos, Switzerland, Jordan alleged that some reporters and cameramen killed in the combat zones had, in fact, been targeted, according to some observers in the audience. The World Economic Forum, which sponsored the panel discussion, has declined to release the transcript or videotape of the off-the-record session, which was titled “Will Democracy Survive the Media?”
For the record:
12:00 a.m. Feb. 16, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday February 15, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 4 inches; 161 words Type of Material: Correction
CNN resignation -- An article Saturday in Section A about the resignation of Eason Jordan, CNN’s vice president and chief news executive, said that a website called Easongate.com offered a clearinghouse of criticism related to Jordan’s statements about journalists killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, including a link to “mainstream columnists such as Roger L. Simon.” In fact, one link is to a website and blog by Roger L. Simon, a mystery writer and screenwriter, not Roger Simon, the columnist for U.S. News & World Report. The article also said that in an April 2003 opinion piece in the New York Times, Jordan wrote that he did not allow his network to report all it had learned “during the intense early days of combat in Iraq, for fear that releasing certain confidential information would put lives in jeopardy.” Jordan’s essay was about his network’s coverage in the years preceding the war as well as in the early days of the war.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 16, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 101 words Type of Material: Correction
CNN resignation -- An article in Saturday’s Section A about the resignation of CNN executive Eason Jordan said that in an April 2003 opinion piece in the New York Times, Jordan wrote that he did not allow his network to report all it had learned “during the intense early days of combat in Iraq, for fear that releasing certain confidential information would put lives in jeopardy.” Jordan’s essay was about his network’s coverage in the years and months preceding the war. A correction Tuesday erroneously said his essay referred also to his network’s coverage during the early days of the war.
In a statement Jordan sent to his staff Friday, the CNN executive vice president cited “conflicting accounts” over his recent remarks as a threat to the news organization’s credibility. In resigning, Jordan said he sought “to prevent CNN from being further tarnished by the controversy.”
The announcement comes after a week when commentators and newspaper editorial writers joined the chorus of complaints among Internet bloggers that Jordan had made insupportable accusations.
In a commentary in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens, a member of the paper’s editorial board who had attended the session, described the exchange. “Mr. Jordan observed that of the 60-odd journalists killed in Iraq, 12 had been targeted and killed by U.S. forces,” Stephens wrote.
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had shared the Davos stage with Jordan as a panelist, told the Washington Post that the CNN executive at first implied “it was official military policy to take out journalists.” After other panelists challenged him, Jordan then “modified” his remarks, Frank said, but did not remove the sense that U.S. soldiers intended to harm those they knew to be journalists.
Jordan has since sought to defend himself, saying he never believed that anyone from the U.S. military had tried to kill a journalist. But the furor grew beyond the reported mild gasps at the Davos session into a wider media discussion.
CNN drew scrutiny from on-air cable commentators, radio talk-show hosts and Internet petitioners, some of whom called for a release of Jordan’s exact words. On the network’s cable rivals, MSNBC and Fox News, talk-show hosts Joe Scarborough and Sean Hannity took Jordan to task.
Also, a website called Easongate.com, featuring the executive’s corporate portrait on its home page, offered a clearing-house of criticism related to Jordan’s statements. The website linked to 25 other sites in its “Blogroll,” with mainstream columnists such as Roger L. Simon and more obscure bloggers such as “Red State Rant” and “Winds of Change.”
A statement posted on Easongate.com on Friday boasted of the website’s success in prompting Jordan’s resignation.
“To every reader, commentator, emailer and blogger that committed to this cause, thank you,” the statement said. “This is a victory for every soldier who has honorably served this nation.”
While at CNN, Jordan also had provoked many activists and critics in an April 2003 opinion piece in the New York Times. Jordan asserted that he sometimes could not allow his network to report all it had learned during the intense early days of combat in Iraq, for fear that releasing certain confidential information would put lives in jeopardy.
In September 2003, a corporate restructuring at CNN resulted in a job change for Jordan, who no longer oversaw the day-to-day news gathering operations. Recently, he has been responsible for orchestrating the network’s overseas coverage.
A 23-year veteran of the network, Jordan had participated in and overseen much of the network’s round-the-clock coverage of combat zones.
In his farewell letter Friday, he cited many decades of close contact he had had with the military while reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.
Jordan began his CNN career in the network’s early years, after having worked for local news outlets in Atlanta.