What did CNN's chief really say at Davos? I was there.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Thursday, February 10, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
Did Eason Jordan, chief news executive of CNN, actually say the American military has deliberately killed journalists covering the conflict in Iraq?
It's a serious question, at least to judge by the heat it's generated. Google "Easongate" and you get 2,500 results. There is an Easongate.com Web site, on which more than 1,000 petitioners demand that Mr. Jordan release a transcript of his remarks--made recently in Davos--by Feb. 15 or, in the manner of Saddam Hussein, face serious consequences. Sean Hannity and the usual Internet suspects have all weighed in. So has Michelle Malkin, who sits suspended somewhere between meltdown and release.
There's a reason the hounds are baying. Already they have feasted on the juicy entrails of Dan Rather. Mr. Jordan, whose previous offenses (other than the general tenor of CNN coverage) include a New York Times op-ed explaining why access is a more important news value than truth, was bound to be their next target. And if Mr. Jordan has now made a defamatory and unsubstantiated allegation against U.S. forces, well then . . . open the gates.
By chance, I was in the audience of the World Economic Forum's panel discussion where Mr. Jordan spoke. What happened was this: Mr. Jordan observed that of the 60-odd journalists killed in Iraq, 12 had been targeted and killed by coalition forces. He then offered a story of an unnamed Al-Jazeera journalist who had been "tortured for weeks" at Abu Ghraib, made to eat his shoes, and called "Al-Jazeera boy" by his American captors.
Here Rep. Barney Frank, also a member of the panel, interjected: Had American troops actually targeted journalists? And had CNN done a story about it? Well no, Mr. Jordan replied, CNN hadn't done a story on this, specifically. And no, he didn't believe the Bush administration had a policy of targeting journalists. Besides, he said, "the [American] generals and colonels have their heart in the right place."
By this point, one could almost see the wheels of Mr. Jordan's mind spinning, slowly: "How am I going to get out of this one?" But Mr. Frank and others kept demanding specifics. Mr. Jordan replied that "there are people who believe there are people in the military" who have it out for journalists. He also recounted a story of a reporter who'd been sent to the back of the line at a checkpoint outside of Baghdad's Green Zone, apparently because the soldier had been unhappy with the reporter's dispatches.