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Taking the Eason way out

Taking the Eason way out

February 13, 2005 |

CNN news executive Eason Jordan has in response to the furor over his remarks at Davos about U.S. troops "targeting" journalists.  The videotape of those remarks hasn't been released, but I think it's a fair inference that if it had contained anything that would have made Jordan look better, we would have seen the tape instead of Jordan's resignation.

Now people are wondering what it all means.  Some people are claiming that Jordan was a victim of "McCarthyism" -- but as notes, that is a backward perspective.  It was Jordan who was making unsubstantiated charges, a la McCarthy, not those who called for him to back them up.

What's more, as blogger Jeff Jarvis observed on Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources program today, it was CNN that fired Jordan, not bloggers.

from the Atlanta Journal Constitution sums up the nature of the defense:

Some suggest that Jordan got a bum rap. Former CNN News Group Chairman Walter Isaacson wrote in an e-mail to the AJC that Jordan was dedicated to "the value of hard reporting by real journalists who braved going out into the field, like he so often did, rather than merely opining. It's ironic that he was brought down partly by talk-show and blogging folks who represent the opposite approach and have seldom . . . ventured out to do . . . frontline reporting."

But Jordan's disgrace comes from not reporting:  He made charges in a panel discussion, but he didn't have the evidence to back them up.  What's more, in the same report we hear this:

But Bob Furnad, a former president of Headline News, said he considers Jordan "a very serious journalist in the purest form.""He never pulled any punches."

Except that he did.  In fact, Jordan came into this scandal damaged by his on Saddam's atrocities, a silence that seems to have been the price of operating a bureau in Baghdad.  Silence for   Sounds like pulling punches to me.

Instead of complaining about bloggers as a threat to journalism, perhaps journalists should try actually doing more journalism.  Who knows?  It just might help.

February 8, 2005 |

Eason Jordan's tale of the tape

The story of CNN news executive Eason Jordan's unsubstantiated charges that U.S. troops were deliberately killing journalists got more play today.   had a piece in the Washington Post that advanced the story somewhat, though thinks that Kurtz, consciously or unconsciously, is letting his connection to CNN shape his reporting.

from the New York Sun is less kind to Jordan, and includes an interview with Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who was present when Jordan spoke, that spells out more details on Jordan's accusations:

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?"

Why, indeed?  And why would Jordan make claims, with no evidence, that reflect badly on his own country's military?  There may be an answer later in the story:

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.

Worst case:  Jordan said things he knew were probably false, in order to curry favor with influential people from countries that -- as CNN's American audience falls -- represent an important part of its market.

Best case:  Jordan repeated rumors he had heard without knowing whether they were true or not.

Which is it?  It's hard to say.  And perhaps Frank -- along with several other attendees who have told essentially the same story of Jordan's remarks -- simply misremembered or misunderstood.  There's a videotape of the presentation, but the folks who run the World Economic Forum at Davos are now backing away from earlier promises to make the tape available.  In the absence of such evidence, people are likely to draw their own conclusions.

As CNBC host Larry Kudlow , "If the story is correct, CNN should have already fired Jordan. If the story is not true, Jordan or CNN must provide the counter-evidence." 

We're waiting.

UPDATE:  The folks at the World Economic Forum seem to be taking the "What happens in Davos, stays in Davos," approach, but satire-blogger Iowahawk has produced a .


Frank: My point is, do you actually have any evidence of that?  I mean that the US military deliberately killing journalists?Jordan: Oh. Umm, okay, I think I see where you're going with that.Well, there are certainly accusations of that, and obviously we wouldn't be doing our jobs as journalists if we didn't recognize the existence of the accusations.Frank: But you just stated it as fact.Jordan: Well, duh. It's a fact: there have been accusations.Unidentified Voice: I am a journalist, and the Imperialist American soldiers killed me.Jordan: See [pointing]? Well, there you go. Jesus, Barney, what's with the third degree here?

Read the whole thing.  Er, and Eason:  We're not laughing with you.  We're laughing at you.

February 7, 2005 |

Last week I CNN executive Eason Jordan's comments at Davos, where he reportedly accused U.S. troops of targeting and killing journalists.

There's supposed to be a video, but neither Jordan nor the Davos staff seem to want to make it public.  However, there were some eyewitnesses besides the bloggers I mentioned, and now they've weighed in:

Rep. :

Rep. Frank said Eason Jordan did assert that there was deliberate targeting of journalists by the U.S. military.  After Jordan made the statement, Rep. Frank said he immediately "expressed deep skepticism."

Jordan backed off (slightly), Rep. Frank said, "explaining that he wasn't saying it was the policy of the American military to target journalists, but that there may have been individual cases where they were targeted by younger personnel who were not properly disciplined."

Rep. Frank said he didn't pay attention to the audience reaction at the time of the panel, but recalled that Sen. Dodd was "somewhat disturbed" and "somewhat exercised" and that moderator David Gergen also said Jordan's assertions were "disturbing if true."

After the panel was over and he returned to the U.S., Rep. Frank said he called Jordan and expressed willingness to pursue specific cases if there was any credible evidence that any American troops targeted journalists.  "Give me specifics," Rep. Frank said he told Jordan.

Rep. Frank has not yet heard back yet from Jordan.

Former Clinton (and Reagan) official :

Gergen confirmed that Eason Jordan did in fact initially assert that journalists in Iraq had been targeted by military "on both sides."

Gergen, who has known Jordan for some 20 years, told me Jordan "realized as soon as the words had left his mouth that he had gone too far" and "walked himself back." Gergen said as soon as he heard the assertion that journalists had been deliberately targeted, "I was 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."

Gergen mentioned that Jordan had just returned from Iraq and was "caught up in the tension of what was happening there. It's a raw, emotional wound for him."

Gergen said Jordan answered no, but then proceeded to speculate about a few incidents involving journalists killed in the Middle East--a discussion which Gergen decided to close down because "the military and the government weren't there to defend themselves."

Senator (via his office):

Senator Dodd 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.

Now columnist has weighed in, and the story got attention on Chris Matthews's Sunday show and on CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer today.  The story's starting to take off, but some people still think that media folks are stonewalling to protect one of their own -- even though they'd be quick to jump on a similarly outragous statement by a public figure who didn't work for the media.

Will it be all over the news before the week is out?  It's likely.

And if it's not, a lot of viewers will decide, again, that they can't trust the big media to tell them the whole story.


Farmin' the governmentFarm subsidies have been a favorite target of government-reform types for years.  Now the Bush Administration is planning to dramatically:

President Bush will seek deep cuts in farm and commodity programs in his new budget and in a major policy shift will propose overall limits on subsidy payments to farmers, administration officials said Saturday.Such limits would help reduce the federal budget deficit and would inject market forces into the farm economy, the officials said.The proposal puts Mr. Bush at odds with some of his most ardent supporters in the rural South, including cotton and rice growers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

I confess that I'm one of those people who doesn't like farm subsidies.  I even wrote a song about them for the Nebraska Guitar Militia (you can hear it ) and while it may not be the best song ever written, it's probably one of the top 40 farm-subsidy songs of recent years...

But the truth is, farm subsidies do more harm than good.  They keep a few people on the land in places that would otherwise be emptier (as the song says:  Bribin' us to take the place of Sioux and buffalo) but since most of them wind up going to big agribusinesses, not the "family farms" of political sloganeering, they don't even do much of that.  (Bush's program is designed to cut subsidies to big agribusinesses the most, by capping payments).  They generally either raise prices for poor people in the United States, or hurt sales by poor people abroad.  Still, they're hard to avoid because the beneficiaries have a lot of political clout, and other people don't tend to care much.

thinks that this will be a test of whether the people who have criticized Bush's big-government tendencies will stop snarking and start supporting him when he does the right thing:

Will other Republicans stand up for fiscal responsibility and market principles? Will conservative pundits make a big deal of this issue?Will the libertarians and liberals who've scored the Bush administration for its earlier fiscal (and trade) foolishness? In other words, is there any kind of vocal, principled coalition to balance the concentrated interests of subsidized agriculture?

I guess we'll find out.