Misspeak No Evil

A campaign waged in the blogosphere forced out CNN’s chief news executive, Eason Jordan, last week for his off-the-record comments made during a January 27 panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Jordan’s alleged felony: making wacky claims that 12 of the 60 journalists killed in Iraq had been targeted by the U.S. military, and others. Of course, you never heard about the conspiracies on CNN; Jordan himself backpedaled immediately, but he’d given right-wing bloggers enough to bury him. Jordan’s real crime: The 23-year veteran misspoke. Contributing factors: Neither he nor his bosses fought back. Aggravating circumstances: Most mainstream media ignored the story exploding for two weeks on blogs and waited until Jordan resigned to write their first words. “He really just exploded, saying, ‘Look, this is not all collateral damage there. Journalists are being targets in Iraq.’ And he left a very clear impression that journalists on both sides were being targeted, that Iraqi insurgents were targeting American journalists, and in a limited number of cases . . . he left the impression there had been targeting by American troops of journalists perhaps al-Jazeera or others . . . He knew as soon as he said that, that was incendiary, that he had gone way too far.”

-David Gergen, Davos forum moderator, Febraury 14

“Some in the audience, and Barney Frank on the panel, took him to mean U.S. troops had deliberately set out to kill journalists. That is not what he meant or, in my view, said.”

-Richard Sambrook, a Davos forum panelist and director of BBC World Service and Global News, February 7.

“I was trying to make a distinction between ‘collateral damage’ and people who got killed in other ways.”

-Eason Jordan, The Washington Post, February 8

“[He said journalists] had been deliberately killed as individuals — perhaps because they were mistaken for insurgents . . . The distinction he was seeking to make is that being shot by a sniper, or fired at directly is very different from being, for example, accidentally killed by an explosion.”

-Richard Sambrook, The Washington Post, February 8

“If CNN is a real news network, why shouldn’t it have the trouble of a controversy now and then? I think anyone interested in serious journalism would agree that what are called news values come out during times when the network is criticized, called to defend itself, attacked by political interests, or otherwise under pressure. No executive can succeed in news who is not nimble in public controversy. Eason Jordan knows that.”

-Jay Rosen, February 14

“I have decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy . . .”

-Eason Jordan, February 11

“The worst that can reasonably be said about his performance is that he made an indefensible remark from which he ineptly tried to climb down at first prompting. This may have been dumb, but it wasn’t a journalistic felony.”

-A Wall Street Journal editorial, February 14

“The Staff of is pleased with Mr. Jordan taking responsibility for his actions and statements. However we still feel the World Economic Forum should release the tape of the Davos conference forthwith to settle this matter.”

-Bill Roggio, one of three founders of, February 12


“I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist . . . Obviously I wasn’t as clear as I should have been on that panel.”

-Eason Jordan, The Washington Post, February 8


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >