Thursday, February 10, 2005

Eason Jordan’s Friends

Eason Jordan, the CNN Executive who cannot manage to stick to the facts in his political commentary, has found himself in a minefield of his own making this month. According to the Truth Laid Bear, nearly five hundred blogs are actively writing on the issue, and that includes only those blogs which have registered to be tracked by the TLB system.

The crux of the issue is whether or not Mr. Jordan made the specific claim that U.S. forces deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq, while attending the Davos conference last month. Mr. Jordan has denied making the comments, and the Davos people have refused to release the videotape known to exist of the statements (how convenient). This morning, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal published an editorial on the scandal, and his words (unintentionally) convey the severity of the crisis, as Stephens tries to grant his friend a pass on conduct unacceptable to any reasonable observer.

Mr. Stephens explains his position to speak on the matter:

“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.”

Let’s start with the obvious: Eason Jordan, in position to speak for the entire Cable News Network, specifically claimed that journalists had been “targeted and killed” by Coalition forces. Neither that claim, nor his “tortured for weeks” allegation, contained even a shred of truth, no supporting evidence whatsoever. On that point alone, the man should be fired, and nothing less.

Mr. Stephens notes that at the moment these allegations were made, Representative Barney Frank immediately challenged those claims, and Jordan Eason backed off, not pursuing his charges, but distinctly not retracting them, either. Instead, Jordan tossed out a couple more claims, again unsupported, in the vein that reporters felt the military had it out for them. In other words, he left his false claims hanging out there, and tried to support those lies with other claims he felt no inclination to support.

I have not written on the Eason Jordan scandal before now, because it seemed patently obvious to me that CNN has no credibility or sense of responsible journalism; that died years ago. I am writing now, because of the shameful excuses put up by his colleagues, who want America to give him a pass on unconscionable statements. Mr. Stephen’s editorial is certainly one of that ilk.

In the third paragraph of his editorial, Mr, Stephens claims:

“Already they [meaning bloggers] 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.”

Imagine that. It so happens, that I saw Dan Rather on “60 Minutes II” last night. He is still pulling a paycheck from CBS, is being allowed to retire on his own schedule, and has not been forced to even admit he had involvement in the conspiracy to perpetrate a fraud against the President of the United States, for the express purpose of influencing a Federal election. The man commits a felony, and skates without so much as a reprimand. Yet Mr. Stephens would have the public believe Dan Rather was mistreated, simply for getting caught and having his fraud made public. As for Eason Jordan being “bound to be their next target”, this strikes me as especially absurd – despite prior unprofessional conduct, there is nothing to indicate any interest on the man among bloggers, prior to the Davos trip. Stephens refers to a Google search on Jordan; I wonder if he has bothered to note that all the interest in Jordan is recent? I strongly doubt it – it seems far more important to Mr. Stephens to cast Jordan as the innocent victim of a conspiracy, than admit he caused his own troubles.

The reader will doubtless expect the judgment presented by Bret Stephens on his colleague and friend:

“Mr. Jordan deserves some credit for retracting the substance of his remark, and some forgiveness for trying to weasel his way out of a bad situation of his own making.”

I’m sorry to have to be blunt, Mr. Stephens, but no, you are quite wrong. Mr. Jordan deserves neither credit nor forgiveness, in part because he did not, in fact, retract “the substance of his remark”, and because at his level, such unprofessional conduct must have clear, serious, and permanent repercussions, if we are to consider your profession at all responsible or credible.

Your article was illuminating, Mr. Stephens. Where before I had cause to question the integrity of CNN, I now have cause to question your own, as well.

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