Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Weekly Jackass Number Ten - Eason Jordan

I try not to be too tied in to the 'moment' when I confer the Weekly Jackass honor - I'd like people a few years from now to be able to see what the fuss was. When I DO recognize a person who is currently in the news, that person must have a history of boneheadedness behind him. If you're not that into blogs or the media, you may not know the name Eason Jordan. You will, though - he's in a world of hurt right now that isn't going to let up anytime soon.

So who is this week's honoree? Eason Jordan is currently the Executive Vice President and Chief News Executive at CNN. He's in very hot water because of an outrageous allegation he made recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Rony Abovitz reported:

During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

Let's be clear, because this is important. The Chief News Executive at CNN, the most globally recognized news organization, asserted that US troops in Iraq killed journalists, not as unfortunate collateral damage, but rather in cold blood, deliberately. That's an extremely inflammatory allegation; if you're going to go around throwing that kind of talk around, you better damn well back it up.

The blogosphere flew into action. Among the higher traffic sites that have kept the heat on are TKS (part of the National Review's website), Captain's Quarters, the Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, Power Line, Hugh Hewitt, and others too numerous to mention. To the surprise of precisely no one, the MSM didn't touch the story until it was too hot to ignore, with first Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post joining in, and now Investor's Business Daily, in an editorial calling for Jordan's dismissal (hat tip to Captain Ed), and the New York Sun.

Let's step back a little and look at the mitigating factors. Jordan backtracked from the statement, and many who heard it and were shocked say he deserves the benefit of the doubt. There's a history here, though, that suggests that Jordan's statement was more of a deeply held belief than a slip of the tongue.

In 2003, after the fall of Saddam, Jordan admitted that CNN had sat on its knowledge of the horrors of his regime so that it could continue to keep correspondents in Baghdad. In November, 2004, Jordan said that he knew of journalists who had been tortured by U.S. troops. It's very difficult to believe, as Jordan now asserts, that he was merely saying that some journalists have been targeted as individuals, not necessarily as journalists.

I have many problems with this whole episode - first, the arrogance (on display many times before) that the media show when they harp on the journalists killed in Iraq. Michael Kelly was a fine journalist who was killed in the invasion; he knew the risks of being in a war zone, and he, like all the journalists covering Iraq, went voluntarily. There have been thousands of deaths in Iraq - each is tragic in its own way. Do not the terrorists deliberately target civilians, as individuals, regardless of their age, sex, nationality, occupation, etc.? Does Jordan put the lives of his employees above the lives of the coalition troops that have given their all in the name of freedom?

The larger problem the Davos comments reveal is, again, one of bias. That Jordan is even capable of uttering the words that he did at Davos, regardless of his subsequent backpedaling, reveals a profound distrust of the U.S. military that borders on outright antagonism. Had Jordan made the remarks in isolation, then immediately withdrew them by saying he mispoke, perhaps all could be forgotten. That's not what happened, as we are assured by many prominent witnesses. Jordan made the same remarks repeatedly, and only issued his 'clarifications' after the firestorm hit.

Eason Jordan deserves more than this Weekly Jackass honor - he deserves a pink slip, and my money says he gets one.

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