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Arnett will leave CNN

Tailwind blows correspondent out after 18 years

NEW YORK — CNN correspondent Peter Arnett agreed to ankle the all-news cabler Monday — his career at the net apparently ended by lingering fallout from his report last summer on the Tailwind scandal.

Neither Arnett nor CNN would comment on the reasons for Arnett’s departure, instead issuing a joint statement announcing that the cabler and Arnett, “through his agent Richard Leibner, have reached an understanding that will bring Arnett’s 18-year service to an amicable conclusion.”

CNN and Leibner hammered out an exit agreement Monday after Arnett went public with charges that the net wasn’t planning to pick up a July option in his contract, which had been set to expire in 2001. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Arnett is expected to be bought out of much of the remaining length of his deal in exchange for an agreement to not file litigation against CNN.

While Arnett helped legitimize the newschannel with his coverage of the 1991 Gulf War, his image took a beating after CNN retracted a report alleging the U.S. military used sarin nerve gas during Vietnam. Though he claimed not to have done much legwork on the story, Arnett was the on-air correspondent on the report and his byline appeared on a story that ran in Time, CNN’s Time Warner sister magazine.

CNN dismissed two producers on the story, and Pam Hill, the senior exec producer in charge of the newsmag which broadcast the story, resigned. Arnett was reprimanded and CNN issued a statement declaring no further action would be taken on matters related to Tailwind.

Indeed, referring to that statement, Arnett told Monday’s New York Times that CNN’s sudden coolness “can’t be (a result of) Tailwind.”

Yet Arnett has been virtually absent from CNN programs since the scandal broke last July, despite his request to fly to Yugoslavia to cover the NATO action in Kosovo.

Before his exit from CNN was worked out, Arnett complained about CNN’s failure to explain its apparent displeasure with him. “I don’t think a journalist with my reputation should be in limbo like this,” he told the New York Times.

Arnett did not return calls Monday, and instead issued a two-sentence statement. “I’ve had a long and wonderful relationship with CNN and have been proud to be part of this great news organization. I wish all my CNN colleagues continued success.”

CNN News Group chairman, prexy and CEO Tom Johnson also declined comment, issuing a one-line statement stating that the company was “grateful for Peter’s contributions to CNN and we wish him the very best in the future.”

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