NEW YORK — Eason Jordan, CNN’s top news executive, ankled the cable network Friday to spare the news organization further fallout from comments he made suggesting journalists had been targeted by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
The comments, made late last month during an off-the-record panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, touched off a firestorm of criticism, including commentary on Fox News Channel and columns in the Wall Street Journal and the National Review.
Because the session was off-the-record, transcripts have not been made available to journalists. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), also in the session, reportedly asked Jordan to clarify his remarks, and two others in attendance said Eason backtracked and said he didn’t believe there had been any U.S. policy to target journalists.
“I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise,” Jordan wrote in a staff memo announcing his resignation.
Regardless of what he meant to say, Jordan’s comments took on a life of their own, especially in the 24-hour talking-head circuit and in the blogosphere. Jordan said he resigned “in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy.”
The flap came at an awkward time for CNN, which just appointed a new president of its U.S. news operation, Jonathan Klein, who is implementing a number of changes geared toward making the network competitive with Fox News, which took the ratings lead more than three years ago and expanded it over the past year.
Jordan was one of the original architects of CNN’s far-flung web of foreign bureaus, but his role was greatly diminished after a reorganization in 2003. He joined the net as a 20-year-old news assistant just two years after Ted Turner launched the network in 1980.
As news of Jordan’s resignation percolated on the Internet over the weekend, right-wing bloggers gloated as if they’d pinned the scalp of another left-wing journalist to the mantle.
“Adios Eason!” blogged one contributor to Redstate.org. “Forgive my gloating, but it’s nice to see the blogosphere score another kill. First Dan Rather, now smug Eason Jordan fall prey to the pajamahadeen of the blogs.”
One blogger, C.K Rairden of the National Ledger, chided “old media” for “circling the wagons” for two weeks after Jordan’s comments. Rairden noted the only interview Jordan gave after the flap was to the Washington Post’s media reporter Howard Kurtz, who also hosts CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”