By Caitlin Pike and Jeffrey Blyth in New York
CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan has resigned after comments he made about the US military and the killing of journalists in Iraq were seized upon by bloggers.
The bloggers’ reports followed remarks Jordan made in a closed session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Jordan said he had resigned “to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq”.
It is unclear what Jordan said in Switzerland as there is no transcript of the conference, which was officially “off the record”. At first, his remarks were unreported in the mainstream media, but were carried on a blog site after being logged by one of the people at the meeting. It was then implied on some web sites that Jordan had suggested the US military had deliberately targeted American journalists and was responsible for at least 12 deaths.
The story escalated and fed into the mainstream media with reports and discussions on Fox News, in the New York Times and other media outlets. Jordan said in a note to CNN staff: “I have never stated, believed or suspected that US military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments were not as clear as they should have been. I never meant to imply US forces acted with ill intent when they accidentallykilled journalists.”
It is the second time a story on a blog site has resulted in attacks on a leading US journalist. The target on the first occasion was CBS anchorman Dan Rather for his report – later discredited – about the military service of President Bush. That led to the forced resignation of several top CBS executives and the announcement by Rather that he would step down.
Jordan, who worked for CNN for 23 years, had worked with other news organisations and the International News Safety Institute to secure the safety of journalists in Iraq. INSI director Rodney Pinder said of the resignation: “It’s terrible news. Jordan was one of the most concerned news executives I have encountered. He put himself in harm’s way to take up safety issues. He was a brave man who worked for this cause.”