- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 13, 2005

At least 10 journalists have been killed by the U.S. military. And according to reports I believe to be true, journalists have been arrested and tortured by U.S. forces.

— Eason Jordan, CNN executive vice president.

CNN describes Eason Jordan as its “chief news executive” who provides “strategic advice to CNN’s senior management team.” In November, he offered the above murderous assessment of America’s military to a group of Portuguese journalists and got away with it.

On Jan. 27, he apparently made a nearly identical outrageous, unfounded accusation at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. This time he got caught — not by his colleagues in the so-called mainstream media — but by “bloggers” in attendance.

Ironically, Mr. Jordan, who also chairs the CNN Editorial Board, made his most recent unsupported claim of U.S. military war crimes in a panel discussion titled “Will Democracy Survive the News?” The short answer is: “not if democracy has to depend on people like Mr. Jordan to report the news.”

And therein lies the problem — not just with Mr. Jordan’s calumny about our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines, but with his colleagues in the so-called mainstream media. The CNN executive’s slander went unreported — and apparently unchallenged — by other press potentates who heard him accuse America’s military of deliberately targeting and killing journalists in Iraq. Worse still, other “leaders” in the Fourth Estate now rush to Mr. Jordan’s defense. David Gergen, editor-at-large for U.S.News & World Report and moderator of the discussion in Davos, now says Mr. Jordan had recently been to Iraq and was “caught up in the tension of the moment,” and “deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

Why? Aren’t news reporters supposed to thirst for truth? Isn’t there some standard of proof or corroboration required before someone in the “news business” makes such a horrific accusation? Furthermore, why should any member of the media in attendance be let off the hook for not immediately jumping up and demanding proof of Mr. Jordan’s unsubstantiated charges?

Such damning accusations, if true, would make Abu Ghraib look like petty larceny. Yet, Mr. Jordan has offered no evidence of the putative war crimes — nor, apparently, ever proffered any witnesses or evidence of such crimes in Iraq or anywhere else.

Fortunately, not everyone at Davos was as favorably disposed to Mr. Jordan’s reckless claims as his media colleagues. Left-of-center U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, released a statement that he was “outraged” by Mr. Jordan’s comments and is “tremendously proud of the sacrifice and service of American military personnel.” Liberal Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, claims he contacted Mr. Jordan and demanded “specifics.” Mr. Frank said he would pursue the matter if there were credible evidence. At this writing, Mr. Jordan has yet to accept the congressman’s offer.

Mr. Jordan has claimed his Davos comments were taken out of context. Howard Kurtz, who covers the media for The Washington Post and hosts a weekly media program on CNN, quotes Mr. Jordan, ostensibly his boss at CNN, as saying, “I wasn’t as clear as I should have been on that panel.”

That should be easy to prove. Though the panel discussion was “off-the-record,” the event apparently was videotaped — another fact we would not know but for the “bloggers” who were there. Messrs. Jordan, Gergen, Kurtz, et al. should call for the videotape’s release so we can see who challenges and who applauds Mr. Jordan’s charges against our military. But CCN is unlikely to call for release of the videotape.

According to Rony Abovitz, the Forum-sponsored blogger who first broke this story to the world, Mr. Jordan “repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience and cause great strain on others.”

According to Mr. Abovitz, Mr. Jordan’s charges met with approval from Arab attendees “who applauded and called him ‘a very brave man’ for speaking up against the U.S. in a public way amongst a crowd ready to hear anti-U.S. sentiments.”

There is a lesson in all this, and not just for CNN but for all the media. Eason Jordan’s disparaging duplicity wasn’t exposed by the barons of broadcasting or the potentates of print, but by “amateurs” — bloggers — the same “unwashed masses” who brought down Dan Rather. These e-mailing, Web-surfing, call-‘em as you see-‘em bloggers are the electronic equivalent of the pamphleteers who brought about our Revolution.

Today bloggers “pass the word” faster than an official spokesman can draft a denial. They are the small “d” democrats of the new “news business” — and more believable to many than what is presented on the tube or in the paper.

To the bloggers, it’s clear that if Dan Rather worked for CNN he would still have a job. Apparently, the network that bills itself as “the most trusted name in news” has even lower standards of proof than CBS.

Next year, the World Economic Forum will again assemble its elite, self-anointed “business, political and intellectual leaders” at the posh Swiss Alpine resort to sip champagne and discuss Orwellian ideas for making “the world a better place.” They should ask Mr. Jordan to return and answer a somewhat different question: “Will CNN ‘News’ Survive Democracy?”

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and host of “War Stories” on the FOX News Channel. The opinions expressed above are his own and do not reflect the views of FOX News.

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