Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Blowing in the 'Tailwind'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Blowing in the 'Tailwind'

Article excerpt

CNN, producer declare a truce

The decision by CNN to settle a $100-million defamation suit deprived the public of testimony from CNN founder Ted Turner, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and an A-list of TV network news stars.

"We were ready to depose them," said former CNN Producer Jack Smith, who pocketed an undisclosed pile of cash from the settlement. Had CNN not settled, Smith would have demanded the network make public all the source material that he and former CNN co-producer April Oliver collected for their heavily critiqued June 1998 documentary, "Valley of Death," which cost them their jobs.

CNN's investigation, heavily promoted by the network when it premiered as part of a joint effort with Time, alleged that the U.S. military, in a 1970 mission during the Vietnam War called Operation Tailwind," dropped nerve gas on American defectors in Laos.

A case would have included depositions and testimony from Turner and CNN President Tom Johnson, who received a series of private, angry telephone calls from Kissinger protesting the documentary, according to Smith.

Kissinger was secretary of state at the time of the Tailwind raid, and felt his place in diplomatic history would have been diminished if the CNN program had gone unchallenged, Smith said. …

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