CNN Chief Stands by Iraq Omissions; Ethics Debate Flares on Withholding of Saddam Atrocities
Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan yesterday disclosed that his network withheld details of Saddam Hussein's brutality from its coverage to protect CNN employees.
Alarming facts about secret police, abductions, beatings, dismemberment and assassinations under the Iraqi dictator were not reported to the public, Mr. Jordan wrote, "because doing so would have jeopardized Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff."
"I felt awful having those stories bottled up inside me," Mr. Jordan wrote in an editorial titled "The News We Kept to Ourselves" published yesterday in The New York Times. "At last these stories can be told freely."
In an interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Jordan stood by his decision yesterday, saying he felt "relieved" and was "absolutely sure I did the right thing holding these stories."
CNN coverage, he said, had already offered evidence of "the brutality in Iraq," and the move was not intended to "preserve CNN's presence in Iraq."
"We've already been thrown out of Iraq several times. And we are proud we've been thrown out," he said. CNN correspondents were expelled from Baghdad last month.
Some are baffled by it all.
"I was stunned by that op-ed," Fox News Channel and ABC radio host Sean Hannity told The Times yesterday. "Doesn't CNN have a journalistic obligation to report these kind of details, or to make their reporters aware of them? You can bet if CNN made discoveries about, say, a conservative administration, they would share them."
The editorial "sounds like a confession more than anything," Mr. Hannity said. "And I found it hypocritical."
Rich Noyes, director of research at the conservative Media Research Center, said that "Jordan now admits that CNN kept many of Saddam's secrets.
"Have other networks also censored their own tales of Saddam's evil?" he asked.
"If accurate reporting from Iraq was impossible, why was access to this dictatorship so important in the first place? And what truths about the thugs who run other totalitarian states - like North Korea, Cuba and Syria - are fearful and/or access-hungry reporters hiding from the American public? …