Media critic Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post finally broke his paper’s long silence on the Eason Jordan matter this morning, coming down squarely on Jordan’s side in an apparent effort to help Jordan keep his job. Kurtz’s story is sub-headlined “CNN new chief clarifies his comments on Iraq;” Jordan gave Kurtz an interview in which he repeated the spin that CNN has been putting on the story from the beginning: that is, that Jordan made the point that journalists have not been “targeted,” but have sometimes been killed on purpose under the mistaken impression that they were terrorists.
Kurtz provides a partial accounting of the eyewitness accounts, omitting Rebecca MacKinnon, providing a friendly quote from David Gergen, and adding an interview with a BBC representative who was present.
The most interesting aspect of the article is that Kurtz evidently asked Jordan about his allegation last November that:
[A]t least 10 journalists have been killed by the US military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by US forces,
Jordan explained the “torture” reference to Kurtz:
In the interview last night, Jordan said he and a group of other news executives have discussed with a top Pentagon official allegations by Iraqi employees of NBC, Reuters and al-Jazeera “who claimed to have been detained and tortured by the U.S. military. They all came out with horrific statements about what had been done to them.”
Statements which Jordan believes to be true. Kurtz apparently didn’t ask Jordan about his November statement that “at least 10 journalists have been killed by the U.S. military; in context, he doesn’t seem to be referring to inadvertent deaths.
Kurtz does, however, add this tantalizing observation:
At the World Economic Forum, participants say, the only specific case cited by Jordan was the April 2003 incident in which U.S. forces fired a tank round at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, killing a cameraman employed by Reuters and another for the Spanish network Telecinco. Military spokesmen said the troops were responding to sniper fire from the hotel, which was known to house about 100 foreign journalists, and defended the shelling as “a proportionate and justifiably measured response.”
But Jordan supplied a list of the other incidents, such as a tank firing on and killing Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana as he was filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. U.S. officials said the troops mistook Dana’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
So Jordan supplied a list, presumably of twelve or more incidents, of which we now know of two. Let’s see the list. And let’s see the tape of the Davos session. For now, at least, CNN undoubtedly hopes that this story has ground to a halt with the “limited, modified hang-out” facilitated by Kurtz.
UPSDATE by BIG TRUNK: For an account of the Jordan scandal without the Kurtz spin, see Roderick Boyd’s New York Sun article: “A CNN executive says G.I.s in Iraq target journalists.”