CNN executive resigns after controversial remarks
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan resigned Friday, saying the controversy over his remarks about the deaths of journalists in Iraq threatened to tarnish the network he helped build.
Jordan conceded that his remarks at the January 27 World Economic Forum were "not as clear as they should have been." Several participants at the event said Jordan told the audience U.S. forces had deliberately targeted journalists -- a charge he denied.
"After 23 years at CNN, I have decided to resign in an effort 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," Jordan said in a letter to colleagues.
"I have devoted my professional life to helping make CNN the most trusted and respected news outlet in the world, and I would never do anything to compromise my work or that of the thousands of talented people it is my honor to work alongside.
"While my CNN colleagues and my friends in the U.S. military know me well enough to know I have never stated, believed, or suspected that U.S. military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments on this subject in a World Economic Forum panel discussion were not as clear as they should have been."
The resignation sent shock waves through CNN -- with Jordan long admired by his peers, from executives to the rank-and-file. Jordan joined CNN as an assistant assignment editor in 1982 and rose through the ranks to become CNN's chief news executive.
CNN News Group President Jim Walton said that under Jordan's leadership, the news group "literally circled the globe with bureaus, from Baghdad to Johannesburg to Havana to Sydney to Hong Kong."
"The regard in which he is held by people from every walk of life in virtually every corner of the world has added incalculably to our ability to cover such historic events as the Gulf War and the war in Iraq, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the crackdown in Tiananmen Square and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," Walton said in a written statement to colleagues.
The controversy over Jordan's remarks gained steam last week, with bloggers posting their accounts of what transpired at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an event attended by political, economic, academic and media figures from around the world.
The Davos organizers have said the session, like most at the forum, was off-the-record, and they have refused to release a transcript to preserve their commitment.
At the heart of the dispute is what Jordan said about the deaths of journalists in Iraq. Several participants said he told the audience that U.S. forces had deliberately targeted some journalists.
But Jordan strongly denied that he had made such a suggestion and said he did not believe journalists had been deliberately targeted.
In his letter to staff on Friday, he said he had "great admiration and respect for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces," noting that he was embedded with them in Baghdad, Tikrit and Mosul. He said he has also spent time with U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Persian Gulf.
"I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise," Jordan said.
He added, "As for my colleagues at CNN, I am enormously proud to have worked with you, risking my life in the trenches with you, and making CNN great with you.
"For that experience, and for your friendship and support these many years, I thank you."