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Eason Jordan, a senior executive at CNN who was responsible for coordinating the cable network's Iraq coverage, resigned abruptly last night, citing a journalistic tempest he touched off during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, late last month in which he appeared to suggest that United States troops were targeting and killing journalists.
Though no transcript of Mr. Jordan's remarks at Davos on Jan. 27 has been released, the panel's moderator, David Gergen, editor at large of U.S. News & World Report, said in an interview last night that Mr. Jordan had initially spoken of soldiers, "on both sides," who he believed had been "targeting" some of the more than five dozen journalists killed in Iraq. (aka- US soldiers were targeting journalists).
But almost immediately after making that assertion, Mr. Jordan, whose title at CNN had been executive vice president and chief news executive, "quickly walked that back to make it clear that there was no policy on the part of the U.S. government to target or injure journalists," Mr. Gergen said.
Mr. Jordan was then challenged by Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who was in the audience, and then said that he had intended to say only that some journalists had been killed by American troops who did not know they were aiming their weapons at journalists.
Nonetheless, accounts of Mr. Jordan's remarks were soon being reported on Web logs as well as in an article on Feb. 3 on the National Review's Web site. Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalist, said that 54 journalists were killed in 2003 and 2004 . At least nine died as a result of American fire, she said.
In a memorandum released to his colleagues last night, Mr. Jordan, 44, who had worked at the network for more than two decades, said he had "decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my most recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq."
In a separate e-mail message to the staff, Jim Walton, president of CNN News Group, a division of Time Warner, announced Mr. Jordan's resignation, which took effect immediately, before praising his 23 years of service at the network. "CNN's global newsgathering infrastructure is largely his vision and achievement," Mr. Walton said.
In accepting Mr. Jordan's resignation, CNN appeared intent on putting the episode behind it as quickly as possible, perhaps in an effort to avoid repeating the drawn-out tensions between CBS News and the Bush administration last fall. After broadcasting a report critical of President Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service in early September, CBS defended the report, in the face of criticism on Web logs, for more than a week before announcing that it could not substantiate it.
Asked last night if CNN had had any contact with the Bush administration over the fallout from Mr. Jordan's remarks, a network spokeswoman, Christa Robinson, said, "Not that I'm aware of."
Asked if Mr. Jordan had been under any pressure from the network to resign, Ms. Robinson said he had not. She said Mr. Walton, the CNN president, was unavailable for further comment. Mr. Jordan did not return a message left on his cellphone seeking comment. Mr. Jordan, who once had day-to-day responsibility for CNN's international coverage, is no stranger to controversy.
In April 2003, he wrote an Op-Ed article in The New York Times saying that CNN had essentially suppressed news of brutalities in Saddam Hussein's Iraq that he thought could jeopardize the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on CNN's Baghdad staff.
"I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me," he wrote. "Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely."