NEW YORK (AP) – Despite comments that may have left a different impression, CNN’s chief news executive said Thursday that he does not believe the U.S. military intended to kill journalists in the Iraq war.

CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan is involved in a controversy over comments he made at the World Economic Forum last month. One Web logger has already called it “Easongate,” and an online petition is circulating calling on CNN to release a full transcript of what Jordan said.

Jordan, speaking at the Jan. 27 panel in Davos, Switzerland, said he believed that 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq had been targeted.

CNN said that Jordan was responding to a comment made by another panelist that journalists killed in Iraq were collateral damage. He had intended to draw a distinction between reporters killed because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a bomb fell, for example, and those killed because someone mistook them for the enemy, CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said on Thursday.

However, Jordan did a poor job saying so, she said. He deeply regrets that he left the wrong impression, she said.

Jordan would not speak about the issue to The Associated Press, but issued a statement: “I never in my life thought or meant to suggest that the military was trying to deliberately kill journalists.”

There have been 36 journalists and 18 support staff killed in Iraq since March 2003, said Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. It has been determined that U.S. forces were responsible for 11 of the deaths, he said.

“We have not concluded that U.S. forces have deliberately targeted journalists,” Campagna said.

“But we remain very concerned about whether U.S. forces are adequately working to insure that journalists who are civilians are not harmed in areas of conflict.”

Bret Stephens, a Wall Street Journal columnist, wrote Thursday that he had been in the audience for Jordan’s presentation and that Jordan had said that 12 journalists in Iraq had been targeted and killed by coalition forces. Jordan also told a story about an Al-Jazeera columnist that had been tortured at Abu Ghraib prison.

Challenged immediately by another panelist, Rep. Barney Franks, Jordan said that he did not believe the Bush administration had a policy of targeting journalists and that “the (American) generals and colonels have their heart in the right place,” according to Stephens.

Jordan also said, however, “there are people who believe there are people in the military” who have it out for journalists, Stephens said.

“Mr. Jordan deserves some credit for retracting the substance of his remark, and some forgiveness for trying to weasel his way out of a bad situation of his own making,” Stephens wrote. “Whether CNN wants its news division led by a man who can’t be trusted to sit on a panel and field softball questions is another matter.”

A Web site, Easongate.com, is calling for CNN to release a full transcript of what Jordan said in Switzerland.

“Mr. Jordan has been reported to have charged the U.S. military with intentionally targeting journalists,” the petition says. “If he has evidence of such acts, we request that it be aired so that appropriate investigations may be undertaken by the U.S. government. We will readily assist in forwarding these claims to our elected leadership.

“If Mr. Jordan did in fact allege these acts, and has no such evidence, we ask that he be removed from his position immediately.”

The Web site said 1,453 people had signed the petition by midday Thursday.

CNN said, however, that it had no such transcript and, although a videotape reportedly exists of the conference, the meetings were held under rules forbidding participants from being quoted directly.

“I don’t know how much more clear we can be,” Robinson said. “I think the story should be moot when you read in the first accounts that he made the misstatement and he cleared it up.”

AP-ES-02-10-05 1725EST



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