CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan quit Friday amid a furor over remarks he made in Switzerland last month about journalists killed by the U.S. military in Iraq.
Jordan said he was quitting to avoid CNN being “unfairly tarnished” by the controversy.
During a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum last month, Jordan said he believed that several journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq had been targeted.
He quickly backed off the remarks, explaining that he meant to distinguish between journalists killed because they were in the wrong place where a bomb fell, for example, and those killed because they were shot at by American forces who mistook them for the enemy.
“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 in a memo to fellow staff members at CNN.
But the damage had been done, compounded by the fact that no transcript of his actual remarks has turned up. There was an online petition calling on CNN to find a transcript, and fire Jordan if he said the military had intentionally killed journalists.
After several management restructurings at CNN, Jordan actually had no current operational responsibility over network programming. But he was CNN’s chief fix-it man overseas, arranging coverage in dangerous or hard-to-reach parts of the world.
“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.
“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,” he said.
Jordan joined CNN in 1982 as an assistant assignment editor on the national news desk.
CNN’s global newsgathering infrastructure is chiefly the result of Jordan’s work, said Jim Walton, chief of the CNN News Group.