CNN Exec Replies to Phony Video Accusation

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sun Sep 16 19:10:43 MDT 2001

[Following the recent spate or repostings of the charge that CNN played
decade old video claiming it was Palestinians celebrating the Sep. 11
attacks, a person named Craig Gingold did the logical thing, and wrote CNN.
He was immediately answered by the person in charge of newsgathering for
CNN, Eason Jordan. Gingold asks that his email and Jordan's response be
circulated to all lists where the charge against CNN was aired]

[I do not know Craig Gingold, or if I do I don't recall who he is. But I
have known Eason Jordan, the executive who answered his email, for more than
a decade, at least casually, as well as observed his work, or the results of
it, at fairly close range.

[I'm sure if we sat down to have a philosophical or political discussion
Jordan and I might disagree on countless topics. But on the level of the
formal, ethical norms and standards of mainstream journalism, nothing I've
ever seen him do or say nor anything I have ever heard about him would raise
the slightest question in my mind about taking his probity for granted on an
issue like this.

[Jordan is a Georgia native who rose through the CNN. He came into CNN in
his early 20s and was for five or six years the overnight person on CNN's
international desk. At the end of the 1980's, as CNN grew and its
international reporting expanded, he was put in charge of the growing
international desk, and is especially associated with initiatives like
making sure CNN kept a reporting presence in Iraq throughout the Gulf War
and resisting significant pressure from the U.S. and its allies in that war
to stop reporting Iraq's side of that story.

[There would be, undoubtedly, countless things one might criticize from a
left-wing point of view about this reporting, but even so, it must be
admitted that CNN covered Iraq's side in that war to an extent that was
unprecedented in the history of mainstream American journalism. Similarly,
he was closely associated with things like CNN's establishing a bureau in
Havana, and was the first journalist from a major "Western" news
organization to report on North Korea, using a small DV cam to record
pictures and reporting about the famine that country was facing 3 or 4 years
back. He has stanchly defended CNN's hiring of Palestinian journalists and
the airing of their work against a barrage of criticism from the Israeli
press and government. Under Jordan, CNN's international desk became much
more of a truly international desk, with staff members from all over the
world, including many from the third world. A number of people that came in
essentially as person-on-the-lowest-rung on the international desk (most
famously Christian Amanpour but not just her) have gone on to do some of the
better on-screen CNN international reporting of recent years, despite "funny
accents," "bad delivery" and "faces made for radio."

[Unfortunately, U.S. viewers get very little exposure to this reporting, as
the CNN domestic network (the one everyone thinks of as "the" CNN although
the truth is CNN International has many, many more subscribers) no longer
carries much of this material, unlike several years ago, before Time-Warner
acquired Turner broadcasting.

[An interesting question for CNN to ponder might be why what is presented as
an unsubstantiated rumor was given such credence. I say unsubstantiated
rumor because the person who made the charge didn't even CLAIM to have the
proof, and there was a strong suggestion in how he wrote about it that he'd
never even seen the alleged proof. The person who was said to have the proof
was an anonymous teacher. And on the *substance* of the events, there is no
dispute that there were initially some expressions of celebration among
Palestinians when the first reports on the attacks came through.

[I do not believe such a claim would have been as easily accepted say, eight
or ten years ago.]


*  *  *

----- Original Message -----
From: "Craig Gingold" <gingold at>
To: <change-links at>; <bay_area_activist at>
Cc: <WILPF-news-us at>; <hopedance at>
Sent: Saturday, September 15, 2001 8:00 PM
Subject: !b_a_Act: CNN Exec Replies to Phony Video Accusation

Over the last several days an extremely alarming email has been circulating
on virtually every email list in existence, judging by the number of copies
I have received. The basic charge is that CNN perpetrated a knowing
of its viewers by airing a 10-year-old videotape of Palestinians celebrating
during the Gulf War, but misrepresenting it as showing celebrations of the
terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. I hardly need explain
why this is an extremely serious accusation. The implications -- if true --
are so disturbing that I felt compelled to make an effort to ascertain the
veracity of the claim. (The relevant parts of that email are at the very end
of this posting.)

Given the incredibly wide circulation of the email, and the fact that it is
entirely on the unverified assertions of one individual, I think it is
essential to
make a serious effort to determine what the basic facts are. Unfortunately,
I don't have access to the 10-year-old tapes cited by the man making the
accusation. That would, of course, be the most straightforward way to either
prove or disprove his charges.

The next -- and most obvious -- step to take was to ask for a response
to this allegation from CNN. Friday afternoon I wrote a short letter that
I sent by email to CNN, which I made a point of CC'ing to the man in
charge of news operations, Eason Jordan. Somewhat to my surprise,
I received a reply from Mr. Jordan before an hour had passed -- clearly
they are rather concerned to be accused of such a blatant deception.
His reply is below, followed by my letter of inquiry. (I had intended to
send this out immediately, but was prevented from doing so due to
computer problems.)

Unless somebody comes forward with clear and convincing proof that CNN
really used 10-year-old videotapes, I see no particular reason to doubt
Mr. Jordan's outline of the facts. In any event, I must confess I don't know
why it should have been considered utterly unbelievable that there would
have been *some* Palestinians who did, in fact, celebrate the attacks on
the United States. Not surprising at all, IMO. And hardly surprising that
this would be considered newsworthy. The real questions are, how
widespread were such celebrations, and how representative -- or NOT --
were they of overall Palestinian reaction to the attacks? And, of course
-- did the news reports (on CNN and elsewhere) make any real effort
to make such assessments?

I know we can never rule out with *100% certainty* the *possibility* of
such blatant electronic fabrications, but I think we should try to avoid
the kind of credulous acceptance of unsubstantiated allegations that
I've observed in this case. Certainly, we need to be vigilant against all
forms of manipulation. But the real problems we face with the mass media
are *much* more in the area of framing and context, and the suppression
of strongly dissenting points of view.

Craig Gingold
Midpines CA

 **  Please forward this post to any other list where this issue has
been discussed. **

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
From:               "Jordan, Eason" <Eason.Jordan at>
To:                 "'gingold at'" <gingold at>
Subject:            RE: VERY URGENT: CNN Accused of LYING to viewers
Date sent:          Fri, 14 Sep 2001 17:00:44 -0400

[Message] From EASON JORDAN, Chief News Executive, CNN:

The suggestion that CNN used 10-year-old images to illustrate Palestinians
celebrating the terrorist strikes in the U.S. is baseless and ridiculous.
videotape was, in fact, shot Tuesday in East Jerusalem by a Reuters TV
crew and included comments from a Palestinian praising Osama Bin Laden,
who was not a Gulf War player. The more interesting story -- it has the
value of being true -- is that Palestinian officials have threatened
for taking pictures of these Palestinian celebrations.

[Reply to a followup question:]

The videotape was shot on Tuesday, not Wednesday, during daylight hours
(late in the day but before nightfall). CNN is a responsible news
committed to accuracy and fairness. The sad reality, which is indisputable,
is some Palestinians celebrated when they heard about this horrific tragedy.


-----Original Message-----
From: Craig Gingold [mailto:gingold at]
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2001 4:49 PM
To: at; Jordan, Eason
Subject: VERY URGENT: CNN Accused of LYING to viewers

To: Responsible individuals at CNN:

In case you have not yet seen this, I am forwarding for your *immediate*
attention an email post which is being very widely circulated on a large
number of email listserves. (This was originally posted on the Indymedia
website at the URL shown below.) The accusation of deliberate and knowing
deception on the part of CNN is extremely grave. Judging by the positive
responses that have been posted, and the alacrity with which this post is
being forwarded to yet other email lists, it is clear that the vast majority
readers are giving these allegations uncritical acceptance -- undoubtedly
because it confirms widespread perceptions of bias and manipulation on
the part of the mass media.

I urge you to take this matter very seriously, and I hope you will undertake
an *immediate* investigation of the specific allegation that has been made.
Most importantly, CNN needs to issue a detailed factual response to this
accusation AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. A failure to to so will only lend more
credibility to the allegation.

I hope to hear from someone at CNN some time later today - Friday - to
confirm that you are in fact undertaking to investigate this matter.


Craig Gingold
Midpines CA
(209) 742-6802


To: Recipient list suppressed <Recipient list suppressed
Date: Thursday, September 13, 2001 7:35 AM
Subject: "CNN USING 1991 FOOTAGE of celebrating Palistinians"?

At work on Wednesday we were discussing this. They were showing images
of the West Bank, of people celebrating in bright sunshine when it should
have been evening there, if it in fact were live.


CNN USING 1991 FOOTAGE of celebrating Palistinians to manipulate you

(english) by Marcio 10:32pm Wed Sep 12 '01 . I'd like to add some ideas
from here, down south. There's an important point in the power of press,
specifically the power of CNN. All around the world we are subjected to 3
or 4 huge news distributors, and one of them - as you well know - is CNN.
Very well, I guess all of you have been seeing (just as I've been) images
from this company. In particular, one set of images called my attencion:
the Palestinians celebrating the bombing, out on the streets, eating some
cake and making funny faces for the camera.

Well, THOSE IMAGES WERE SHOT BACK IN 1991!!! Those are images of
Palestinians celebrating the invasion of Kuwait! It's simply unacceptable
that a super-power of cumminications as CNN uses images which do not
correspond to the reality in talking about so serious an issue.

A teacher of mine, here in Brazil, has videotapes recorded in 1991, with the
very same images; he's been sending emails to CNN, Globo (the major TV
network in Brazil) and newspapers, denouncing what I myself classify as a
crime against the public opinion. If anyone of you has access to this kind
of files, serch for it. In the meanwhile, I'll try to 'put my hands' on a
of this tape.

But now, think for a moment about the impact of such images. Your
people is hurt, emotionally fragile, and this kind broadcast have very high
possibility of causing waves of anger and rage against Palestinians. It's
simply irresponsible to show images such as those.

<snip non-germane material>

Márcio A. V. Carvalho
State University of Campinas - Brazil

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message

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