I have resisted until now the urge to jump on the anti-CNN bandwagon vis-a-vis the revelation that they deliberately sat on stories detrimental to Saddam’s regime in order to maintain access. While the initial reports struck me as rather damning, I understand that compromises sometimes have to be made when dealing with despotic regimes; covering 85% of the news is, after all, conceivably better than covering none of it.

The facts are, however, now it. Susanna has done an excellent job collecting and summarizing them for us, including scads of links to other commentaries.

Eason Jordan justifies his actions on the basis of having to protect the lives of his reporters and sources. That certainly sounds noble; clearly, protecting the lives of their sources should have been a priority. But why is it that NO OTHER NEWS ORGANIZATION seems to have had to make similar choices? The bottom line is that CNN willingly compromised its journalistic integrity, not to gain the ability to give the public as much truth as possible, but to curry favor with an evil regime to gain access. In exchange for this, they willingly served as a de facto propaganda tool of Saddam’s government. Simply to bolster its own ratings. That is just shameful.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. We don’t know if any of the other news agencies knew about this or other similar crimes–CNN is merely the only one to have admitted it. I’m not sure why they did, unless they seriously felt “all would be forgiven”. It shouldn’t be, but we’ll see.

    I feel the public had some of a role in this as well. CNN had relations with Iraq for one purpose only: ratings. Clearly more than a bit of cynicism was warranted when it came to CNN’s journalism, and that holds equally true for all the other TV journalism agencies. They’re not about honesty, they’re in the businesses of making money and getting attention. Most of them have their own political agendas as well.

    CNN’s future ratings will reflect the public’s role in this. If their ratings stay the same or go up, then obviously the public thinks their behavior was a good thing, and they’d rather have the inside scoop on Saddam’s secret social life than on what’s really going on.

    While CNN didn’t start a war (as did Hearst–or at least his papers contributed a great deal), there’s been a long history of similar occurrences in the press. Anything goes, from manufactured scandals to total silence on some pretty major issues. It’s not surprising that CNN would do something like this given past history.

    The real answer is to turn off the TV. I have yet to regret it.

  2. John Ballard says:

    Your first instincts may have been correct. On the face of it, I think that anyone reading the report would have had a similar impulse to attack journalist’s sitting on inflamatory stories in return for access (or ratings, or whatever). Nevertheless, just because they chose not to splatter everything they knew all over the world (in much the same way that Al Jezeera displays pictures that we find too offensive and inflamatory to be shown to our own sensitive readers and viewers) there is no indication that proper military and other governmental agencies were not aware of the same facts. Surely there was no orchestrated effort to conceal this information from the CIA. After all, once the fat is in the fire, there is no further argument that a critical mass has not been reached making the political will an issue.

    Now that CNN execs have been forthcoming, it seems to me that a little encouragement is in order, considering they chose not to stonewall instead. The same charitable attitude is in order, by the way, every time someone who spoke out in opposition to the war admits after the fact that they have changed their mind, that in retrospect the accomplishments turned out to be greater than expected and the consequences less catastrophic. All this I-told-you-so glee on the part of avid patriots would be termed bad sportsmanship on a playing field. In the political arena it reflects an ignorant disregard for the important role of the loyal opposition in a democracy.

  3. xcasson says:

    Have heard just about every possible reason; did it before, everyone does, integrity, money, etc. BUT, know one has mentioned that the Clinton News Network just gave an out to their liberal friends: I didn’t know the truth – CNN lied.