MediaWatch: August 24, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 14

Turner Never Apologized

CNN’s former military analyst, retired Air Force Major General Perry Smith, appeared August 10 on CBS’s Late Late Show with Tom Snyder and issued his first public comments since he quit CNN in protest about a week after the now withdrawn NewsStand: CNN & Time story on Operation Tailwind initially aired on June 7.

Among his observations:

  • The Floyd Abrams report, written by the lawyer CNN brought in to check the story, was wrong in insisting producers only made honest mistakes: "I have problems with the Abrams report, not in its conclusion and that was the story was wrong, but in the early part of his report, and I just read it again tonight, he indicates that these people who put the story together were very honest journalists who just made a number of mistakes, when in fact they had been told by dozens of people who were knowledgeable that story was dead wrong. And I think he was much too kind. I think he was protecting CNN in the early part of that report."
  • CNN’s on-air reporter, Peter Arnett, was more involved than claimed: "He knew there was no nerve gas in theater, yet he reported it. Now he said he didn’t do anything but read the script, and that is just flat wrong. He interviewed three of the key players, and when you do an interview and prepare for an interview and do follow-up as you are doing with me, Tom, you have got to be prepared as you have been. And so he was into that story big time and he lied about that to the CEO of, Tom Johnson of CNN, and a lot of other people. There are a lot of people at CNN who are very angry that Peter Arnett is still in the employ of CNN."
  • Ted Turner never called to apologize: "Ted Turner was set up to apologize to all the people on the ground. They were all waiting for the phone call a couple of Tuesdays ago, and he never called any of them...."

Smith decried Turner’s avoidance: "He did major damage to those folks. He said it was the worst experience in his life. The least he could do was personally apologize to people who were involved in that mission. He has not done that. He’s done it by letter, a pro-forma Xeroxed type letter, but he has not done it anymore than that, so I have to fault Ted Turner on this also."