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« The Core Of The Issue | Main | What A Tease »

Did Jordan Take A Bullet For The Team?

Where's the video tape?

That was the question emanating from the blogosphere all last week. As many have pointed out, while we'll take scalps occasionally, the Eason Jordan affair wasn't about taking scalps (though I plead guilty to calling for his head if the tape showed the allegations to be true). It was about honesty and accountability.

Somehow, now that the chum of Jordan has been thrown to the sharks of the web, there may be a hope among many that the calls for the release of the tape, or a transcript (which may be much less damaging, for reasons I'll explain in a minute) will die down.

Many are noting that if the tape exonerated, or mitigated Jordan's alleged comments, it would have appeared by now. That's true, but it misses a big part of the story. I don't think that this was just about the MSM protecting one of their own. I think that it may be about protecting itself, or at least many members of it.

I have to wonder if that tape would show (and perhaps more starkly and much more graphically than a black and white transcript) not just Jordan's words, but the approving reception of them by his Davos cohorts? The nods of recognition, the lack of any challenge, perhaps even murmurs of appreciation, until Rony Abovitz and Barney Frank spoke up. Gergen may have appeared concerned, and eventually changed the subject, but how long did it go on, and who was cheering Eason on? Was Iowahawk closer to reality than we thought? Who else will this tape embarrass (or should embarrass), and reflect poorly on?

Somehow, I suspect that if we were to see that video, it would provide much more than a brief glimpse into the soul of Eason Jordan. It might reveal the depths of the anti-military (and anti-American, or at least anti-Bush) sentiment in his colleagues as well, in an unguarded moment when they forgot that others were watching. And perhaps it's their hope that by sacrificing Jordan, the rest of them can continue, incognito and unharried, in their undeclared war against the hyperpower.

Whether my speculation is correct or not, I don't think that we should take Jordan's resignation as a victory--it's perhaps a distraction, and we should continue to demand the tape.

[Update at 2:30 PM EST]

A commenter claims that the remarks were off the record. How strange, then, to have an official videotape of a meeting that was supposed to be "off the record."

[Another update a couple minutes later]

Bill Roggio has similar thoughts.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 14, 2005 08:53 AM
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What better example is there of MSM hypocrisy than the lack of effort to get the Davos tape released. No scathing editorials about secrecy or letting the truth be known just attacks on those who want to whole story.

Posted by Bill Maron at February 14, 2005 09:38 AM

It is important to note that the remarks at the conference were considered to be "off the record" and that is why the Europeans have not released the tape. In other words, they promised a degree of confidentiality to everyone present and they certainly feel they must uphold this promise.

Now Jordan could request that the portion of the tape pertaining to his remarks be released. However, he cannot request that any other portions be released. And presumably, this would also require the approval of all the other panelists, because some of them challenged him or may have nodded/shaken their heads or made some other form of response. In addition, it might depend on how the panel was filmed. What if the camera showed the entire room and not just the panelists? Someone in the front row might legitimately argue that he believed "off the record" meant that nobody would be able to see that he was in attendance at the meeting, rather than working at his desk doing what he told his boss he was doing.

It helps to consider how bureaucracies work. By declaring this discussion as "off the record," the Europeans promised a certain amount of confidentiality and would require a high degree of convincing to now change the rules.

However, the real puzzler is how come Jordan himself has not even made a request. If he requested it and it was turned down, that would be a different situation.

Posted by Kelly Vista at February 14, 2005 11:21 AM

It is important to note that the remarks at the conference were considered to be "off the record" and that is why the Europeans have not released the tape.

I don't think that's correct. My understanding is that the current story is that the comments weren't off the record, but were not for attribution (i.e., a transcript could be released, if the authors of the various words weren't identified). (Someone can correct me if I'm mistaken here.)

But it's not clear if this was a prior understanding, or an excuse they came up after the fact to justify the stonewall. Recall that they originally told Sisyphus that they would release the tape, then backtracked later in that week.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 14, 2005 11:28 AM

RE: 'off the record'

What were they being taped for, then?

Posterity? (Certainly this is feasible. With video storage as cheap as it is, it makes sense to record meetings involving world leaders, in 40 years the recording could be released to historians)

Perhaps the recording was for the benefit of those at Davos who can't make it to every event. That is, the meeting was 'off the record' for public consumption, but if Jimmy Carter or Jacques Chirac (or whoever attended Davos) wanted to get a copy, they could.

I have to think that if the media wanted this tape badly enough, they would have had it a week ago. And if the recording were harmful to certain people/organizations rather than Jordan and CNN, the folks at Davos would cough it up without being asked.

Posted by MattJ at February 14, 2005 11:57 AM

"But it's not clear if this was a prior understanding, or an excuse they came up after the fact to justify the stonewall."

The statement that the meeting was considered "off the record" has been in _many_ of the news articles. See this, for instance:

"Ms. Robinson of CNN said that the network had no transcript of the session or a videotape because the conference organizers said that they considered the session off the record."


"No definitive account of what Jordan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 27 has been made public, including the forum's videotape of the off-the-record session."


"Recall that they originally told Sisyphus that they would release the tape, then backtracked later in that week."

One possible interpretation is not that they "backtracked," but that Sisyphus was given wrong information by somebody who did not know about the promise of confidentiality. Anybody who works at a large organization knows that there are reasons why they have policies that only the public affairs office can answer inquiries--it's because people can give out inaccurate information that has not been cleared. It is possible that somebody said that a tape would be released without realizing what preconditions had been set for the conference.

And need I remind you that you should hold blogger accounts, like Sisyphus, to exacting standards as well? Sisyphus could be wrong too, just as the MSM could be wrong.


"RE: 'off the record'

What were they being taped for, then?"

Sometimes a conference will tape record "off the record" sessions because they anticipate producing an abridged proceedings that will be made public with approval of the participants. In other words, somebody will listen to the tape and write up a summary that then has to be cleared by the participants, who can object to certain things. Having organized, and participated in numerous conferences, I have not encountered exactly this situation, but have encountered similar situations where tapes were made and notes were taken even though nobody expected the comments to become public.

"I have to think that if the media wanted this tape badly enough, they would have had it a week ago."

Certainly _some_ media want this. Don't you think that Fox News wants that tape pretty badly? Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post is the only journalist to get an interview with Jordan and certainly he would like a copy of the tape. He has said so.

My purpose in pointing all of this out is not to defend Jordan, but to remind people that before they start foaming at the mouth and shouting "conspiracy!" in a crowded theater, they need to carefully consider all aspects of the context of this event. The conference organizers are a bureaucracy and will behave like one. If they believe that they promised a certain amount of confidentiality to the panelists, then they feel they must uphold it, even if members of the audience or other panelists are willing to talk about Jordan's remarks (in other words, David Gergen has spoken about an "off the record" event).

Posted by Kelly Vista at February 14, 2005 12:25 PM


Sorry Kelly, but all you've proven is that the WEF organizers, having decided to deny the videotape, have kept to their decision.

What hasn't been included in any news report or article is actual definitive proof that this meeting was off-the-record *prior* to Jordan's gaffe.

i.e. Was this meeting specifically marked as off-the-record in the WEF's public program for attendees or was it applied retroactively.

Frankly since the subject of this particular post is about journalists failing to abide by their supposed professional standards, using articles written by these same journalists is rather a circular argument.

Posted by ed at February 14, 2005 01:42 PM

As someone who works in this industry (trade shows and meetings), I can say with confidence that if this particular meeting were "off the record" in any way, there would have been *no* recording. Period. The way to tell if this meeting was supposed be recorded but not released would be to look at the schedule of the conference (usually a nicely bound book which details all of the breakout rooms, who's in them, and whether or not the session would be available for sale after the meeting). The WEF organizers should have many copies of their program book as used in the meetings (there are almost always spares).

At worst, all you need to do is contact each of the attending panel members, get their permission for release of the tape, and get a copy made for public scrutiny (I've seen similar situations in the corporate world, and this is the accepted solution).

Considering how many of the WEF sessions were not only recorded, but webcast, the idea that this one session was double-secret is just silly.

Posted by cirby at February 14, 2005 01:58 PM

I had rather similar thoughts about the videotape today at but I see that you beat me to it!

Posted by ForNow at February 14, 2005 01:59 PM

From my understanding, while the meeting is frequently being referred to as "off-the-record" that term is not completely accurate. Rather, the session was "non-attributable" or, in other words, while the general sense and content was acceptable for release, attribution of specific quotations to specific participants was not to be made. So, while not releasing the video is in conformance with this policy making a claim that the session was in its entirity "off-the-record" is incorrect.

In any event, it seems likely that specific portions of the video could be released should the specific individuals involved in that segment agree to such release. To this matter, though, neither Jordan nor WEF have asked for such release and with good, though self-serving, reasons. As long as Jordan's exact words and nature of his comments are nebulous he still maintains a degree of deniability and an ability to asume a moral position (I did nothing wrong, I just resigned to protect the organization). From this posture he plans to eventually make his come-back into MSM.

Posted by submandave at February 14, 2005 02:01 PM

"Frankly since the subject of this particular post is about journalists failing to abide by their supposed professional standards, using articles written by these same journalists is rather a circular argument."

So you believe absolutely nobody about anything? Or you believe some people only? Who are they? And why do you believe them? (Personally, the only one I trust is my dog, and he tells me that Ed does not actually exist.)

Face it, in order to discuss this issue, you (me, everybody) have to accept certain things as "facts." One fact is that there was a conference (says who? Journalists? You say you don't believe them, so maybe there never was a conference? In which case, why are you so upset?). Another fact is that Jordan said something that some people found controversial. And another fact is that he resigned. (That was reported by journalists, whom Ed chooses not to believe. So therefore, Ed must believe that Jordan has not resigned, no? See the problems with spinning oneself off into moonbat land?)

It is clear that the organizers of this conference promised the panelists _something._ Now the precise language of that remains to be determined, but clearly some level of confidentiality was part of the ground rules. Here is a cite on that and what is apparently referred to as the "Chatham House Rule."

But I find it amusing (and also disturbing, depending upon the mood that I am in) that disgust of what Jordan may have said (at least as corroborated by several witnesses and not refuted by Jordan himself) has now spun off into a larger conspiracy that includes not only journalists of the MSM, but also the conference organizers who won't release a tape that they apparently never intended to release anyway, so who now must be part of something sinister.

Boil it down to the bare issues and the most important question about the tape is why _Jordan_ has not requested its release, _not_ why the conference organizers will not release it.

Posted by Kelly Vista at February 14, 2005 02:27 PM

The counter argument is that if Jordan were a high official of some non-news business, CNN would be howling for the release of the tapes, regardless of any "off the record" issue. I hope that the next time CNN does do that, the target brings this issue up to point out what CNN thinks "off the record" means.

Posted by Annoying Old Guy at February 14, 2005 02:31 PM

If Davos was "off the record", how is it that they let every media outlet on earth run the story of Sharon Stone's 10K donation to "fight hunger" and the matching donations of many attendees?

Shifting sands, anyone?

Posted by Buzz Crutcher at February 14, 2005 03:32 PM

I presume that the MSM will now admit that they were wrong to call for the information from VP Cheney's energy meeting that included oil officials and was "off-the-record?"

Nope, no double standards here.

Kelly, I'd be more impressed if any of your links were to statements made before the meeting. "The Chatham House Rules" would be nice if they could be shown to be in place prior to the meeting.

I have presented at various professional meetings, and such standards have always (to my knowledge) been published prior to the meeting in question, and for each event to which they apply.

So Show me the prior notification, please.

Posted by JorgXMcKie at February 14, 2005 03:45 PM

Per my comment at Captain's Quarters the session summary is here.

Posted by Dishman at February 14, 2005 04:08 PM

I know this whole episode seems like a reenactment of the final scenes of the movie "Enemy of the State" where the Will Smith character pits the the "evil" NSA guys against the "mafia" guys over a video tape. With such memorable lines as "Do you have the video tape?" and a bunch of guns, you just know a lot of folks are going to get bloody.

Posted by Neo at February 14, 2005 04:18 PM

      This exchange is based on a mis-conception.

      Rebecca MadKinni]on, who was in the audience, gives the official guidelines issued before the event:

‘On and Off the Record’ Policy for AM 2005

All plenary sessions are fully ‘on’ the record.

All sessions that are broadcast or webcast are ‘on the record’ (for 2005 that means all sessions in the Congress Hall or Sanada 1 and 2)

      As MacKinno notes, Sanada 1&2 was where the panel took place.

      And it's worth noting that the official summary that Dishman mentions has attributed quotes from all the panel members.

      So to me, it looks like the Davos folk decided it was off the record after they decided it was embarrassing.

The Sauds Must Be Destroyed!

Posted by Stephen M. St. Onge at February 14, 2005 04:42 PM

      Jay Rosen adds to the above, when he notes that:
"the original report from the panel discussion in Davos--which did attribute comments to a participants, identifying Jordan and others--appeared on a Forum sanctioned site, the exact title of which is: ' - The World Economic Forum Weblog.'"

      Rosen also points out that a Wall Street Journal editor, Bret Stephens, was on the scene, and Stephens quoted people on the panel.

      I say again: the evidence is that the panel was on the record till the moment it looked like Eason Jordan, and the audience reaction, would embarass the participants, and maybe the WEF.  Then, suddenly, it was off the record.


Posted by Stephen M. St. Onge at February 14, 2005 05:11 PM

Rand, I gotta tell you -- when I saw the title of this post with the words "Jordan" "bullet" and "team," I briefly wondered whether this was about the NBA. Then I remembered that political correctness had caused that team to be renamed "Wizards," and then I remembered that someone else named Jordan has been in the news lately.

And I have no idea why Michael Jordan would have been in my mind when I first glanced at that headline.

Posted by McGehee at February 14, 2005 07:13 PM


"So you believe absolutely nobody about anything? Or you believe some people only? Who are they? And why do you believe them? (Personally, the only one I trust is my dog, and he tells me that Ed does not actually exist.)"

I don't believe everything I read. Before I accept anything as *possibly* a fact, I expect to find many additional credible sources that can confirm it. And even then I keep the distinct possibility in mind, that it could all be complete buffalo dung.

So a large number of sources, some credible, reported that Eason Jordan resigned. If I don't see anything in the future where Eason Jordan is associated with CNN, then I'll accept it as fact. If Eason Jordan crops up again, perhaps as an associated independent producer, for a CNN segment, then I'll revise my opinion on the truth of his firing.

And no, you can discuss and speculate on subjects even without any facts. Calling something a fact, doesn't make it so. Facts are things that can withstand the test of time and determined analysis.

Posted by ed at February 14, 2005 10:31 PM

It is impossible, and unethical to try to place so large a gathering and discussion "off the record."

If this were Republicans, well, do I even have to finish the thought......

I mentioned on New England Republican, Sunday afternoon, that the real story is NOT Eason Jordan, nor for that matter CNN. The real focus of our attention should be the WEF in Davos. This is the type of gathering where the supremely influential like to gather together, schmooze, drink, kvetch, lament Americans, ooze hatred for Americans, denounce Americans, mock Americans, and go completely overboard excoriating our President.

This is what Gergen is lamenting, that the coziness of this nauseating little arrangement, is now OFFICIALLY over.

Keep the pressure on, this whole line about the gathering being off the record is bull. So long as a single person there, or a single participant DID NOT proactively agree to keep the thing off the record, then it was damn well on the record.

Who the hell do they think they are, declaring an anti-American international hatefest, ENTIRELY off the record? Get that tape. Bribe somebody if ya have to, but get that tape.

Posted by Dan M at February 14, 2005 11:29 PM

The Pentagon Papers were top secret, can't get any more "not for attribution" than that, yet there they were, front and center, New York Times.

No, what we see here is a typical left double standard, if it harms Americans, hurts American interest, grievously impairs American national security, nothing will will bar it from being aired and published.

Another aspect here is the gatekeeper role traditionally played by the Media. They have gotten comfortable, cozy in their role of determining who and what story is deemed "newsworthy." The Blogosphere has stripped these liberal egomaniacs of their ill gotten sceptre.

This forum was all about anti-American types getting together and mock our country and President. But it got exposed, and they're not at all happy about it. And now they are sitting on an incredibly inflammatory tape.

We NEED to get that tape, so as to further expose the depth of the anti-Americanism of these whifty internationalists.

Posted by Dan M at February 14, 2005 11:39 PM


And guess which political party, which ideological agenda will be harmed by disclosure of that tape?

Which recent Presidential candidate campaigned for closer ties to the very kinds of people who will be exposed if that tape is aired.

Conservatives must push for that tape.

Posted by Dan M at February 14, 2005 11:43 PM

"I presume that the MSM will now admit that they were wrong to call for the information from VP Cheney's energy meeting that included oil officials and was "off-the-record?""

So you are now opposed to the Federal Advisory Committee Act?

Do you trust your government to do no wrong? So you think it is fine for the government to operate in secret?

Posted by Kelly Vista at February 15, 2005 06:41 AM

"That was the question emanating from the blogosphere all last week. As many have pointed out, while we'll take scalps occasionally, the Eason Jordan affair wasn't about taking scalps .... It was about honesty and accountability."

In a generic sense, true. But more specifically, this adventure was about neutralizing one of America's implacable enemies, a man (and organization) who seem eager to fabricate news and present it publicly (by "publicly" I mean Jordan wasn't just chatting with his drinking buddies, he was feeding his vile propaganda directly to the Arab and Euro press). That makes Jordan and CNN propagandists for forces which consider roadside bombs and machinegunned schoolchildren to be legitimate forms of political expression. Jordan's removal from the battlefield - it that's what actually happened, and only time will tell us that - is a good thing. No hemming and hawing is necessary.

Posted by big dirigible at February 15, 2005 12:15 PM

Lest I be labeled as somebody who is hopelessly pro-MSM, let me assure all concerned that I do believe that the mainstream media is very much an anti-America institution. However, that being said, I fear that Kelly is right--there is no grand leftist conspiracy behind hiding those tapes, just simple beauracracy at work.

Eason Jordan definitely took one for the team. True or not, the remarks he is accused of left CBS no choice but to resort to the polite version of firing him. There is no doubt in my mind that if he had not already been quietly asked to resign, he soon would be--by resigning now, he at least leaves himself the option of returning if vindicated. Charges of such a catastrophic nature, coming from so many theoretically reputable sources, could only be proven or disproven by releasing the recorded transcripts of those conversations. I have no doubt that Mr. Eason, at the least, will have already quietly requested those recordings if he is truly innocent of the charges made (I happen to think he is guilty, but that's my perogative). If he had gotten them, then all's well and good, he's innocent and it is CNN that is breaking the story to prove the untrustworthiness of those despicable bloggers. But he did not get those recordings.

I do not believe that this failure is necessarily due to some conspiracy, however. This has the wrong feel about it--if it was, we would be seeing MSM pieces about the untrustworthiness of bloggers and how rare the honest ones are. If that were the case, we would be seeing editorial peices complementary of Charles Johnson's work in general, while calling on him to seek further verification before posting secondhand reports. We would be seeing praises of Instapundit, and other reputable blogs, and the general smearing of all the others--after all, these people could be useful if controlled, so why not make an example out of the uncontrollable ones?
THat is beside the point, though. The point is, Mr Eason's request, if one was made, was most likely refused by some low-level beauracrat. This individual felt powerful because the head of a major news organization made a request, and thus exercised that power by denying that request. It's the same principle that is demonstrated every time you try to file a complaint with a particularly obtuse corporation. In other words, it is not so much a conspiracy as it is a lack of one

THe true proof, one way or another, of Mr. Eason's innocence will come in future months. Does Mr. Eason file suits for libel, and for slander? and if so, against whom. If he is innocent, the tapes will prove it, and a court order will get those tapes released.
If he is innocent.

Posted by william Lindsay at February 19, 2005 01:24 AM

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