I am forwarding a message I sent to Mr. Johnson. After reading
about this story about a story, I wanted to express my appreciation for what I
understand is your expressed concerns about the way the story was
and vetted by CNN-Time management and the "reporters" who contributed to
the Tailwind story.
I an now of the impression that Mr. Johnson was involved in editorial
decisions that tended to make the story more inflammatory and horrific.
If this is true I hope he will have the courage to resign and take Mr.
Kaplan and Arnett with him. It must be heartbreaking to be tainted with
the fallout in credibility and disgust that accompanies a fabrication
based on the assumption that the military are simply nazis in US
and that Special Operations types are the worse of the criminal elements
that make up our military.
I hope you and your fellow correspondents who do not operate from
assumption that we were (and are still) criminals will be able to pull
CNN's reputation (and by association, your own reputations) out of this
I have two final questions, that points to the bottom line for me:
* Would Peter Arnett refuse to accept a Pulitzer Prize
for his work on
the Tailwind story (and insist instead that it go to Ford and Oliver, as
he did not contribute even a comma) if it had been the great expose that
it purported to be and was widely praised?
* Would Johnson and Kaplan have refused bonuses, promotions,
praise from CNN-Time if the story has been a great success?
I think we both know the answer.
Hang in there.
Subject: CNN-Time Story: Nerve Gas of Civilians and Defectors
Author: "Fuller; Jeff"
Date: 7/8/98 1:31 PM
Dear Mr. Johnson:
> > I think you have taken a difficult step in retracting the CNN-Time
> > Nerve Gas of Civilians and Defectors. But Mr. Kaplan has suggested that
> > the
> > story could not be supported adequately and he implied that some day the
> > truth may come out. I now see that Peter Arnett interviewed one of the
> > pilots who I know said that he used riot control gas (CS), not nerve gas
> > (GB) on the mission in question and in general for situations where they
> > had
> > to extract SF Teams under fire.
> > Recommend you hire MG Smith back to do a story on the story. If you
> > someone else will. I would like to see interviews with the commander of
> > the
> > operations and the pilots as well as the Admiral. Ask them how the
> > portrayed their views, whether they supported the conclusions. Then I'd
> > like to see experienced media types dissect the production, hype, and
> > aftermath of the story.
> > I rely on CNN here in the states and when I travel. However, I will not
> > trust CNN until this gets straight. I know this must be very difficult.
> > But please recognize that the story aimed at the souls of people like me
> > who
> > have been shot at and hit by enemies we respected for their commitment
> > valor.
> > Your entire CNN Tailwind production and management team does not deserve
> > your loyalty. They clearly have an agenda and a frame of reference that
> > is
> > totally hostile to both the truth and the memories of the many men who
> > died
> > in Laos, Cambodia, and North and South Viet Nam fighting for the country
> > they loved.
> > Your biggest mistake so far was to fail to heed MG Smith's concerns. He
> > is
> > the ticket to redeeming your reputation.
> > Sincerely,
> > Jeff Fuller
> > Lieutenant Colonel US Army Special Forces (Ret)
> > Senior Military Policy Analyst
> Dear Mr. Eason:
> I am a retired Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel currently working as
> senior military policy analyst in Washington, DC.
> I used to rely on CNN whether in the states or traveling overseas. Now, I
> cannot watch CNN without thinking: What is the credibility of the
> What is the bias that underlies the story? Can I trust any of the message
> or messengers? I have a couple suggestions that I hope will help guide
> through this and position CNN as a credible news source.
> I saw some of the advertising leading up to the debut of your new show
> featuring Peter Arnett's story about Tailwind. After seeing the
> and the story, I am now startled to find out that Peter Arnett did not
> contribute any substance (not a comma!) to the story. I am also surprised
> to hear that CNN and Time management previewed the story. It sounds to me
> like you are minimizing Arnett's and CNN-Time management's role in this
> I would suggest CNN-Time approach this whole thing from the point of view
> who would have been taking the bows and getting the credit if this story
> proven to have opened a real war criminal chapter of the Viet Nam War
> instead of a most prominent case of tortured and manipulated reporting.
> yourself whether Peter Arnett would have declined a Pulitzer Prize and
> insisted on Ms. Oliver and Mr. Ford getting all of the credit? Would Mr.
> Johnson and Mr. Kaplan have declined a promotion or bonus if the story had
> been a great success and insisted that Mr. Ford and Ms. Oliver be
> instead? If Johnson, Kaplan and Arnett would have received and accepted
> praise for the great story and superb wisdom of launching the new show
> this piece, then you have your answer about whether or not they should be
> employed at CNN. I would encourage each to ask themselves these questions
> let their answers guide their decisions.
> Finally, I would really welcome an investigative report into to who knew
> what and who contributed what and when to the Tailwind fiasco. If you
> a highly successful story may I suggest "Tailwind: A case of failed
> journalism -- the story of the production of Tailwind" produced by MG
> (Ret) with Walter Cronkite and George Will (or the likes of these men). I
> think you would top the charts! If you do not do the story at CNN then I
> hope one of your competitors will.
> Jeff Fuller
> CC: MSNBC, Time, Newsweek