Mr. Richard D. Parsons
Time Warner, Inc.
Time Warner Building
75 Rockerfeller Plaza
New York, NY 10019
Dear Mr. Parsons:
I am writing to you as the head of the parent organization of CNN. As you are probably excruciatingly aware, CNN has now retracted the Tailwind story. No news organization likes to retract a story, but no news organization has been caught in as big a lie as this story.
The story pointed a finger at Special Forces and particularly the members of SOG, accusing them of being such things as killers of women and children, American deserters, and carrying out policies that amount to war crimes. The men who were assigned to SOG were the single most decorated unit in the history of the United States. I stood in formation at CCC with two Medal of Honor awardees, while at the same time CCN had two men who would be awarded the Medal of Honor. There were four Medal of Honor awardees out of roughly 250 men in two of the operational units that made up SOG. I was an officer and member of both groups, Special Forces and SOG, in September 1970. The Tailwind story indicated that nerve gas had been used in some 20 instances. As a platoon leader in Company A, CCC, the Sister Company of the company that carried out the Tailwind operation, that finger points directly at me. While there should never have been questions raised about the use of nerve gas and the assassination of American deserters on this operation, these charges were raised. There was absolutely no factual basis for the report. As we all know today, there was selective editing used to advance a political agenda favorable to Iraq and to cast the United States in the worst possible light.
CNN has taken action to implement procedures that will never allow this to happen again, which remains to be seen. They have fired two producers and allowed another to resign. They have reprimanded Peter Arnett for his part in the production. What does that mean? Does it mean that he had his key to the executive washroom taken away for two weeks? Does it mean that he is suspended without pay for four games? Or does it mean that he was told he was a bad boy? Peter Arnett is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, he is not a cub reporter who can be easily duped by a young producer as to the veracity of a story, no matter what her convictions.
This was the premier of a brand new show. One that was to equal the stature of 60 Minutes, Dateline, or 20/20. A lot of time, planning, and resources had been directed toward this opening night. The lead story was to be the biggest bombshell to be dropped since Nixon was caught covering up Watergate. No other newsmagazine had ever broken a story as significant as this. Just the accusation of war crimes, the use of nerve gas smacks of Nazi Germany. Yet we are told and are supposed to believe that the only people who knew about the content of the show were three fairly low-level producers. No one from the network saw, heard, or said anything, just like the three monkeys.
Conspiracy theories whether from the right or the left must be scrutinized under a magnifying glass. For an intelligent person to believe that 200 or more people can be involved in a conspiracy of silence for 30 years boggles the mind.
The American people are not as gullible as the management of CNN would have everyone believe. No one accepts the story that only low level peons are to blame for the biggest fiasco any news organization has ever had. CNN has taken all the actions they feel are necessary to appease "the unthinking masses." They claim to have retracted their story. A retraction is not, however, "Ötheyíve [Oliver, Smith, & Arnett] fallen in love with their story, and one of the biggest problems any journalist can haveóYou canít fall in love with your story to the point where you ignore those things that should raise those flags, that should make you question just a little bit harder." taken directly from a quote by Richard Kaplan in the retraction story aired by CNN; rather a retraction is the direct admittance that a blatant disregard for the facts were portrayed, and that the people involved clearly misrepresented the truth. Action against those people responsible for this story canít stop at the lowest level of culpability. Nor can the retraction be as self-serving as the one given.
Rick Kaplan says he didnít know anything about the content of the show, but if April Oliver is to be believed about anything, he had the storybook for the two weeks before the show was aired and signed off on it! Is Richard Kaplan such an incompetent manager that he was successfully duped by April Oliverís scare tactics and smear campaign, or was it simply a devious attempt to cover his assets? I realize that Mr. Kaplan is a golden boy. CNN paid him big bucks to come over from ABC to rejuvenate CNN news in order to bring just the type of programming Newsstand aims to represent, and he is of course, on a first name basis with the President of the United States, which has to account for something. Regardless of CNNís reasoning not to, they have an obligation to the public, to their shareholders, and to the integrity of media itself to accept his resignation immediately.
It seems that CNN will not take any further action. By not taking the actions necessary to correct the misinformation and accusations, CNN once again thumbs its nose at the American people, the military, Special Forces, and the members of SOG. Since CNN will not take action to remove the perpetrators of this story and truly retract the accusations that have besmirched the names of the people involved, it behooves you as president of Time Warner to take the actions necessary to correct those wrongs inflicted.
The American people, the military, Special Forces, and SOG all demand that those responsible for putting the story on Newsstand be terminated and an unconditional retraction be issued. The only way that your news organizations can recapture the respect you once held is to take these action. Non-action will declare to everyone that Time Warner, Inc. is a pariah organization and does not belong on the list of American Corporations-- If that is the case, then so be it.
Stephen A. Feldman