The Next CNN "Tailwind"

It is expected that sometime in the next three to six months CNN will be featuring yet another Kaplan-generated anti-US story of chemical weapons in South East Asia during the Vietnam war.

The centerpiece of this story will revolve around how military chemicals were sent into Vietnam, how they were removed and to where. It will feature prominent political figures from the US and Thailand. The person who will sell this tale to CNN has already provided written statements that clearly state that there were never any lethal chemical weapons in Thailand and that person was in a position to know this as a certainty. Photocopies of these statements are available in the documents section of this web site. But when this story is aired by CNN the likelihood it will still say what this retired officer will tell them is poor indeed. Stand by for yet another round of innuendoes, "black ops" and secret sources…

To understand what is generating this next installment of the CNN Tailwind saga it is necessary to review a bit of recent history. First, a short examination of the business situation of Time-Warner and CNN will set the stage. The domestic political connections are next and are followed in turn by the international setting.

From a business perspective it is becoming more difficult to understand the rationale behind the retention of Kaplan and other CNN staff who continue to stay in place. Take for instance the Arbitron ratings for CNN since Rick Kaplan took over about a year ago. By the end of May the ratings had slipped well over a dozen points from where Kaplan had taken the helm. At the end of June, the ratings losses for that month alone were
equal to 136% of the losses for the entire previous year, with July numbers anticipated to slide a similar amount as well.In mid-July, Fox News has reported that CNN suffered a 13% loss of viewers in their straw poll. As the Arbitron ratings are used by advertising agencies to advise clients and are a key factor in determining revenues, then revenues at CNN are down significantly as a result and will remain so until the ratings rebound. Given the increasingly tough competitive situation in the all-news arena and the now pervasive derision of CNN’s credibility, improved ratings seem highly unlikely without some visible house cleaning. If the continued corporate viability of their subsidiary is the aim of Time-Warner, it seems as though the board is either asleep at the wheel or they have other issues that they place above mere financial considerations.

There is a domestic political factor in this business equation. Amongst the non-CNN journalists who have been privately polled it is a commonly held that CNN has become known in their industry as the "Clinton News Network," in reference to the slant on their political reporting. The unabashedly pro-Clinton slant became the network’s defacto policy in the year since Kaplan became President. It is known that Rick Kaplan does have a very long standing personal relationship to the President and that may well be a factor in his retention. There would have to be some significant weight given to this factor to override the baggage he brought with him (the exploding truck and Food Lion invented story fiascoes at ABC) and the additional load of the Tailwind story. However, having the asset of a news executive willing to manufacture or warp news stories as directed would only be of value if there was an some agenda in place that will call for such action in the near term. As the business price of retaining Kaplan grows, this is a possibility that gains increasing credence.

I mentioned the spin-off story to Tailwind. The gentleman who is selling the story the week of August 2, 1998 to a CNN program director (Mike Connors), is a retired US Army Chemical Corps officer. While the story he has told in and of itself contains no hint of lethal agents, it does chronicle the process by which CS and CN were introduced to and then removed from Vietnam. In that story, this officer will identify that process with two former US Secretaries of State, President Nixon and the Royal Thai family up to the King. Given the retention of Kaplan and his demonstrated predilection for drastically warping stories, the spinning of this tale into another chemical warfare smear could easily endanger US-Thai relations and further destabilize a region in economic crisis. The country that stands to directly benefit strategically from such destabilization is China. The current administration's dealings with China and Kaplan's ties to the administration are well known. Adding in Kaplan's history, his ability to manufacture a story and his continued retention despite significant and continuing business losses raises my index of suspicion. The situation contains too many indicators to easily dismiss this all too possible scenario.

Tom Marzullo
Englewood, Colorado
August 1, 1998

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