“I get a perverse pleasure out of being here. CNN dumped me, and I think unfairly. Tailwind was almost a deathblow to my career, no doubt about it. (In 1999 Arnett was fired by CNN after delivering a report that U.S. forces used nerve gas on U.S. defectors during the Vietnam War. The story, dubbed Tailwind, was later determined to be untrue. Arnett defended himself by saying that he was only the story’s narrator, rather than the reporter behind the story.) I’ve known all my life that you cannot afford to make a serious mistake in credibility in journalism. You are dead if you do. I felt that I had to dig myself out after Tailwind and I had to consider how best to redeem myself.” Peter Arnett, trotted out by his new employers MSNBC/National Geographic, a few days before getting fired for a “stupid misjudgement” on Iraqi TV.
—Peter Arnett: Shortest Comeback EverNat’l Geographic)
Is this a free speech issue? No…. MSNBC and National Geographic should be allowed to hire or fire whomever they wish. Arnett’s defense in the Tailwind scandal was that he was simply lending his celebrity name and voice to a lower-profile reporter’s work. That was at the very least an error in judgment. By agreeing to be interviewed on Iraqi’s state-controlled TV, where he offered his personal opinion on the progress of the war (something few journalists are qualified to assess), where the translation was provided by someone in military uniform, he demonstrates that he has not learned his lesson. Update: Not to be outdone, Fox’s Geraldo gets himself ejected from Iraq. Update: Geraldo denies it.