Lawsuit Filed Over CNN's Tailwind Story

Five weeks after his former colleague settled her case, a second producer fired by CNN for the 1998 Tailwind story has filed a defamation and wrongful termination lawsuit against the cable network.

Jack Smith was fired for his role in reporting that the U.S. military used nerve gas on Vietnam War-era defectors. CNN retracted the story, claiming after an internal investigation that it could not verify its accuracy.

The story was a major embarrassment for CNN and its corporate partner, Time magazine, which printed a story based on the investigation.

Smith claimed that CNN fired him “to appease high-level military officials.”

CNN would not comment on the lawsuit, filed Friday in Atlanta. In late May, the network settled with April Oliver, Smith’s Tailwind co-producer, on her lawsuit.

Claims Career Was Destroyed

That settlement persuaded Smith to act, he said. He’s using Oliver’s lawyer.

The Tailwind fallout “destroyed my journalism career,” Smith said today. He now teaches journalism at two Chicago-area colleges.

“CNN management decided that the Tailwind report, about a covert operation 30 years ago, was not worth jeopardizing its valuable and lucrative contacts with senior military and Pentagon officials,” the lawsuit states.

Smith asked for $6 million in damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

He may have a battle just to get his case heard. His lawyer, Roger Simmons, concedes there is a one-year statute of limitations for filing a defamation lawsuit, but Simmons said that should not apply in this case because a CNN Web site has continued to post the results of its investigation on the story.