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Fired Producer Sues CNN Over Story

July 6, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ 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 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.

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

The Tailwind fallout ``destroyed my journalism career,″ Smith said on Thursday. 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.

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