CNN's top executive said he tried to resign in the wake of the network's retracted story about U.S. military use of nerve gas against Vietnam War defectors but was rebuffed by network founder Ted Turner, published reports said Tuesday.

Two producers have been fired and one resigned when CNN last week admitted to mistakes in its report, which was heavily criticized by the military.Tom Johnson, CNN's chief executive, told staffers in a conference call Monday that he twice submitted his resignation but was rejected. Rick Kaplan, president of CNN/-USA, said he had considered quitting but decided not to.

Johnson also said he is considering further action against Peter Arnett, the veteran war correspondent who was reprimanded for the June 7 report.

Accounts of Johnson's comments were published Tuesday in the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Also Tuesday, CNN was expected to name Rick Davis, an executive in charge of the network's Washington news shows, to a new position as ombudsman to watch that journalistic standards are being followed.

Meanwhile, the two producers fired for reporting on the secret 1970 "Tailwind" mission defended their work Monday on CNN's "Cross-fire" program, saying executives retracted the story because "they couldn't take the heat."

Johnson and other executives talked about the fallout to staff members in conference calls on Monday. Some CNN employees pointedly wondered why producers lost their jobs because of the story but top executives survived, according to the Post.

Kaplan, who joined CNN last summer from ABC, said he considered quitting but decided he had not played a significant enough role in the story's editing, the Post said.

Some staffers wondered whether Arnett's star status protected him. Johnson said he came close to firing Arnett but didn't because of the correspondent's courage in covering the gulf war, the Post said.

Arnett joined one conference call to defend himself, saying he contributed "not one comma" to the story, the Post said. He said he was not going to let his reputation be destroyed by the controversy.