Ted Turner: founder of CNN, ex-husband of Jane Fonda, billionaire. Yesterday we looked at his hypocrisy about the environment (28 homes, a “Save the Planet” bumper sticker on his car) and about population growth (father of five kids, supporter of a proposal for an an internationally enforced one-child law). But now for the most sordid part of all – his lamentable tendency to defend totalitarians.
Case in point: in 2005 Turner visited North Korea, and after returning to the U.S. shared his experiences and conclusions in a stunning interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Describing himself as having “had a great time,” Turner said, apropos of a new arms deal: “I am absolutely convinced that the North Koreans are absolutely sincere. There’s really no reason – no reason for them to cheat.” When Blitzer pointed out that North Korea had violated similar deals before, Turner said: “I mean, you know, just because somebody’s done something wrong in the past doesn’t mean they can’t do right in the future or in the present.”
The transcript continues – but, before quoting it, let us just interject that we’ll be reproducing excerpts from this and one or two other interview transcripts at some length. Why? Because Ted Turner, for all his power and wealth and purported business savvy, has a special gift, in such conversations, of revealing just how staggeringly uninformed and unreflective he is on the subject of dictatorship. It’s as if he just can’t grasp the idea that foreign leaders who are chummy with him at a dinner table could possibly be guilty of doing anything terrible to anyone else. Anyway, back to his exchange with Blitzer:
BLITZER: But this is one of the most despotic regimes and Kim Jong Il is one of the worst men on Earth. Isn’t that a fair assessment?
TURNER: Well, I didn’t get, I didn’t get to meet him, but he didn’t look, in the pictures that I’ve seen of him on CNN, he didn’t look too much different than most other people.
BLITZER: But look at the way, look at the way he’s, look at the way he’s treating his own people.
TURNER: Well, hey, listen. I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars, but ah –
BLITZER: Lot of those people are starving.
TURNER: I didn’t see, I didn’t see any, I didn’t see any brutality in the capital or out in the, on the DMZ….I think they want to join the western world and improve the quality of life for their people just like everybody else. And I think that we should give them another chance. It doesn’t cost us anything. We already have agreements. And North Korea never posed any significant threat to the United States. I mean, the whole economy of North Korea’s only $30 billion a year. It’s less than the city of Detroit. It’s a small place, and we do not have to worry about them attacking us.
TURNER: A half million.
BLITZER: Well, best estimates are a million. A million troops along the DMZ.
TURNER: We have a half a million troops, of which 28,000 are Americans and they’ve been there for 50 years. One of the things I said in both North and South Korea is it’s time to end the Korean War officially and move on. And get those hundreds of thousands of young men that are sitting there back building hospitals and roads and schools in North and South Korea and improving the gross national product. It’s just a waste of time and energy for them to sit there.
BLITZER: I think the bottom line, though, Ted, and I think you’d agree, they had this opportunity in the ’90s, when they signed this first agreement and they cheated. They didn’t live up to it. Now they have a second chance. I hope you’re right. I certainly do.
TURNER: Well I hope I’m right, too. But you know it’s, in the Bible says you’re supposed to forgive seven times seventy, or something like that….Let’s give ’em a break. Give ’em a break. And besides, even if they do – even if they do threaten us again, the threat is non-existent to the United States. They can’t threaten us. I mean, it’s like a [flea] attacking an elephant.
Well, there it is. Yes, this is the all-powerful Ted Turner speaking. Pick your jaw back up off the floor. And come back tomorrow. There’s more where this came from.