- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2001

The recent restructuring at AOL-Time Warner that has diminished Ted Turner's stature at his old cable channels, including CNN, may be the best news yet this year for people of faith. Last Tuesday, AOL-TW announced that the old Turner channels, such as TNT, TBS and CNN, would be folded in with the other AOL-TW cable properties into a division headed up by someone with no connection or allegiance to Mr. Turner.
Mr. Turner is an unrelenting bigot, who has cast aspersions on almost anyone or anything religious. He has remarked that Christianity is "for losers," that pro-lifers are "bozos," and publicly called the Pope an idiot. Mr. Turner's latest offense? On Ash Wednesday, a holy day on which Catholics have ashes put on their forehead by a priest, Mr. Turner castigated a Catholic CNN employee.
During a staff meeting, Mr. Turner spotted a woman with ashes on her forehead. He stopped discussing business to opine, "I was looking at this woman and I was trying to figure out what was on her forehead. At first I thought you were in the [Seattle] earthquake." Just to prove he didn't mean it as a lighthearted comment, Mr. Turner continued, "I realized you're just Jesus freaks. Shouldn't you guys be working for Fox?" Instead of insulting a large group of people or a public figure, Mr. Turner is now resorting to name-calling against individual employees. Singling out a staff member for public humiliation because of her religion speaks volumes about his utter lack of character.
So why is it important to believers everywhere that Mr. Turner's involvement with and influence over CNN will be lessened? Unlike most television executives who prefer to manage the business, but not the content, of their broadcasts, Mr. Turner is very hands-on. In last year's "Cold War" programs on CNN, Mr. Turner was crucial in turning the serial documentary into a study on moral relativism. Instead of portraying one nation fighting for global freedom and liberty against the very real and persistent threats of an evil communist empire, "Cold War" cast the United States and the Soviet Union as each equally to blame.
It stands to reason that Mr. Turner also plays a significant role when he so desires in determining what stories get covered and how. This alone makes him unfit for any editorial role at CNN. Mr. Turner's habitual bigotry should have cost him his post long ago. Would any respectable news organization choose as its leader a racist like David Duke or an anti-Semite like Louis Farrakhan? Of course not. So why should Mr. Turner be afforded special treatment?
Mr. Turner has escaped major criticism to date from the mainstream press because of his well-known liberalism. Leftists routinely get a pass when making statements that would cause any conservative to be strung up and picked apart in the public square. Just this past week, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd used the term, "white niggers." A few short stories appeared in the nation's largest newspapers, and the former Klansman got off the hook with a ridiculous, half-hearted written apology.
Mr. Turner's ugly pattern of vicious bigotry is well-documented. That it has gone largely ignored by the mainstream media should validate long-standing complaints about journalistic bias. After George W. Bush spoke at Bob Jones University last year, CNN led the media stampede to ponder the question: "Is George W. Bush an anti-Catholic bigot?" No such query has ever been posed with respect to Mr. Turner, despite repeated statements that ranged from simply ignorant to downright offensive.
It's a shame that it took a corporate overhaul, instead of public outcry, to knock Mr. Turner out of his perch at CNN. Bigots in Mr. Turner's position are far more pernicious than those in political life. Politicians have natural opponents who constantly strive to cast light on all their flaws and shortcomings. Broadcasters have no such inherent watchdogs, yet their coverage of the day's events color the national perception on the entire political forum.
With Mr. Turner being shown the door, maybe CNN will finally be run as an objective, profit-maximizing business, rather than as an instrument of the bigoted Ted Turner's political activism.

Joel Mowbray is a freelance writer living in Arlington.

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