- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2001

Turner's big mouth

Television mogul Ted Turner once again has managed to offend Christians.

The CNN executive showed up last week for a staff meeting prior to a retirement party for anchor Bernard Shaw, and noticed that a few of his employees had ash marks on their foreheads. It was Ash Wednesday.

The New York Post, citing anonymous sources, said Mr. Turner stared at one of the staffers and said: "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 earthquake" in Seattle that day.

Mr. Turner added: "I realized you're Jesus freaks. Shouldn't you guys be working for Fox?"

Reporter Andy Geller writes: "Turner laughed and there were a few titters in the audience, but most of the 300 people greeted the remarks with stony silence."

The story was first reported by Brit Hume on the Fox News Channel, which has been leaving Mr. Turner's CNN in the ratings dust.

It was not the first time Mr. Turner has stuck his foot in his mouth on religious topics. He once called pro-life Christians "bozos," made insulting remarks about the pope and said Christianity was "very intolerant."

After the latest insult, William Donohue, president of the Catholic League of America, said of Mr. Turner: "He may be just as dumb as John Rocker, but unlike the Atlanta pitcher, he occupies a position of significant influence in our culture."

He suggested that Mr. Turner's bosses at AOL Time Warner might want to "ship Turner off for some sensitivity training."

Cashing in on Clinton

Lawyers, including Bill Clinton's brother-in-law Hugh Rodham, are using a taped testimonial from the former president to try to convince an arbitration panel to award them billions of dollars from tobacco-related lawsuits.

The videotape was made last spring, when Mr. Clinton was still president.

The lawyers are seeking $3.4 billion for their anti-tobacco work. In the tape, Mr. Clinton refers to the California lawsuit in question and credits the group with bringing "big tobacco" to the table for a "truly historic settlement," the New York Times reports.

A spokeswoman for the former president told reporter Barry Meier she was not sure whether Mr. Clinton had authorized such use of the tape.

"The way I understand it, they pushed him into a bedroom during a fund-raiser, gave him a script and shot the tape," said Ben Fontaine, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Lung Association. The lawyers received an award from the Louisiana association at the time Mr. Clinton was in New Orleans for a fund-raiser.

Many of the lawyers are believed to be big contributors to Mr. Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Largent looks ahead

Rep. Steve Largent, Oklahoma Republican, "has decided to give up his seat to run for governor in 2002, setting the stage for a potential fight with fellow [Republican] Rep. Ernest Istook," Roll Call reports.

"Sources said Largent, who has remained publicly quiet about the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Frank Keating, has told House GOP leaders and officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee that next year he will vacate the Tulsa-based 1st District, a GOP stronghold that could be dramatically reshaped in the state's Democratic-controlled remapping process," reporter John Mercurio writes.

"Largent discussed his plans last month in Oklahoma with Keating, state GOP legislative leaders and top party officials and is expected to anounce his decision publicly within the next few weeks."

Nader likes Edwards

Ralph Nader, whose Green Party presidential campaign drove liberal Democrats to distraction and Al Gore into teaching, says North Carolina freshman Sen. John Edwards would be a good Democratic presidential candidate in 2004.

"It's a good idea" for Mr. Edwards to seek the presidency, Mr. Nader said during a Green Party promotional swing through North Carolina. "… but you have to make sure that as he runs, the faster he runs, the less he changes. He shouldn't take any PAC money," reports the Charlotte Observer.

Mr. Nader added: "He's not as good as he's going to be, let's put it that way. He's feeling his way. He's letting the customs of the Senate clip his wings a little bit, and he's the junior senator to [Republican Jesse] Helms… . Those are all very subtle restraints on an up-and-coming senator. But we expect more of him, and I think if he doesn't change, he will prefer people over corporations. He will be an even better senator in the post-Helms era."

If all that sounds like an almost-endorsement, keep in mind that Mr. Nader says he may run again in 2004.

Ashcroft targeted

Groups pushing to reform the way campaigns are financed filed a complaint yesterday against Attorney General John Ashcroft, accusing the former senator's campaign committees of election-law violations.

At issue is a list of 100,000 potential donors that the political action committee that financed Mr. Ashcroft's 1998 presidential exploration gave to his Senate re-election committee, Ashcroft 2000, the Associated Press reports.

The list cost more than $2 million for the presidential PAC, Spirit of America, to develop, the complaint to the Federal Election Commission said.

Donation of the list to Ashcroft 2000 was a "direct and serious" violation of election laws that limit contributions by PACs, asserted L. Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause.

Joining Common Cause in the complaint were the Alliance for Democracy, the National Voting Rights Institute and two Missouri voters, Hedy Epstein and Ben Kjelshus.

Norton's deputy

President Bush again has angered environmentalists by nominating a prominent coal and energy industry lobbyist to be Interior Secretary Gale Norton's deputy, Scripps Howard News Service reports.

Mr. Bush announced yesterday he plans to nominate J. Steven Griles, a principal in the lobbying firm National Environmental Strategies, as deputy interior secretary.

During the Reagan administration, Mr. Griles served as assistant secretary for lands and minerals management, deputy assistant secretary for land and water, and deputy director of the office of surface mining.

In recent years, he has worked in the private sector, lobbying for a host of industry causes, including the National Mining Association and Occidental Petroleum, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiles public data on lobbyists.

Red faces

Kentucky state Sen. Joey Pendleton did a little drinking at a legislative reception last month, which would not be considered news except that one of the sponsors was Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and later that night Mr. Pendleton was charged with drunken driving.

Sara McKinney, president of the Louisville chapter of MADD told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the Feb. 8 reception was "a responsible event" and noted that Mr. Pendleton's arrest came more than three hours after the event ended.

"Joey Pendleton is a grown man who has a role of leadership. Mr. Pendleton needs to be responsible," she said.

Mr. Pendleton, who does not deny drinking at the reception, was found to have a blood alcohol level of .20, more than twice the legal limit of .08. Last week, he pleaded innocent to driving while intoxicated.

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