- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

Ted Turner is getting blasted with his own bomb.

In an ill-timed British newspaper interview on Tuesday, the CNN founder dropped a heavy opinion.

"The Israelis, they've got the most powerful military machines in the world. The Palestinians have nothing," Mr. Turner told the London-based Guardian. "So who are the terrorists? I would make a case that both sides are engaged in terrorism."

The billionaire then added: "The United States, I think, would probably not be considered a terrorist example at the current time."

Reactions to Mr. Turner's pronouncements published the day of a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed 20 persons in Israel were swift and negative.

"AOL Time Warner understands and takes seriously the feelings of those offended by Mr. Turner's statements on Israel," AOL Time Warner spokesman Ed Adler said in a statement. "Mr. Turner has no operational or editorial involvement at CNN. Mr. Turner's comments are his own and do not reflect the views of our company in any way."

Another executive rued the loss of convivial relations between CNN and other broadcast companies in the troubled region.

Meanwhile, one Israeli government spokesman advised Mr. Turner, "If people assume you are stupid, it is just best to keep your mouth shut," while another official said that CNN "has broken all the limits." Rabbi Marvin Heir of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles called Mr. Turner's comments "outrageous and a new low."

Mr. Turner made a public apology on Tuesday afternoon, emphasizing that he had given the interview in mid-April.

"I regret any implication that I believe the actions taken by Israel to protect its people are equal to terrorism," he said in a statement. "My comments were part of a long and extensive interview that I gave two months ago when I was condemning the loss of human life. The violence in the Middle East has reached an intolerable level, and in that interview I condemned that violence on whatever side it may come."

Mr. Turner already had offended many in February by calling the September 11 terrorists "brave" but "a little nuts." His apology notwithstanding, Mr. Turner's remarks have already generated some serious, and potentially toxic, fallout for CNN.

A consortium of Israeli television broadcasters, reaching more than 1.4 million viewers, is mulling the possibilities of silencing CNN in Israel for at least 24 hours and possibly forever.

According to Reuters News Agency, YES an Israeli satellite TV broadcaster and the country's three cable providers are thoroughly "dissatisfied with CNN's political coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Mr. Turner's comments were the latest in "a long line of biased coverage" against Israel, a source said.

The hubbub may be a windfall for the Fox News Channel, however.

While complicated details of the potential CNN boycott are worked out with state broadcast officials, the YES satellite network has already reached a deal with Fox News, with operations to begin today, according to Israel Radio.

Viewers had been requesting that the Fox channel be added to their cable TV selections for months, according to the radio report, because "its coverage of the Middle East is more balanced than CNN's."

A Fox senior producer noted that he hoped CNN remained on the air, adding that "Fox would be broadcast in Israel regardless of what happened to CNN."


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