CyberAlert -- 02/12/2002 -- Ted Turner Called Terrorists "Brave," Blamed 9-11 on Poverty, Denounced Bush as "Julius Caesar," Forecast Environmental Collapse

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Ted Turner Called Terrorists "Brave," Blamed 9-11 on Poverty, Denounced Bush as "Julius Caesar," Forecast Environmental Collapse -- Back to today's CyberAlert

Update: Turner Clarified Some of His Comments

> One item in this CyberAlert Extra: The Providence Journal reported that in a talk Monday night at Brown University AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman Ted Turner called the terrorists who attacked on September 11 "brave," claimed, despite the fact that the terrorists were well-off, "the reason that the World Trade Center got hit is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don't have any hope for a better life," and lamented that with "a few more votes in Florida....we could have had the best environmental President we ever had." Instead, he regretted, President Bush "is another Julius Caesar. Just what we need."

Turner denounced Ronald Reagan's "evil empire" labeling of the Soviet Union as he equated it with Bush's "axis of evil" concept. "Calling other countries 'dirty names,' the Brown Daily Herald quoted Turner as saying, "is 'a great plan if you want to start a war with somebody.'"

When asked if he'd provide public access to the vast land he owns in Montana, Turner, who advocates liberal environmental policies which dictate what landowners can do with their own land -- such as strict land use rules imposed if a species on it is declared "endangered" -- had the chutzpah to reply: "Can I live in your home with you? We believe in private property in this country."

Below are excerpts from stories in today's Providence Journal and Brown Daily Herald about Turner's comments last night at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The Brown Daily Herald story, link below, includes a photo of Turner at Brown. (Credit to the MRC's Bonnie Langborgh for first alerting me to an AP item about this which was cribbed from the Providence Journal story.)

-- An excerpt from "Turner urges students to save world," by Gerald M. Carbone in the February 12 Providence Journal:

In a speech at Brown University that some students called entertaining, offensive, and "kind of kooky," media mogul Ted Turner last night defended private-property rights and praised communist dictator Fidel Castro; called the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center "brave" men, then decried all violence as "stupid and uncivilized"; and warned students that Earth's environment will probably "collapse" in their lifetimes.

Speaking before an overflow crowd of more than 500 people in Salomon Auditorium, Turner compared himself to a modern Paul Revere, crying out, "To arms, to arms, environmental degradation is coming!"

The world is on the brink of collapse, Turner said, because of the threats of nuclear war, population explosion, and environmental exploitation....

Turner's talk was titled "Our Common Future," but at times it was tough to discern a common theme. He began with a summary of his undergraduate days at Brown University, leading to his dismissal from campus in 1960 for having a girl in his room. ("It was either that or stay in the snow and she'd freeze to death. And I got caught.")...

Turner said that people in developed nations must adopt a global outlook and help those in developing nations. "The reason that the World Trade Center got hit is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don't have any hope for a better life," he said.

Of the 19 men who hijacked the planes that hit the towers, he said, "I think they were brave at the very least." He asked for a show of hands of people who would act as suicide bombers for their country and got none.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Turner revealed that despite the global reach of his media properties, he is something of a techno-phobe: "To me, a VCR is totally impossible ....Now my butler can handle it, but I have to get him up to turn it on....

Asked how young people can help save the world, Turner replied: "How you vote is important, too. A few more votes in Florida, and we could have had the best environmental president we ever had. Now we've got an oil man. He [President Bush] is another Julius Caesar. Just what we need."

Asked about plans for a "Star Wars" defense system to shoot down ballistic missiles, Turner said, "I think it would be a lot more cost effective to negotiate a treaty" with nations possessing nuclear weapons. "It's just more and more expensive all the time when we need to use the money for education, and health care and improving the human condition. I don't believe people should kill each other or hurt each other. I just think it's stupid and it's not civilized."

A student from Montana asked Turner whether he'd allow public access to his expansive land holdings in that state. "You buy it and you can share it," Turner said. "Can I live in your home with you? We believe in private property in this country."...

END of Excerpt

For the story in full:

-- An excerpt from a February 12 article in the university's student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, by Shana Jalbert:

Since 1980, the three biggest problems facing the world have been the possibility of nuclear annihilation, the population explosion and the degradation of the environment, Ted Turner '60 told a packed Salomon audience on Monday....

Nuclear war is the greatest threat to the world because of its possibility for instantaneous destruction, Turner said.

Turner accused the United States of not following through on the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which binds it to "cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament."

"We lied," Turner said, declaring that the current administration does not have "any intention whatsoever" of doing away with the nuclear arsenal.

During the Cold War, Turner chose to make friends with Soviet leaders, and asserted in his speech that international cooperation is the only way to avoid mutual annihilation.

"We're either going to live together or we're going to die together," he said.

Turner said he focused on what he had in common with international leaders and on inventive solutions like the Goodwill Games, and criticized former President Ronald Reagan for calling the USSR the "evil empire."

Calling other countries "dirty names" is "a great plan if you want to start a war with somebody," Turner said. He emphasized the similarity of Reagan's remarks to President Bush's recent identification of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as "the axis of evil."...

Environmental destruction and increasing population are secondary to problems of nuclear weapons because they will result in "death by strangulation instead of death by a bullet to the brain" if we continue on our current course, Turner said.

Since 1938, the world population has tripled, and Americans are using five to 10 times as much "stuff" as they did 60 years ago, Turner said.

"The environment will collapse in your lifetime," he said. He called for the use of creative techniques in raising awareness of environmental problems....

Turner said the United States has to do more to combat poverty and that the inequitable distribution of resources around the world was responsible for Sept 11.

"I think they were brave," Turner said of the 19 men involved in the terrorist acts, adding that they "might have been a little nuts."

He said the acts resulted from desperation, and that Americans lack an understanding of this willingness to die for one's country.

Turner suggested that students can make a difference if they inform themselves and "talk it up with everybody."

"How you vote is important, too," Turner said, laughing, adding that a "modern Julius Caesar" like George W. Bush is not what the world needs....

END of Excerpt

For the entire article, which also features a photo of Turner delivering his remarks at Brown University on Monday night, go to:

Though Ted Turner may no longer run CNN, he never ceases to earn his "Captain Outrageous" nickname. But I'm not sure why anyone would take advice from a guy who needs a butler to turn his VCR on or off.

[Web Update: In a statement released late on Tuesday, February 12, Ted Turner claims his comments, that "the reason that the World Trade Center got hit is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don't have any hope for a better life" and the terrorists "were brave at the very least," were "reported out of context, and I deeply regret any pain they may have caused."

The two newspapers with reporters who heard Turner's Monday night remarks at Brown University, however, are standing by what they reported.

An AP dispatch at 8:03pm EST on February 12 relayed:

"In a statement Tuesday, Turner said the comments 'were reported out of context, and I deeply regret any pain they may have caused. I abhor violence in any form and wholeheartedly support the campaign to free the world from the threat of terrorism.'

"'The attacks of Sept. 11 were despicable acts,' he said. 'I in no way
meant to convey otherwise.'
"Officials from The Providence Journal and The Brown Daily Herald stood by their reporters' stories, which were published Tuesday.
"'The reporter who covered Mr. Turner's speech is a highly competent professional,' said Carol J. Young, the deputy executive editor of The Journal.
"'I was at the lecture and I heard it and I don't think anything he said was misinterpreted,' said Seth Kerschner, editor in chief at The Herald. Kerschner did not cover the lecture as a reporter."

For the complete AP story:

The February 13 Brown Daily Herald also noted Turner's statement:]

Atlanta Constitution story: "Turner rues words 'reported out of context'"] -- Brent Baker

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