Friday, October 26, 2012


Ted Turner, billionaire blowhard
Leave it to former media mogul Ted Turner, founder of CNN, to not only put his foot in his mouth, but to bring people of virtually all political persuasions together to help push that foot down his throat.

On Thursday, it was revealed that Turner, while discussing defense spending and the role of the United Nations as the world's policeman, said that the increase in the number of military suicides in relation to combat deaths is a "good" development because they show that we are "born to love and help each other—not to kill each other and destroy each other."

Uh... What?

Turner made the bizarre comment during a segment on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" that aired Oct. 19, but the military suicides comment was highlighted Thursday by Curiously, in what has become such a deeply divided nation this election season, this is the first time in a long time that almost everyone agrees on something: Turner's comment is offensive. Period.

If there was nuance and subtlety in his statement, and deeper meaning about the ugliness and futility of war, as some suggest, well, ok. But does it matter? No. Because when our troops and veterans are in the throes of an unprecedented suicide crisis, you just don't go there, Ted. 

His comment, as well-intentioned as it may have been, was stupid and wildly insensitive. Turner may be an enormously successful businessman, but he's the antithesis of a great communicator. I keep hearing that he is a brilliant man. But, really? More often than not throughout his public life, he's come across as an arrogant buffoon; a liberal Donald Trump.

Active-duty troops, veterans, politicians on both the left and the right, and just about everyone else I've talked to today - with a few very notable exceptions - are angry at Turner's unfortunate-at-best choice of words. And rightfully so.

Kim Schluter-Gay, an Air Force veteran living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military sexual trauma (MST), just shook her head when she heard about Turner's comment. "Clueless individuals like Turner will never understand," she says.

Eric Miller, a captain in the Colorado Air National Guard, says, “The callousness of someone who has made a fortune on news, mocking the private torment of soldiers who have suffered watching horrific tragedy unfold, is beyond reprehensible. I am so proud to wear the uniform and was absolutely sickened by Turner's comments. What an ungrateful individual. Where do these people get off?”
Miller, along with many others I interviewed for this story, thinks that even if Turner was trying to make an anti-war statement, he failed miserably. In fact, a lot of folks think this comment rivals the 'Hanoi Jane' incident by Turner's ex-wife Jane Fonda 40 years ago. That’s when Fonda visited North Vietnam and sat and was photographed in an enemy tank.

Veterans’ advocates resoundingly condem the comment, but say it could and should be turned into a teachable moment for the entire nation by promoting awareness of PTSD, MST, traumatic brain injury, multiple deployments of our troops, the dangerous increase in abuse of prescription meds by troops and veterans, and the suicide epidemic.

Paul Sullivan, a longtime veterans advocate who is now managing director, public affairs & veteran outreach, at Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that handles only veteran disability cases, told me he would not dignify Turner's comments with a response aimed at Turner.

But Sullivan did say this: “Today America faces a tragic suicide crisis in our military and among our veterans, with one active duty and 18 veteran suicides every day. PTSD is real, and there is professional help available. I encourage our service members and veterans in distress or with concerns about their mental health to seek care soon.”

Sullivan tells me the wrist band he wears every day has VA's crisis line telephone number for veterans: 800-273-8255. “It’s a number I frequently share,” says Sullivan, “because VA’s suicide prevention professionals have rescued more than 23,000 veterans’ lives in the past five years.”

Sullivan adds that there is also a "superb public service announcement for all of America by Medal of Honor recipients" that addresses the issue. That PSA can be seen here.

Turner has always been a loose cannon. But his remarks about suicide seem especially inappropriate and clueless given the fact that his own father killed himself back when Turner was in his 20s. Clearly, Ted has some explaining to do.

But there are some who defend Turner, at least for what he apparently meant to say. Marjorie Morrison, author of the new book The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis, and a licensed psychotherapist who's written and implemented a successful military proactive counseling program with the US Marine Corps, says she doesn't think Turner was implying that its a good thing service members are killing themselves. 

"I believe he was commenting on human behavior at a deeper level, implying that humans have an inherent component of love and compassion as opposed to hate and killing," she says. "He's clearly a huge proponent of the United Nations - he donated a billion dollars to them - and would like to see them picking up the 'global policeman' job as opposed to Americans. I see Turner as a visionary man who views the new world order operating on civility and orderly justice, rather than violence."

Retired Navy chief Thomas Mahoney has mixed feelings about Turner's comment. "War sucks, and anyone saying it doesn't is either lying or just nuts," he says. "It's hard for anyone not to get pissed at what Turner said, but let's look at the context of what he said. True, his wording was crass, but I think he means that a lot of those who served and have been subjected to multiple sometimes back-to-back deployments in two wars that have lasted eleven years without any real clear victory, just a lot of lives lost, they couldn't take it anymore. I honor those that gave their lives, and I feel for those who took their own."

But, Mahoney adds, "The problem with do-gooders like Turner and Jane Fonda is that they have no respect for anything but their cause. Neither of them has any real respect for those who serve."


  1. Chief Mahoney nailed it plum! People like Turner use their wealth to weld power and influence over many people and this gives them a sense of entitlement and inflation of ego. Combine this with a lifestyle where they choose to surround themselves among like-minded people, and it becomes clear why they reveal such an ugly and callous side.

    I guarantee that if Turner and Fonda had served even a single year in military service that neither would have done what they became infamous for doing. Because by this service they would have learned what service to others and sacrifice for others truly means. It would have given them the humility and perspective they needed.

    BTW: Jane Fonda sat on a tank, but what really infuriated so many Vietnam vets is when she sat on an anti-aircraft artillery piece -- the type of weapon responsible for killing so many of our airmen. She did so gleefully. That showed a particular callousness for her fellow countrymen who were sacrificing in national service. Turner reveals a similar mindset.

  2. Thanks Kevin! Better late than never, right?