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News - Should we give a damn about what Ted Turner has to say?

Yes. Turner's vision and his ability to place the most crucial issues of mankind on the public's radar screen that makes him such a valuable player.

Let's tie him up, muzzle him and exile him. How about trying him for treason, or just plain shooting him? No, the remarkable genius of Ted Turner is a voice that needs to be heard — especially in these times of almost deafening silence.

Turner is a thinker, frighteningly so. His gaffes are legendary. But it's his vision and his ability to place the most crucial issues of mankind on the public's radar screen that makes him such a valuable player. To Turner's friends and devotees, he is a modern-day Paul Revere, sounding a clarion call to all who will listen. The threat of nuclear annihilation, the population explosion and environmental dangers are his passionate causes. He puts his money — sizable sums — where his mouth is.

Yes, at times he'll speak before thinking, but Turner's heart is clearly in the right place. It's as if he subconsciously tries to gain notoriety when he certainly doesn't need it. For those of us who know Ted, we do not, for one second, believe his recent comments, made during a speech at Brown University, regarding the bravery of the Sept. 11 hijackers was meant to convey the impression that he supported their evil ways. Turner misspoke, and has acknowledged as much, apologizing for being taken out of context and conceding to associates that it was "nutty."

Turner clearly disagrees with President Bush's "axis of evil" terminology in referring to North Korea, Iran and Iraq, saying in the same Brown University speech, "Calling other countries dirty names is a great plan if you want to start a war with some body." Those remarks should come as no surprise for a man of peace like Turner.

No, Turner is not your garden variety Democrat or Republican. Indeed, our homeboy is a radical. He believes that a world of 6 billion people can't survive when poverty, disease, hate and war permeate several billion daily. And unlike other billionaires, he uses his wealth and fame to alter the current course of the world. His philanthropy to ward causes like AIDS research and women's rights in developing nations goes almost unnoticed.

So it goes. Right-wingers have yet another field day over the 9-11 comments on their lockstep radio yak shows at Turner's expense. He'll be called a clown, a cretin, a traitor, scum or worse. But, he'll shrug it off and keep working to make the world a better and safer place. For that, we should all give a damn.

Tom Houck has chronicled Ted Turner for 25 years as a radio talk show host, TV commentator and CL columnist.??



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