FLASHBACK: CNN Founder’s Blindness for North Korean Atrocities

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CNN, the network that likes to brag about being all about “facts first,” doesn’t always have a great track record when it comes to reality. Fourteen years ago this week, on September 19, 2005, the network’s founder appeared on his own network to credulously insist that despotic dictator Kim Jong-il “didn't look" evil. Ted Turner proclaimed, “...He didn’t look too much different than most other people.”

After a bewildered Wolf Blitzer pointed out the harsh treatment of the North Korean people, Turner offered his own first-hand account: “Well, hey, listen. I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars, but...I didn’t see any brutality.”

 

 

He then described the starving people of North Korea as simply a little “thin.” 

WOLF BLITZER: But look at the way he’s treating his own people.

TED TURNER: “Well, hey, listen. I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars, but-”

BLITZER: A lot of those people are starving.

TURNER: I didn’t see any, I didn’t see any brutality....

Turner’s spin for a despotic dictator hasn’t stopped CNN from fawning over him. On September 28, the network will air Ted Turner: Captain Planet as a way of gushing over the founder’s environmental work. On Friday, CNN promoted the special. An announcer intoned, “A billionaire business mogul, but every move was part of a bigger planet.” A graphic cheered, “Can one man save the planet?” Just don’t bring up the people of this planet who live in North Korea. 

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.

A transcript of the 2005 exchange is below: 

The Situation Room
9/19/2005

TED TURNER: I am absolutely convinced that the North Koreans are absolutely sincere....I looked them right in the eyes. And they looked like they meant the truth. You know, just because somebody’s done something wrong in the past doesn’t mean they can’t do right in the future or the present. That happens all the, all the time.

WOLF BLITZER: “But this is one of the most despotic regimes and [North Korean dictator] Kim Jong-il is one of the worst men on Earth. Isn’t that a fair assessment?”

TURNER: “Well, I didn’t get to meet him, but he didn’t look — in the pictures that I’ve seen of him on CNN, he didn’t look too much different than most other people.”

BLITZER: But look at the way he’s treating his own people.

TURNER: “Well, hey, listen. I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars, but-”

BLITZER: A lot of those people are starving.

TURNER: I didn’t see any, I didn’t see any brutality...

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