Ted Turner Says Chinese Oppression "Not Draconian"

Steven Mosher
by Colin Mason
PRI Weekly Briefing
18 May 2009, Vol. 12 / No. 16
Reproduced with Permission

In a May 7th interview on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show," Ted Turner, the legendary founder of CNN, gave a thumbs-up to China's one-child policy.

"The Chinese," said Turner, "I think wisely, instituted the one-child family policy, and they put in penalties, tax penalties and so forth, for people that have more than one child. But there are already still a billion and a half people in China. And if you've ever been over there, it's so overcrowded you can barely turn around. If they hadn't put in the one-child family policy 25 or 30 years ago, it's estimated that there would be 250 million more Chinese than there are today. So we do have the example of China, and they've done it without, as far as I can see, draconian steps. They do encourage people to have one child."

When a skeptical-sounding Diane Rehm pressed him on the subject, Turner admitted that he was "not intimately familiar with everything," but he did not amend his stance (the interview is available on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTME9ahQBWM)

As someone who has recently returned personally from a trip to China, researching this very subject, all I can say is an incredulous "what?"

I spent a week tramping through remote mountain villages, hearing story after story of brutal oppression. I heard tales of couples who were fined astronomical sums of money for having "illegal" children, who could then never qualify for government benefits. Coercive sterilizations, and strict policy rules outlined on billboards and public placards were the rule. And I even heard of the abduction of infants by the government, infants who would then be given away to other families.

In fact, I can't think of a better word than "draconian" to describe China's birth policy.

Where does Ted Turner get his information, information he is only too glad to disseminate on a nationally syndicated radio show? Has he done research on this issue? Does he even watch the news that his own company, CNN, broadcasts?

Or does he simply, a la Al Gore, invent his facts as he goes along?

Unfortunately, all evidence points to the latter. In fact, Turner, nicknamed "The Mouth of the South" for his penchant for making epic faux pas, has an uncomfortable relationship, at best, with good science and sound reason. PRI has kept tabs on Turner's history of controversial actions and statements concerning population and abortion issues. It hasn't been pretty.

For one thing, Turner's devotion to the population control movement has been financially impressive. According to PRI's research, Turner has contributed "millions of dollars to radical environmentalist and population control groups over the years, including $5 million for population control in 2001 alone."

In addition to financing population control, he has been outspoken in his verbal support for the movement. PRI dug up Turner's words from a 1998 Zero Population Growth banquet, which he attended with his then-wife, Jane Fonda. At the banquet, Turner spoke on "managing human numbers in a sensible way," saying that "we have to live in an intelligent manner so that we walk as lightly as we can on the earth. We have to take a holistic approach. I really believe that there are huge forces arrayed against us. The forces of ignorance, lack of education and prejudice and hatred and fear. The forces of darkness in general."

"In the end," he concluded. "I'll put my money on the smart people against the dummies. If the smarts can't beat the dumbs, we're really not that smart, are we? And we have a lot more fun than they do, because we're right and they're wrong!"

This scintillatingly intellectual assertion is vintage Turner, whom even the New York Times admits has "compiled a long list of verbal, public offenses." The Times went on to list a few of Turner's more infamous glitches in a 2001 article entitled "MediaTalk; AOL Sees a Different Side of Time Warner."

"He once called Christianity 'a religion for losers,'" recalled the article, "he referred to the 1997 suicides of 39 people in the Heaven's Gate cult as 'a way to get rid of a few nuts'; he made a derogatory remark about Poles and the pope; and he called opponents of abortion ‘bozos.'"

In other words, it seems that Turner is once again displaying his penchant for speaking his mind with little or no reference to reality. However, no matter how renowned his blunders may be, that still does not negate the damage that they do. Speaking so carelessly about such an important subject as China's one-child policy on a nationally syndicated broadcast is irresponsible.

Ted Turner owes the estimated 300 million Chinese women who have suffered forced abortions in the past three decades an apology. We encourage him to do so.