By Kevin Price, Publisher and Editor in Chief, USDR
For most conservatives media mogul Ted Turner is pure anathema. Turner has been involved in a plethora of liberal and international causes that keeps fans of less government up at night with nightmares. Turner has long advocated for liberal and progressive candidates too. In fact, he even married (and since divorced) the poster child of American liberalism, Jane Fonda. But this was not always the case.
Back in the early 1980s, Turner was very discreet about his political views and his up start CNN had a reputation as a very objective news source. With short stories rotating around the clock and updating news only when it mattered, there was not a great deal of room for what conservatives would call “nefarious editorializing.” Meanwhile, the anti-Christ of media to conservatives in the early 1980s was CBS. With Dan Rather in the anchor chair since 1981, the network quickly developed the reputation as having a left wing slant. Conservative organizations, like Accuracy in the Media, began declaring that CBS was “Rather Bias.”
Back to Ted Turner, who up through the early 1980s had remained very discreet about his political leanings and his network had developed a reputation of being objective. His appetite had him seriously interested in increasing the size of his media footprint and in no time he was huddling with members of the conservative movement to get support. In the early 1980s I was working with several conservative groups in various capacities. My former boss, US Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH), Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) and other congressional leaders were collaborating with Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation (a man often referred to as the “godfather of the New Right” and the creator of the prestigious Heritage Foundation). Humphrey, Weyrich, and several other conservative leaders were putting together a group they called “Conscious Ownership.” The idea behind it was simple, conservatives are capitalists and should make money, but why not do it in a way that benefits their principles. If conservatives own media — which even then was seen in the left’s sphere of influence — they can make profits and change the culture (or at least the political debate).
The interest in this cause eventually got to Turner’s people and conversations began about getting significant financial backers on the right behind an effort to help the media executive in a hostile takeover of CBS. In fact, US Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) began a conservative movement effort of his own to get people called “Fairness in the Media.”
Although there was no formal announcement by the conservatives or Turner or collaboration, the New York Times noted that “The Associated Press reported that a spokesman for Fairness in Media declined to say whether Mr. Helms and Mr. Turner were working together.” Today, the thought of groups associated with Helms and Turner working together would be out of the question, but that clearly was not the case in 1985.