Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, and their conservative guests misrepresented a remark by Ted Turner to falsely accuse Turner, as Hannity stated, of "admitting that he had a hard time choosing sides in the war on terror."
On the October 10 editions of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes, hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, and their conservative guests, misrepresented a remark Ted Turner made during an October 9 appearance at a National Press Club luncheon to falsely accuse Turner, as Hannity stated, of "admitting that he had a hard time choosing sides in the war on terror." On The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly seized on Turner's remarks to ask, "Why do you hate America, Ted." On Hannity & Colmes, despite being informed otherwise, Media Research Center President L. Brent Bozell III twice falsely claimed that Turner "specifically referenced the war on terror" in his remarks. In fact, Turner was referring to whether he supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 when he stated "I really hadn't made my mind up yet" and made no mention of the "war on terror" in the comments highlighted by O'Reilly and Hannity.
Turner spoke before the National Press Club on October 9. During the luncheon's question-and-answer portion, Turner was asked: "What do you think of the fact that -- well, not you, but other people have been, when they've criticized the Iraq war, criticized the U.S. government conduct ...their patriotism has been questioned." Turner replied:
TURNER: Well, I don't like to see -- you know, there are a lot of things about this war that disturb me. And one of them is the attitude that was well-expressed by our president. He said it very clearly. He said, "Either you're with us or you're against us."
And I had a problem with that, because I really hadn't made my mind up yet.
You know, what if you haven't made your mind up? You know, what if you're thinking about it, doing some studying, and doing some reading? Because it's an important decision to go to war, whether or not to go to war.
I mean, "You're either with us or against us" -- that's pretty black and white. And just because you disagree with me about it doesn't mean you're not a patriot, as far as I'm concerned.
In his response, Turner also mentioned his family's military background, his father's service in World War II, and how the Vietnam War affected how he evaluated the government's arguments for going to war.
But O'Reilly and Hannity cropped Turner's remarks to assert that Turner could not make up his mind whether to support America in the "war on terror." For instance, on Hannity & Colmes, Hannity aired only the beginning of Turner's response and omitted the question to which Turner was responding. O'Reilly aired a nearly identical video clip, cropping the quote in the same manner as Hannity, and also omitting the question posed to Turner. From Hannity and Colmes:
TURNER [video clip]: "Either you're with us or you're against us." And I had a problem with that, because I really hadn't made my mind up yet. You know, what if you haven't made your mind up? You know, what if you're thinking about it, doing some studying, and doing some reading? Because it's an important decision to go to war, whether or not go to war. I mean, "You're either with us or you're against us" -- that's pretty black and white.
Responding to the video clip, Hannity stated: "That was CNN founder, former media mogul Ted Turner speaking at the National Press Club in Washington yesterday, while admitting that he had a hard time choosing sides in the war on terror." Bozell, who appeared on Hannity & Colmes with Boston University professor and former ABC News reporter Bob Zelnick to discuss Turner's remarks, asserted that, due to Turner's comments: "I think it's time for Democrats to speak up. Either they support this man or they should condemn him." Zelnick opined: "I find it hard to believe that even a delusional American would say something as crass as not being able to choose between the terrorists and his own country." Further, despite the fact that co-host Alan Colmes noted that Turner was referring to the Iraq war not the "war on terror," Bozell twice falsely claimed that Turner's "answer specifically twice referenced the war on terror. Not Iraq." In fact, Turner made no specific references to the "war on terror" in his response.
For his part, O'Reilly used Turner's remarks to declare that Turner "epitomized" "the secular-progressive movement," and later as fodder to attack Turner with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. Ingraham announced "a message to Ted Turner: You would be the first person, or one of the first people, put up against a wall and shot in an Islamic society," and asserted that "the progressives, the liberals, the leftists, who Ted Turner really does represent" are "so overwhelmed with hatred for [President George W.] Bush" that they "don't seem to understand" that "militant Islamists" want to kill Americans. O'Reilly agreed and later stated that Turner "is terribly misguided" and "embraces Fidel Castro." O'Reilly asked: "Why do you hate America, Ted?"
From the October 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Here in the USA, the secular-progressive movement is epitomized by our pal, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN. Yesterday, Turner said this about the war on terror and President Bush.
TURNER [video clip]: And he said it very clearly. He said, "Either you're with us or you're against us." And I had a problem with that, because I really hadn't made my mind up yet. You know, what if you haven't made your mind up? You know, what if you're thinking about it, doing some studying, and doing some reading? Because it's an important decision to go to war, whether or not to go to war. I mean, "You're either with us or against us" -- that's pretty black and white.
O'REILLY: All right. As we all know, the S-Ps hate black and white. There's no good and evil in that world. There's no right or wrong. Everything is gray. That is why, today, you have some far-left elements blaming America for North Korea's actions. Pitiful.
INGRAHAM: Well, here's the problem, is that the progressives, the liberals, the leftists, who Ted Turner really does represent, they didn't think they had a dog in the fight when we were in the Cold War. And now they don't think they have a dog in this fight. Remember, Ted Turner founded CNN. CNN does not consider itself America's network. CNN considers itself a global network.
O'REILLY: That's true.
INGRAHAM: And a message to Ted Turner: You would be the first person, or one of the first people, put up against a wall and shot in an Islamic society. They don't seem to understand that their lives are imperiled if we lose this great struggle against the militant Islamists. I don't understand how they don't get it, but they clearly don't get it.
O'REILLY: But, see, here's what I don't understand.
INGRAHAM: They are so overwhelmed with hatred for Bush.
O'REILLY: I don't know --
INGRAHAM: So overwhelmed.
O'REILLY: Yeah. I understand the hate-Bush stuff drives clouds into every -- every policy matter. But Ted Turner is a very wealthy individual, and enjoys his wealth, all right.
INGRAHAM: Yeah. Money doesn't buy you brains. I'm sorry. It doesn't buy you brains.
O'REILLY: No, no, no, no. No personal attacks here.
INGRAHAM: Well, no, no, Bill, I don't -- that's not a personal attack.
O'REILLY: I mean, you might -- sure it is.
INGRAHAM: To say -- to say at the National Press Club, as an American citizen, that you haven't been able -- you weren't able to choose sides? That's -- that -- I don't even know what to say about that.
O'REILLY: Well, here's what you say. You say he's --
INGRAHAM: I mean, it used to be that we believed in our country. We believed in the goodness of America.
O'REILLY: He's terribly misguided. He's terribly misguided. But this is what I don't understand. Turner is very wealthy. He enjoys his wealth. He buys up property everywhere. I mean, he's a big capitalist guy. Yet he embraces Fidel Castro, as you know.
O'REILLY: You have talked about that a lot.
INGRAHAM: And he went to North Korea.
O'REILLY: And he -- he -- he didn't say bad things about the North Koreans. He seems to be sympathetic with all of these people.
O'REILLY: So, here -- well, here is my question for Ted Turner. Why do you hate America, Ted? Why do you dislike the system that we have in place so much?
INGRAHAM: Because he doesn't believe -- no, here it is, Bill. He does not believe in the American ideal. He believes in these general principles of liberalism and these general principles of a globalist view of the world. It's not the -- it's the not traditional loyalty to country that motivates Turner. And -- and that's his view. He can say whatever he wants. But --
O'REILLY: I agree with you that he's a one-world guy.
O'REILLY: I mean, he's like [progressive philanthropist George] Soros. But all liberals aren't like that. You know that.
INGRAHAM: Yes, but America's ideals are individualistic. They're the -- it's the frontier spirit. It's -- it's deeply entrenched in our faith and our faith culture.
O'REILLY: Yeah, and we're nationalistic people. We want -- we want our country.
INGRAHAM: Yeah. He has utter disdain -- yeah. He has utter disdain for our faith culture. He's said so consistently over the years.
O'REILLY: Yeah, he doesn't like Christians. He doesn't like the Judeo-Christian philosophy.
INGRAHAM: Yeah. Yeah.
INGRAHAM: We're the biggest threat to the world, according to Ted Turner.
From the October 10 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: That was CNN founder, former media mogul Ted Turner speaking at the National Press Club in Washington yesterday, while admitting that he had a hard time choosing sides in the war on terror. Turner also offered his opinion on the news business, claiming newspapers were a thing of the past. Turner said, quote, "When I die, they're going to die with me." Joining us now is the president and founder of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell, and former ABC News correspondent, journalism professor of national security studies at Boston University Bob Zelnick is with us. Guys, welcome to both of you.
BOZELL: Thank you.
HANNITY: I've got to be honest, Brent Bozell. And I know you've chronicled some quotes with Ted Turner over the years, because I voted on them. It's particularly -- that's particularly shocking, having a hard time making my mind up if I'm against the people that attacked us?
BOZELL: How many people in America do you think after 9-11 sat down and said, "I've got to do some reading and some studying to decide whether or not I am affected by this and whether or not we should seek retribution for what happened on our shores, in New York, in Washington, D.C., on the plains of Pennsylvania"? Either this man is truly delusional, because it's just one stop comment after -- you know, one comment after another from this man, or he's got a real serious problem with this country. It doesn't matter what conservatives think at this point. I think it's time for Democrats to speak up. Either they support this man or they should condemn him.
HANNITY: You know, Bob Zelnick, we conservatives -- I've often used the term "blame America first," or the "hate America" left, the hard left. Isn't that what you hear here? Is that the fair description?
ZELNICK: Well, it may very well be. Let me say this: I listened to it several times. First of all, I think there is some chance, remote, that it was just a cruel and tasteless joke on his part. I think there is some chance, again, not all that likely but of greater likelihood, that he was referring to the decision should we go to war with Iraq or not. It's possible that he just was very awkward in his utterance. All that said, if he was serious in what he -- in what the words came out like, then it's worse than cruel and tasteless. It's an insult to every American in the country. It's an insult to the boys and females who have gone over to Iraq and risked their lives and in some cases lost their lives. And to think that he's balancing the U.S. against a group of terrorists who pulled children off buses and killed them in the streets and leave headless bodies floating in the Tigris River every -- every night, I think it's just an outrage, if that's what he was saying.
HANNITY: Let me go back to Brent. And I think Bob is being charitable, because I think Bob is a good guy. And, you know, I think you're trying to give him a benefit of the doubt. But he's a guy that's also attacked Christianity. He once said, Brent Bozell, as you know, "The United States has got some of the dumbest people in the world. I want you to know that we know that." He's made a lot of controversial comments and, frankly, over-the-top comments. This just fits his personality. I think this is the real Ted Turner.
BOZELL: Well, you know, he made that statement that Christianity is a religion for losers. He apologized for that one. He made a statement on September 19th of last year saying that he believed that North Korea was absolutely sincere in its nuclear program. And why? Because he sees them all riding bicycles. He made a statement last month where he took credit for the end of the Cold War because of his Goodwill Games. He made a statement last year also on the David Letterman show about Afghanistan, about the war there, saying that we ought to cut our defense budget by 10 percent and offer hope instead of tanks. Again, you know, either this man has kind of lost his mind, and I mean that in a serious way, or I think -- I think, Alan, it's high time that you and your colleagues start putting your foot down on his statements.
COLMES: Thank you for telling me what I might say. But let me put this in context. We only showed a clip of his answer. We didn't get the question. And, Bob Zelnick, the question was: "What do you think of the fact that -- well, not you, but other people have been, when they've criticized the Iraq war, criticized the U.S. government conduct, their patriotism has been questioned." He was responding to the war in Iraq. He made the mistake of conflating that with Bush's statement, "Are you with us or against us," something that President Bush made prior to the war in Iraq about the war on terror. That's where I think the confusion is. I believe his answer was about the war in Iraq, not the greater war on terror. Bob, what do you say?
ZELNICK: Well, I was accused of giving him the benefit of the doubt and being a nice guy and being charitable. I find it hard to believe that even a delusional American would say something as crass as not being able to choose between the terrorists and his own country. I think if he has any trouble making that choice he should have gone over to Iraq, as I did, for 20 days this past summer.
COLMES: But that wasn't the question. The question was whether or not the Iraq war, Brent, was a good idea.
ZELNICK: Yes. And I heard -- I heard what the -- what your summary of the question was. And I think he may have used that as a launching point for his own bizarre notions of the right and wrong in this -- in this context.
BOZELL: And Bob is entirely right. Look, it doesn't matter what the question was. His answer specifically twice referenced the war on terror. Not Iraq.
COLMES: Not specifically.
BOZELL: His answer referenced the war on terror.
COLMES: And he made the mistake of saying with us or against us as pertains to Iraq --
BOZELL: On the war on terror.
COLMES: But the question was about Iraq. He clarified what he meant.
BOZELL: He specifically talked about the war on terror, Alan. And look, you show me where Ted Turner has ever rallied American support around the war on terror.