Ted Turner Talks Politics, Fidel Castro and Jane Fonda With O'Reilly

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 9, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: Ted Turner, the 70-year-old businessman and creator of CNN, is larger than life. You know that. A man of strong political beliefs, many of which reside on the left.

Mr. Turner's biography "Call Me Ted" is a big best seller, and last night we spoke with the man. We begin the segment with a very painful experience for Mr. Turner. A few years ago, FOX News surpassed CNN in the ratings and Turner reacted this way:


TED TURNER, FOUNDER OF CNN: I'm not happy about it, but Adolf Hitler was more popular in Germany in the early '30s than his people that were running against him. So just because you're bigger doesn't mean you are right.



O'REILLY: And you were responding to FOX News passing CNN in the ratings and then you bring in Hitler. Now, come on, Mr. Turner. Do you regret saying that?

Click here to watch Ted Turner's No Spin Zone debut!

TURNER: Well, maybe. It might have been a little strong.

O'REILLY: I mean, do I look like Hermann Goring out here? Come on.

TURNER: No, no.

O'REILLY: Come on.

TURNER: You look like Bill O'Reilly.

O'REILLY: Right and I'm a nice guy. Well, maybe that's overstating. I'm an honest guy, who's just trying to do the best I can. But, you know, I think that you underestimate FOX News and its appeal to traditional Americans.

TURNER: That's true. And I also said in there that I knew that that was our most vulnerable spot before I even went on the air with CNN, that a right-wing network would pose a threat because not only was CNN pretty much in the middle but so were CBS, NBC and ABC. And you're right, the far right did not have a voice.

O'REILLY: You can't possibly think that FOX News is a far-right operation? I mean, because it's not.


O'REILLY: Oh, come on. I mean, maybe coming from a Jane Fonda point of view it is, but come on.

TURNER: Well I don't watch it that much. Well, I was married to Jane Fonda.

O'REILLY: I know. I mean, but how can — I'm a far-right guy? I mean, the far right hates me. You either don't watch or you're so far left…

TURNER: I know.

O'REILLY: ...you can't make — well you should.

TURNER: I said that. I watch — I mostly watch CNN, and I've been watching a little bit of Bloomberg lately with the financial crisis.

O'REILLY: If that's the case, then you shouldn't be criticizing FOX News because you don't know what you're talking about.

TURNER: Well, that's a good point. I criticized it — it was a while back when I was sampling it a bit more than I am now. I watch it some. I do watch it some.

O'REILLY: But you became more liberal on your world view. And a hallmark of the far left, not liberals, but the far left is that America brings a lot of its problems on itself, that we are an exploitative country, that we cause a lot of the terrorism, that we don't treat people like Fidel Castro fairly, that kind of thing. How much do you buy into that?

TURNER: To a large degree. I'd say it's a little bit over the edge. But I think we should normalize relations with Cuba.

O'REILLY: All right. Is America a good country?

TURNER: Oh, it's a great country.

O'REILLY: Are we exploitative overseas? Is the war on terrorism largely our fault?

TURNER: No, I wouldn't say largely. But I think if we stopped bombing people and sent doctors and scientists and engineers around the world that we'd make a lot more progress, and we wouldn't have near as much terrorism in the world as we do. I think bombing just makes people angry, and they want to bomb you back.

O'REILLY: Well, I think they bombed us first, but…

TURNER: Who did?

O'REILLY: You know, the terrorists on 9/11.

TURNER: They didn't in Vietnam.

O'REILLY: They turned.

TURNER: In Vietnam, we bombed them first.

O'REILLY: All right. Look, you can argue the Vietnam War, and I think there are two legitimate sides, but I want to keep it current.

TURNER: All right.

O'REILLY: Because there is, you know, there's one man who's done more for the continent of Africa than any other man in the history of civilization. Do you know who that man is?

TURNER: Nelson Mandela?

O'REILLY: No. President Bush has saved more lives, sent more money, and provided more medical care for the citizens of all the countries of Africa than any human being that's ever lived. Yet, you just said send the doctors, send this, send that and the world will like us better and there won't be as much terrorism. We have done that. And not only in Africa, but around the world. The world does not look upon George Bush as a hero and neither do you.

TURNER: No, I think he made a lot of mistakes, too. But you can't — but he did some good things, and I think basically he's got a good heart.


O'REILLY: When we come back, Mr. Turner talks about Jane Fonda, and I challenged him about his association with her. That after these messages.


O'REILLY: Continuing now with Ted Turner. His new book "Call Me Ted" is a big best seller.

Perhaps the boldest move Mr. Turner ever made, business or personal, was hooking up with Jane Fonda.


O'REILLY: Your association with Jane Fonda. Now, Ms. Fonda is a very far-left individual. And affairs of the heart aside, I don't think anybody could be compatible with Jane Fonda — you were married to her for 10 years — unless you have and share some of the same world outlook. Do you see what I'm saying to you?

TURNER: I'm not apologizing for my political views. I've come to the — after a lot of careful thought and study and research — and I consider myself a progressive, not a liberal.

O'REILLY: Fidel Castro, do you admire the man?


O'REILLY: Now he has murdered people. He's imprisoned people. There are political prisoners now. He won't let his people use the Internet. Nobody can use that. And you admire the guy?

TURNER: Well, I admire certain things about him. He's trained a lot of doctors, and they've got one of the best educational systems in the developing world. And you know, he's still popular with a lot of people down there. He's unpopular…

O'REILLY: But he's a killer. He's a killer. He's a guy who…

TURNER: But that has never, to my knowledge, that's never been proven. I mean…

O'REILLY: He's executed political prisoners. I mean, he enslaves people who don't see it the way he sees it. Come on. He's a dictatorship. If you admire him, then why wouldn't you admire Mussolini? I mean, what's the difference? Mussolini put people back to work. There was order. The educational system was fine. See, I'm not getting this. This is what I don't understand about it.

TURNER: Well, OK, well, if you don't see the difference between Castro and Mussolini, you know, then you know, I likened some aspects of FOX News to the Nazis, so, I mean, you know, it works both ways.

O'REILLY: But you just admitted to me that that wasn't a very good thing to do and wasn't accurate.

TURNER: Hey, listen, I didn't say I wanted to live in Cuba. And I didn't say that I was buddy buddies with Fidel Castro. I just said that I respected certain things that he's done.

O'REILLY: All right, well…

TURNER: What's wrong with that?

O'REILLY: Well, you said respect the man. And I just don't — I can't possibly see how you could do that, but…

TURNER: Of course not.

O'REILLY: Now I asked this question through one of my producers to Ms. Fonda. And I'm going to ask it to you because by reading your book, it struck me that the Vietnam experience changed you. I'm saying to myself, you know, Turner comes into the Vietnam era, conservative guy, pretty much traditional guy, it changes him.


O'REILLY: It changes him. And now he's a very liberal guy. So I asked Ms. Fonda, didn't it ever bother that you after all your activism and getting America out of Vietnam, which it subsequently did in the mid '70s, that 3 million human beings were slaughtered by the people that you were lionizing, the North Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge Communists who wouldn't have been slaughtered if we stayed. And their skulls were stacked on top of each other. And I never heard from you, Jane Fonda. And I never heard a word from Ted Turner about that. And that, to me, is a good question.

TURNER: You've got me. I didn't really think about it. You know, it didn't make the news very much.

O'REILLY: No, it didn't. And you had a vehicle that you could have had — the revisionist history is what I'm worried about here. I think America's a noble nation. I think we've made mistakes. I think we tried to have freedom in Vietnam for the South Vietnamese. Unfortunately, the government was corrupt. I don't think that was a venal, terrible thing to do. I think we were trying to protect people there. Maybe I'm wrong.

But afterward, there's no doubt 3 million human beings were slaughtered. Jane Fonda said not a word. And to this day, she blames America for everything. And I think it's wrong. But you're not Jane Fonda. And it's a pleasure to talk with you. And I'm going to give you the last word. You can say whatever you want. Go.

TURNER: I'd like to have this conversation at greater length about global warming, which I understand you and I agree about.

O'REILLY: We do.

TURNER: And ridding the world of nuclear weapons. Looking forward, not backward.

O'REILLY: All right.

TURNER: We can have a lot of fun and maybe enlighten the audience.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Turner, we will definitely do that.

TURNER: Do you like the book? I've just got to ask you that.

O'REILLY: Listen, I think you're a fascinating character. I really do. I think you are…

TURNER: I think you are too, Bill.

O'REILLY: ...a maverick and a guy who's done an amazing amount with his life. And any book that tells me how that happened, I'm going to like. I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, sir. Thanks for coming on the program.

TURNER: Same to you.


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