It's a presidential election year, so Ted Turner's baby, the Cable News Network, is very busy in reporting the latest developments. But for those ethical experts that wonder about conflicts of interest in journalism, another baby of Ted's, the Turner Foundation and its $25 million grant budget is also heating up for the election cycle - on the side of pro-abortion and radical green groups.
After covering the Democrats' joke of a racketeering lawsuit against Rep. Tom DeLay, Newsweek recently added: "Meanwhile, the Democrats may be getting some indirect help of their own from an undisclosed source. Newsweek has learned that the Turner Foundation, headed by CNN founder Ted Turner, has made a multi-million-dollar grant to two pro-choice groups, NARAL [the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League] and Planned Parenthood, to help identify pro-choice voters and train 'activists' in key states where Democrats are in tight races against anti-abortion Republicans. The foundation has not publicly announced the grant. A spokesman says the money is not intended for 'political' purposes."
They may train activists into preserving Democratic seats in Congress, but that's not political. It's really just another idealistic method of fighting overpopulation. They might as well tell us there's no controlling authority, either.
In the May 15 issue of The Nation, reporter John Nichols praised recent efforts in Minnesota to crush legislation that would require a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion and a conversation explaining abortion in "graphic detail." The Minnesota branch of NARAL seemed upset it had to work to shame bordello-patronizing Gov. Jesse Ventura into opposing it.
What was their success story? The Nation explained: "The Minnesota drive drew on sophisticated lists of state abortion rights backers developed with a grant from the Turner Foundation...Grantees include the NARAL Foundation, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, Zero Population Growth, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. Last year, the foundation began giving grants to groups in eight states where abortion rights are particularly threatened."
The Nation quoted Cecile Richards, who oversees the Turner abortion advocacy grants: "We put a special emphasis on helping groups develop the electronic tools necessary to contact people on their lists quickly and effectively." Minnesota NARAL boss Tim Stanley crowed: "the Turner list made a huge difference. When an emergency arose, we were ready to move on it."
So Turner becomes the abortion lobby's sugar daddy. But does that represent a conflict of interest for CNN's reporting on NARAL or Planned Parenthood? CNN's coverage of NARAL is uniformly helpful in answering that question. When NARAL made a puny ad buy in March 1999 to call George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole "extreme" on abortion, CNN's Judy Woodruff publicized them (without calling them "extreme," or even liberal), and said the abortion issue is "troubling" for Republicans, since "more moderate voters, especially women, have drifted away from the party, in part because of its hard-line image on issues like abortion." When Steve Forbes quickly counter-attacked, airing radio ads charging NARAL is a liberal stalking horse doing "dirty work" for the Gore campaign, CNN didn't report those ads.
Planned Parenthood has also been favored by Turner's network. Its founder Margaret Sanger was a major hero in CNN's "A Century of Women" documentary in 1998: "The 'privilege' of childbirth (Quotes around the "privilege" of childbirth are CNN's) took the lives of 300,000 women between the years of 1910 and 1925. That's more than all the men who died in American wars, from the Revolution until World War I. Women were desperate for a way out of constant pregnancies. They found a champion in Margaret Sanger." Sanger's opposition to letting "inferior" races reproduce went unmentioned.
Mainstream media ethics specialists have regularly ignored the potential conflicts of Turner's philanthropy. Pledging $1 billion to the United Nations brought Turner tons of laudatory publicity (like a Tom Brokaw profile on "Dateline NBC"), but no one asked how this would affect CNN's coverage of the UN.
The Capital Research Center has found the Turner Foundation supports many of the radical green groups attacking the World Trade Organization this year in Seattle and the nation's capitol. For example, Turner grantee Greenpeace commissioned a packet on "safe trade in the 21st century," which was distributed in Seattle with vivid green condoms in packets emblazoned with the slogan. But no one asked if CNN could be an objective reporter on the WTO protests.
Now that Turner is directly funding the defeat of pro-life legislation and the election of Democratic politicians, it sounds like the Turner Foundation's grants would be a great topic for CNN's weekend media-in-review show "Reliable Sources." It would also be the first time the subject's been raised.