The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

1999: Ted Turner Disses the Pope


Turner supports one-child policy
Says idea could end overpopulation

By Robert Stacy McCain
Environmentalists and population control activists need to elect “people who get it” if they wish “to succeed in saving humanity,” cable television mogul Ted Turner said yesterday.

Speaking to the 27th annual meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Mr. Turner called House Majority Whip Tom Delay “dumb” and said the Texas Republican should “get his resume ready.”

“We have to defeat those congressmen and senators who are standing in the way of progress,” Mr. Turner told the crowd at the Capital Hilton. “We’ve got to win the next election.”

Mr. Turner, founder of CNN and now the vice chairman of Time-Warner Inc., also suggested that world population could be reduced by the adoption of an international “one-child policy.”

Mr. Turner, who accepted the NFPRHA’s President’s Award during a breakfast plenary, drew laughter and applause with remarks about sex, the Ten Commandments, former President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II.

The Atlanta-based billionaire and his wife, actress Jane Fonda, are active supporters of the United Nations Population Fund.

In 1997, Mr. Turner pledged $1 billion to a new foundation to support U.N. efforts on population and the environment.

Though he fathered “five kids — boom, boom, boom — by the time I was 30,” Mr. Turner said, he now believes overpopulation is a major problem and suggested people should “promise to have no more than two children.”

Mr. Turner recalled a discussion many years ago with Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich, whose 1968 book “The Population Bomb” predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the 1970s and ’80s as a result of global overpopulation.

Mr. Turner said he asked Mr. Ehrlich and his wife, Anne, what the ideal world population would be.

“They told me about 2 billion,” Mr. Turner said.

World population is now 5.9 billion, but the world could reduce its population to that ideal, Mr. Turner suggested.

“We could do it in a very humane way,” he said, “if everybody adopted a one-child policy for 100 years.”

Yesterday was not the first time Mr. Turner called for a global one-child policy. He made the same suggestion at an Atlanta “Smart Growth” seminar in September.

Mr. Turner said that when he was first establishing his cable television empire, “the Cold War was the big problem,” but said Mr. Reagan’s anti-communist rhetoric frightened him.

“Reagan was calling the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire.’ The easiest way to get into a fight is to insult the other man,” Mr. Turner said.

Mr. Turner said the Ten Commandments are “a little out of date,” and suggested, “If you’re only going to have 10 rules, I don’t know if prohibiting adultery should be one of them.”

Speaking of himself as a member of “the progressive movement,” Mr. Turner urged the NFPRHA audience to “give ’em hell” when seeking more government funds for population control.

“People who think like us may be in the minority, but we’re the smart ones,” he said, and as a result should be able to defeat opponents he called “a whole bunch of dummies.”

Mr. Turner, whose net worth is more than $3.2 billion, got laughs with his responses during a question-and-answer session after his speech.

Asked about Mr. DeLay, Mr. Turner said of the Republican congressman: “Nobody that dumb could make it through law school.”

Asked what he would say to Pope John Paul II, who opposes abortion and artificial contraception, Mr. Turner responded with an ethnic joke — “Ever seen a Polish mine detector?” — and then suggested the pope should “get with it. Welcome to the 20th century.”