Once again, Ted Turner is making headlines—and creating headaches for AOL Time Warner. The CNN founder drew fire after telling London's Guardian
newspaper that Israelis and Palestinians are "terrorizing each other."
His stinging comments drew ire from Israelis, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Turner's remarks "stupid." Some lobbied Israeli satellite operator YES, along with the country's three cable operators, to drop CNN International.
By last Thursday, though, Turner, an AOL Time Warner vice chairman, apologized; CNN said its place on the YES system is secure. Turner wrote in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League, "I do not morally equate Israel's right to defend itself with the intentional killing of innocent civilians."
A beneficiary in the conflict was the Fox News Channel, which sealed a distribution deal with the 300,000-subscriber YES. Fox had been in negotiations with YES, but the deal was inked last Thursday, the day Turner apologized.
Turner has been a corporate outlaw before, causing AOL Time Warner brass (and Time Warner before it) to cringe over his outbursts. He was shunned by former CEO Gerald Levin but, since new chief Richard Parsons took the helm in May, has been more welcomed.
The thaw may be short-lived. After his comments, AOL Time Warner quickly put him back to pasture, saying in a statement: "Mr. Turner has no operational or editorial involvement at CNN. Mr. Turner's comments are his own and do not reflect the views of our company in any way."