Accuracy in Media

He founded CNN and is now vice chairman of Time-Warner. But that?s not enough for Ted Turner. His money is now funding the creation and distribution of a “news wire,” called the U.N. Wire, that covers United Nations-related issues. It is distributed via the Internet and e-mail to movers and shakers in Washington. Since Turner is also sending $1 billion to the United Nations, you might suspect that this would present a conflict of interest. And you?d be right.

The National Journal, a respected political publication, describes itself as the “independent contractor” for the U.N. Wire. It is funded by the Better World Fund, which, together with the United Nations Foundation, is underwritten by Ted Turner?s $1 billion “contribution” to the U.N. U.N. Wire managing editor Russ Walker tells us, “We have sole editorial control over the content. Our coverage of the U.N. never omits critical news coverage. In fact, we go out of our way to cover news and commentary that is critical of the United Nations. Any suggestion otherwise is completely off base.”

To their credit, they did a brief story about a report I produced which was very critical of Turner and his U.N. Foundation. However, their coverage of a pro-U.N. advertisement which ran in the Washington Times and other publications was seriously deficient. The ad, which also ran in Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call on March 18th, was in the form of a letter to Congressional leaders from former Secretaries of State, including Henry Kissinger, James Baker and Alexander Haig. The ad was designed to con the Congress into paying a phony financial “debt” to the United Nations. U.N. Wire noted that the ad was paid for by something called the Better World Campaign. This is what the ad itself claimed.

But it turns out that the Better World Campaign is part of Ted Turner?s Better World Fund. In other words, Turner was secretly funding a series of pro-U.N. advertisements through a front group.

This is not an insignificant disclosure. Henry Kissinger was recently on the CBS 60 Minutes program still complaining about the influence of anti-war protesters who undermined the U.S. effort to stop communism in Vietnam. What would he think if he knew that he was being used in an ad campaign paid for by Jane Fonda?s husband? Fonda went beyond protesting the war to actually appearing with the North Vietnamese Army and sitting in an anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down American pilots.

We asked U.N. Wire managing editor Russ Walker about our concerns. He said the story should have mentioned that the Better World Fund is behind the U.N. Wire. But our point is that the ad itself was deceptive because it failed to disclose that the Better World Campaign was part of the Better World Fund, and that both are paid for by Ted Turner. We know that Turner is behind CNN and plays a major role in Time-Warner. Our point is that the public should know that Turner is now secretly financing pro-U.N. ads in major newspapers. If the U.N. Wire is truly objective, it will disclose this critical fact.

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