Photo courtesy of Lynne Russell
Great America

Honoring ‘Captain Outrageous’

A celebration of Ted Turner (and an encounter with Jeff “Mother” Zucker)


- December 8th, 2019
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Friday morning, my wife, former CNN Headline News anchor Lynne Russell, and I were on the small list of invitees for the dedication of the original CNN headquarters, which had been a disused country club on Techwood Drive in Atlanta until Ted Turner transformed it into the greatest news organization in the world.

Forty years later, Ted’s media empire, Turner Broadcasting, has been broken into three pieces, run by WarnerMedia and owned by AT&T. Recently, the new guys had all of the Turner signs taken down—every last one. Then, perhaps due to a case of corporate guilt, they decided to rename the site the Ted Turner Campus.

Turner, whom I always called Skipper or Captain, is now 81 and is plagued by Lewy Body dementia. But somehow he manages to press on. It’s what I would expect from my former boss, the daring master of America’s Cup winner Courageous, the fearless 1979 Fastnet race winner who howled back at the storm and crashing sea aboard Tenacious, the wild-man maverick founder of the once-great Cable News Network. Captain Outrageous!

Still the maverick, he proudly wore his old CNN club tie to the campus dedication, a kind of measure of defiance that said, Let’s see you take this away!

The chief speaker, The New Guy, was John Stankey, whose education in finance led him to his current position as CEO of WarnerMedia and Chief Operating Officer of AT&T. He didn’t bother to wear a tie, in that studied casual style of corporate biggies. You know: Bean Counters, BB stackers.  It seems that some folks simply can not recognize the honest-to-God charisma and monumental testicular fortitude that Ted always demonstrated. They simply could not show the Old Man a little personal respect.

And then there was Zucker. Yes, Jeff “Mother” Zucker! He showed up, but delivered no public remarks. Awfully peculiar, given that Zucker is no stranger to a microphone and is (unfortunately) the current president of CNN.

But there he was, as usual, tieless and open collared, wandering around like the Pillsbury Doughboy without a GPS.

I walked over, shook his hand, and said, “Hi Jeff, I’m Chuck de Caro. I was CNN’s first Special Assignments Correspondent. Don’t take all the negative stuff I write about you personally. It’s just that you’re ruining the network I bled for.”

Shocked, he asked who I wrote for.

American Greatness. It’s an internet journal.”

He mumbled something about his staff and headed to friendlier ground.

Maybe American Greatness managing editor Ben Boychuk could send him my stories.

I can’t be bothered.

I’ve taken off my tie.

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