Media Mogul, "Mouth of the South," and Philanthropist

Ted Turner is on every list of famous people with bipolar disorder.  It’s good to have someone as wildly successful as he on the list. Turner’s achievements are many, but his best known one is the 24 hour news channel. It was revolutionary for sure, a commercial success in spite of what conventional wisdom predicted. It may be at least somewhat responsible for our political polarization however. It’s not easy to fill 24 hours with news, so the news networks fill it with commentary. Fox with largely conservative commentary, MSNBC with largely liberal commentary. Turner’s CNN tends to be liberal. Turner himself has supported liberal causes and has feuded with conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Many other cable channels emulated CNN’s model — the Weather Channel, MTV, ESPN, to name a few.

The media mogul created the superstation TBS, as well as TNT and Turner Classic Movies. He bought MGM and its library of 2200 films. He made the controversial move of colorizing black and white classic films, leading the Library of Congress to create the National Film Registry to preserve such classic films. Turner bought the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the Atlanta Hawks basketball team. The availability of televised Braves games across the country made it a nationally popular team. Turner made World Championship Wrestling the rival of Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. In 1996 Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner.  Turner owns nearly two million acres of ranch land, including a ranch in New Mexico that is the largest land holding in America.

Turner’s philanthropy is legendary. He was Time’s Man of the Year in 1991, and he has received various humanitarian and environmental awards in addition to his many broadcast recognitions. Famously, Turner spent $1 billion to set up a foundation to support United Nations projects. He was only worth about $3 billion at the time. It was one of the most impressive examples of philanthropy ever. A $1 billion donation would not be much of a sacrifice for Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates.

But Turner has bipolar disorder and has been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. He says it makes him forgetful and exhausted. His bipolar disorder is probably responsible for much of the controversy that has always swirled around the man. His detractors have called him the “Mouth of the South” for his candor but also frequent gaffes. If one had to guess whether some of the more outrageous quotes were his or those of Donald Trump, it would be very difficult. He has made grandiose comments about himself and has praised the North Korean regime.

Turner’s father committed suicide, and he’s had suicidal thoughts as well, along with crippling depression. He’s been on lithium. And he’s been a wildly successful businessman probably because of his disorder. Like MacArthur with Inchon, Turner bucked all odds starting a 24 hour news station. But it’s also caused upheaval in his life. He’s been married three times and divorced three times. One of those marriages was to actress Jane Fonda.