CNN's 'Commie Dictator' Influence?

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - Ted Turner, founder of the Cable News Network, said it was Cuban leader Fidel Castro who inspired him to broadcast CNN into other countries around the world.

Castro invited Turner to visit Cuba in 1982 after a CNN news team visited the communist nation.

"We spent all night drinking and smoking cigars," Turner told a convention of cable television operators meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday. "He told me CNN was invaluable to him. And I thought, if Fidel Castro can't live without it, we ought to be able to sell CNN all over the world. So the idea came from a commie dictator," said Turner.

After his 1982 meeting with Castro, Turner commented, "Fidel ain't a communist. He's a dictator just like me."

Castro returned the compliment, saying several times that he received news of the Soviet Union faster from CNN than he did from the Soviet government.

The Cuban-American National Foundation, no friend of the Castro government, said Castro uses CNN as a "propaganda tool." According to CANF, most ordinary Cubans don't ever see the network.

"CNN cannot be seen in Cuba because the other types of news it does carry represent freedom of the press, which is banned in Cuba," said CANF spokesperson Mariela Ferretti.

"So the only places that you can see CNN inside of Cuba are in the hotels for the exclusive use of foreigners," she said.

Ferretti added, "It's contradictory that someone who has made millions of dollars on the basis of free press such as Ted Turner should take his cues from someone who has done everything in his power to make sure there is no freedom of the press in his own country of Cuba."

Turner was criticized earlier this year for calling Fidel Castro "one hell of a guy."

"Have you ever met him?" Turner asked a class at Harvard Law School. "You'd like him. He has been the leader of Cuba for 40 years. He's the most senior leader in the world, and most of the people that are still in Cuba like him."

Turner later apologized for those remarks.