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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Encore: Ted Turner Speaks Out

Aired July 7, 2012 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, a man who changed television forever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED TURNER, MEDIA MOGUL AND PHILANTHROPIST: This news service will be called the Cable News Network.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Ted Turner who created this network.

LOIS HART, CNN ANCHOR: Now here's the news.

MORGAN: And he's never been shy about speaking his mind. Tonight, he tells all.

TURNER: The moneyed interests are taking over the country.

MORGAN: Ted Turner has been called Captain Outrageous, a mouth from the south.

TURNER: I lost my fortune, most of it. Got a million or two left. You can get by on that if you economize.

MORGAN: He even rewrote his own version of the "Ten Commandments," adding his own for good measure.

And a man his ex-wife Jane Fonda says this about him.

JANE FONDA, ACTRESS: I'm so proud of him. He's done so much for the work in the world.

MORGAN: Plus a rare interview with former President George W. Bush.

FMR. PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I want to stay connected to the veteran community. I'm not going to be a very public person. This is a rare interview for me.

MORGAN: Remarkable mission of Wounded Warriors and keeping America great.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. Two big exclusive interviews tonight. The first will be with Ted Turner, not just a TV pioneer, but also a very outspoken man. I want to know what he thinks of television, of America and of his life today.

Plus, a rare interview with President George W. Bush. If anyone knows about keeping America great, it's the former president. Tonight, he talks about the cause closest to his heart, the country's veterans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: After 9/11, millions volunteered. And they said I want to serve my country. And I'm -- I don't view it as a -- as anything personal. I view it as that we were all serving together. We were all part of a great cause, the cause of securing our country and the cause of liberty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: My exclusive interview with President George W. Bush coming later. But first, someone who I think, on this occasion, literally -- needs no introduction. The man who created CNN, the reason that I'm here and others are here working here, Ted Turner.

Welcome back, Ted.

TURNER: It's good to be here.

MORGAN: How does it feel to be back?

TURNER: Good.

MORGAN: Does it?

TURNER: Yes.

MORGAN: Are you still proud of CNN?

TURNER: Absolutely.

MORGAN: Do you still watch CNN?

TURNER: I watch it, you bet.

MORGAN: Do you like what you see?

TURNER: I like most of what I see.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: You always said about CNN, the news should be the star.

TURNER: Well, that's -- that was the philosophy that we started with. But it really was the only place open for us, because all the other news networks, CBS, NBC and ABC, they emphasized their stars and we didn't have any stars.

MORGAN: If --

TURNER: We were lucky to have employees. (LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: If you had the competition that's around now in cable when you first started, in other words, if there had been a FOX News with right-wing star anchors, MSNBC had Rachel Maddow and the others, would you do anything differently?

TURNER: I'd have to really give it a lot of thought and a lot of study, which I have not done, because nobody has asked me to do it. And I value my time greatly. And I'm working on nuclear weapons, trying to get rid of them, and working on the climate and clean energy, getting us to change over to clean energy and stabilize the population before the world's just so overcrowded, we can't turn around.

I'm working on things where I can -- where I can make a difference now. I really don't have any input on a regular basis here.

MORGAN: But do you think -- do you think CNN should become -- and the reason I'm fascinated is that you're the guy that started this whole business. And it was an amazing innovation at the time. Then others began to do similar versions.

TURNER: Sure.

MORGAN: But do you think that CNN should remain the impartial observer of news?

TURNER: Yes. Yes. And cover the substantial news and that doesn't mean you don't cover Hollywood, you don't cover kidnappings and the sensational, too. But the emphasis should be on hard news.

I wanted CNN to be the "New York Times" for the news business, not the -- not "The Daily News." I wanted it to be "The New York Times." And I thought that for the long term, that would be the best position to be in, even if the ratings weren't the greatest. If you had the most prestige and you were the network that everybody turned to in times of a crisis, that that was the most important position, in the news business, to hold.

MORGAN: I mean that is still true. There's no question. I've been here 16, 17 months now. When there's a big story -- and when I first got here, there were an avalanche of huge stories. When that happens, it is very gratifying that the CNN ratings soar.

The issue that I think everyone wrestles with is what happens, as we've had recently, when there's a lengthy period of not much news.

TURNER: When it's quiet.

MORGAN: Yes.

TURNER: Well, there's always -- the world is a big place. And I -- and I'm out of the country a good bit, traveling internationally. And I watch CNN International all over the -- all over the world. I probably see it as much as or more than CNN domestic. And I think they're doing an excellent job. But they're programming for the world. And I can understand the difficulty programming for the U.S. audience here. It's a real -- it's a real challenge to do.

MORGAN: Let's talk about some news. What do you make of America right now, today? What do you think of your country?

TURNER: I think it's terrible that politics have gotten so money oriented with this Supreme Court ruling that the corporations can give unlimited amounts, that the moneyed interests are taking over the country. And there's too much disagreement and argument between the parties.

I believe in pulling together to make the country better right rather than pulling, tearing it apart for partisan reasons. I think the country comes first.

MORGAN: I mean, you're a guy who, historically, when you've had a rival, you haven't hesitated to give him a verbal whack or two.

TURNER: Well, only if it was deserved.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: What do you think of President Obama? How is he doing?

TURNER: I like him. I like him. I -- he's had an extremely difficult job. And I think he's done amazingly well and he's got his spirits up, and he did -- he never gets discouraged, which is really important in a leader, particularly a leader that's leading us in times of great difficulty.

MORGAN: If you were advising him, and he can do a lot worse than ask you right now, what would you tell him to be more forceful about? Where do you think he's not been strong enough?

TURNER: Well, I would have liked to see him be -- his positions are good on the environment, but he put health care ahead of the energy bill. If he had -- if he had put the energy bill first when he was first elected, it would have gone through without the kind of animosity that the health care bill engendered. So that -- that was a mistake. But it was good to get the health care bill through. I mean I supported -- I supported that, as well as the energy bill.

MORGAN: When you see American troops coming out of Iraq and now coming out of Afghanistan, there's a set timetable that's been laid down by the president, I assume you're pleased with that, because --

TURNER: I am. I was against --

MORGAN: You've been --

TURNER: I was against the wars before they started. I've studied history a lot and wars are not a good way to get things done and they've been a disaster for us. It cost us, you know, by Iraq, a trillion dollars a year, Afghanistan, a -- not a trillion dollars a year, but a trillion dollars over that period. Afghanistan, a trillion. It's just crazy.

MORGAN: When you look at the way Afghanistan has gone, many say it's become like sort of counter-terrorist operation. Is that really what America should have done, rather than going in with men on the ground, big, large phalanxes of troops, actually say we're going to tackle the terrorists through intelligence, through Special Forces and so on?

TURNER: I think -- I think war should be avoided at all costs. And we should do everything we can to get the United Nations to deal with conflicts before they get -- before they -- people start resorting to violence, because violence just begets violence. And it's easy to start wars and very difficult to stop them once they've gotten started.

I think we ought to renounce war and have -- do -- let the courts handle it. Let -- have arbitration at the United Nations and let them handle it and then be bound by what those decisions are, just like we do with the courts here in the United States.

I mean if everybody started shooting at everybody that they had a disagreement with, all we'd be doing is shooting each other. We're -- because there's enough of that anyway. But that doesn't accomplish anything, except gets people shot and escalate into -- well, into war.

MORGAN: What would you do about Iran if you were the American president?

TURNER: Well, first of all, I believe in total nuclear disarmament. That's the only way we're ever going to get people -- we've all got to play by the same set of rules. We have 2,000 or several thousand nuclear weapons. Iran has none at the current time. But it's OK for Israel to have 100, but it's not OK for Iran to have two. That's -- you're not treating everybody equally and you -- you have no strong position except force -- only by force can it be done.

I think we've already voted at the U.N., in the Security Council, to get rid of nuclear weapons. Let's get rid of them. Let's get rid of ours and then Iran will stop, I believe. And so everybody else will, because if everybody doesn't have them, then we're safe, at least safe from a nuclear attack.

I mean if we have a full scale nuclear exchange, it's going to destroy life on earth, all life. There won't -- maybe there'll be a few cockroaches left, but that's all. And I find that crazy. This is such a nice world and most of the people are really nice here, you know. And if you treat people with dignity, respect and friendliness, like I did with the Russians, and the -- and the Soviets before them, with the Goodwill Games, and if you -- if you try and make friends, you can make friends. And you can do that even with former enemies.

Look, Japan bombed us at Pearl Harbor and now we're good friends with the Japanese. You know, we fought China in the Cold War but now we're -- now we're good friends with the Chinese, most of us are.

MORGAN: Ted, let's take a -- take a break. I want to come back and talk to you about your favorite CNN moments. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: In addition to everything we've said about the super station, we're also looking at the creation of a new alternative for cable subscribers. This news service will be called the Cable News Network and will program continually updated half-hour segments of national news, business news, sports and features, 24 hours a day.

I know that we will succeed and I pledge to you that we will not let the American public down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take away the mike. To New York. Stand by, ready three, take three, mike. (INAUDIBLE) slows him a bit. We're all set. Take three. Ready 13, full. Ready camera 3, one center up.

DAVID WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm David Walker.

HART: And I'm Lois Hart. Now here's the news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That's from CNN's very first newscast on June 1st, 1980. And back with me now, the man who created CNN, Ted Turner.

What do you feel, Ted, when you see that like clip again?

TURNER: I feel good. It was a great idea and it was well executed.

MORGAN: What was the great ambition for you? What did you really want to achieve with CNN?

TURNER: I wanted to better inform the world.

MORGAN: Do you feel that you succeeded?

TURNER: Yes. You know how many news networks there are now, 24 hours news networks, in the world?

MORGAN: How many?

TURNER: Over 100.

MORGAN: Is that right?

TURNER: That's right. Every country has got one. You're not a country if you don't have one. You have -- people nowadays want instant information. They don't want to have to wait eight hours or overnight. They're used to getting information right now that they need. MORGAN: There were three memorable moments that you've highlighted, which I just want to remind you about and talk about. One was in 1987, baby Jessica being rescued from the well, which resonated with you very personally. Tell me why you loved that story so much. Why did that resonate --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Well, I could have picked any one of a thousand other stories, but that one really resonated and captured the imagination of America. Everybody was pulling for Jessica. It took -- I think she was down there for over a day.

MORGAN: Is it also one of those examples where good news can often be just as big a story and rate just as well as bad news? There's always a perception that the news tirade, it's always about some disaster or something.

TURNER: Right.

MORGAN: Come to the Gulf War. The reason I like this is I was a young reporter in London. And I remember watching in 1991 Peter Arnett and those guys from CNN. And literally on the front lines with these missiles firing over their heads, reporting live. It was the most incredible, dramatic thing.

TURNER: And the explosions, the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air.

MORGAN: Amazing.

TURNER: It was.

MORGAN: Let's play a clip from that coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just in the process of getting a tape fed to us from a location in Amman, Jordan. This is the videotape shot by the CNN crew during the opening hours of the Allied assault on the city of Baghdad.

Air Force general, retired, Harry Smith is with us in Atlanta.

General Smith, please comment on what you can see. This is the first time we've seen this tape. This is our camera crew shooting out the window from the ninth floor of the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Was that the story, the event that made you realize just how big CNN could become?

TURNER: Yes. That was the biggest story that I -- in my opinion, the biggest story that we ever had.

MORGAN: You defied the president. You kept your people there.

TURNER: Well, we get freedom of the press. I just reminded everybody we had freedom of the press and that we had volunteers, Peter Arnett, who had volunteered to stay. And we didn't make anybody stay. And I just said we're going to stay.

MORGAN: You also said at the time, look, I don't care what it costs, we've just got to --

TURNER: Well, I think I said -- I said spend whatever it takes. I didn't say I don't care what it costs. I --

(LAUGHTER)

TURNER: I did care, but I didn't want to be pinching pennies on this story.

MORGAN: What was the difference, having CNN's cameras on the front line of a war like that? What do you think the difference that decision, that capability made to the way the war was covered?

TURNER: I -- you know, just all we did was televise what we saw.

MORGAN: But did it bring a greater truth, do you think, to war coverage, the fact that you were there?

TURNER: I think so.

MORGAN: Your third story that you singled out, 9/11, the CNN coverage of that, what did that do to America, that moment?

TURNER: Well, it shook us up. It was unbelievable. And watching it -- I was in my office and I glanced up and just after the first plane had gone in. And I could see -- the building was on fire. And I was -- I sat there stunned and -- during, while I was just sitting there, just watching it, the second one came in. I saw -- and I saw it live.

And I ran down to the newsroom. Walter Isaacson was running CNN at the time. He had come over from "TIME" magazine, a good man and a good friend of mine. And Headline News had stayed with its regular format, which was giving the ball scores and the stock markets, you know, its half hour rolling format.

And a couple of times we had preempted that format when there was a big enough news story to want both CNN and Headline News televising the same thing because the story was so compelling.

And this was -- and I mentioned that to Walter. I said, "Walter, would you -- have you thought about switching over Headline News?" The last thing I did at CNN. And he said, "No, that's a great idea." And within seconds, they switched over to the live coverage of the World Trade Center. And a few -- a few minutes later, the buildings collapsed, you know. It was -- it was like Pearl Harbor, only being televised.

MORGAN: Let's take a break and come back. I want to talk to you about some of the great loves of your life, women, sailboats, sports teams. Anything else you can think of? The great passions of Ted Turner after the break.

TURNER: Yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FONDA: We had a great time for 10 years. I am -- I'm just so happy that I got to spend 10 years with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was Jane Fonda, speaking about Ted Turner on this show a few months ago.

Ted, Jane Fonda, was she the great love of your life?

TURNER: Probably.

MORGAN: Have you ever quite got over her?

TURNER: No.

MORGAN: Do you think you ever will?

TURNER: No. When you love somebody and you really love them, you never stop loving them, no matter how hard you try. You can't -- and there's nothing wrong with that. That's good. People love their country, patriots and they love their planet. You know, I basically -- I'm basically a happy person.

MORGAN: You're a man used to winning, and you lost Jane. Why would you --

TURNER: I lost Jane. I lost my job here. I lost my fortune, most of it, got a billion or two left. You can get by on that if you economize.

(LAUGHTER)

TURNER: But others were seven or eight day at one point. And -- but I -- you carry on. And I found other things to do. I'm working, trying to help the United Nations' causes, both with my philanthropy and with my personal efforts. I'm going to --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: We should --

TURNER: -- spend all day tomorrow in a meeting to try and save the oceans. So I'm on the committee to save the oceans. I'm on the committee to abolish poverty, the Millennium Development Goal to the U.N. I'm in all the -- I've got plenty of tough jobs.

MORGAN: Which of the three things that you lost, your fortune -- most of it -- Jane Fonda, or the job here?

TURNER: You want me to rank them?

MORGAN: Yes.

TURNER: No, well, I can't do that.

MORGAN: Which caused you the most --

TURNER: I love them all so much --

MORGAN: Which upset you the most?

TURNER: They all broke my heart. But I just -- you know, I just rallied. You know, winners never quit and quitters never win. I just made the comeback.

MORGAN: Are you a better man for having experienced loss?

TURNER: I'm a more experienced man, because those -- you know, the AOL merger and the subsequent -- basically destruction of my wealth, they hurt at the time, but I just toughed it out. You have to keep -- you have to keep going. You can't give up in life.

MORGAN: I thought you once said that at one stage after that AOL merger, you saw your fortune diminishing with $20 million a minute.

TURNER: No, no, it's $10 million a day for three years. Counting holidays, though.

MORGAN: I mean, that's a fairly --

TURNER: Close to $10 billion.

MORGAN: What does that feel like?

TURNER: It felt -- it felt bad. But I stayed at the company and stayed on the board of directors to try and mitigate the losses as much as I possibly could, to do what I could to help. And as a result, I lost even more because when the stockholders sued the company, I wasn't part of that suit because I was on the board. And that cost me several hundred million dollars.

But I have my honor. I had my honor at the end of it, which is not everybody in the media business can say.

MORGAN: I mean, you had a guy look you in the eye and effectively fire you from the company you created.

TURNER: That's right.

MORGAN: How does that feel?

TURNER: It really hurt, because we were making our budget and I was loyal to the management of the company. I mean, I -- you've read my book, I'm sure. I didn't do anything -- didn't do anything wrong and I think if it had been put to the employees, they would have voted to keep me. But they didn't do that because I'd done a pretty good job.

I had been "TIME's" Man of the Year or "TIME's" Person of the Year. I was the only person that worked at "TIME" ever that got that -- got that honor. That's about as big an honor as you can -- as you can get. And I was -- I think I was doing a good job. We were making a fabulous amount of money.

MORGAN: You've replaced Jane, for all intents and purposes, with a new system, which is you have four girlfriends at any one time. I mean, it's --

TURNER: Well, hopefully they won't all leave me at once.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Well, most men watching this will be going, come on, Ted, how did you get away with that?

TURNER: With great difficulty.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I mean do you -- you must have a complicated schedule with these ladies? And the women must be very tolerant.

TURNER: Well, they're -- first of all they're good friends. With me. Most of the time.

MORGAN: Are they good friends with each other?

TURNER: Some of them are. Some aren't.

(LAUGHTER)

TURNER: It's complicated. It's much easier to have one wife, but when you have one wife and she leaves you -- and I've been divorced three times -- my life was so hectic it was really hard to -- hard for them to keep up. It's much harder -- I travel all the time and --

MORGAN: You said, very movingly, that after you and Jane split up, you cried for six months --

TURNER: I didn't cry for six, but I was broken-hearted for at least that long.

MORGAN: Did you try and win her back?

TURNER: A little bit. But it looked like -- it looked like -- we were so far apart philosophically, it was -- we couldn't do it.

MORGAN: How many times have you been properly in love in your life?

TURNER: Twice.

MORGAN: Jane and --

TURNER: And another person.

But I -- that's really in love. I love a number of people.

MORGAN: But there's a difference between being in love and loving?

TURNER: Sort of. It's hard to tell where one starts and the other stops.

MORGAN: Let's take another break, Ted. I want to come back and talk to you about keeping America great. What should America be doing now to revive itself?

TURNER: I think what we need is for humanity to be great.

MORGAN: That is another point. But I want to -- specifically about America.

TURNER: OK.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: Since the United Nations Foundation created a Nothing but Nets campaign in 2006, more than 20 partners have joined and literally millions of people to raise 20 million dollars and distribute some two million bed nets to children and their families in Africa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Ted Turner, talking about the United Nations Foundation's campaign to fight malaria worldwide. And Ted Turner is back with me now. We'll come to that in a moment, Ted.

What do you think of America the business model at the moment? The reason I ask is there's a battle going on now, I think, for the way forward for capitalism in America.

I had Howard Schultz from Starbucks come on, outlining what he called the new sense of moral capitalism, where it's incumbent on successful American companies who have global sales to bring jobs back to America, to open factories here, not in China and so on.

And he was, I think, alluding as much to companies like Apple, who have 10 times as many employees in China now than America. What do you think of the concept of moral capitalism?

TURNER: I'm working so hard on the environment and nuclear weapons and the survival issues that the financial -- the financial issues and a lot of other areas, you can't be an expert on everything. And I'm not an expert on finance. I believe that we should be doing business with everybody, and --

MORGAN: But does it help America and its national interests if very successful American companies that create their ideas here, then shift out much of the production jobs to other countries? TURNER: Well --

(CROSS TALK)

TURNER: -- that's unfortunate for us, but it's good for the people who get those -- there was a reason why those jobs were shifted. Maybe it was less expensive or maybe they were better workers. I don't really -- I don't really know.

MORGAN: You were the first billionaire to stand up and say, right, I'm going to give a billion dollars to the U.N. You did that. You gave away a billion dollars of your own money. Now you see --

TURNER: I gave way over a billion, almost $2 billion.

MORGAN: But in one --

TURNER: But one time --

MORGAN: -- in one check you gave --

TURNER: -- one check, well --

MORGAN: -- but there were two --

(CROSS TALK)

TURNER: -- one commitment.

MORGAN: When you see Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and those guys now planning to leave vast sums of their fortune to charities -- TURNER: They --

MORGAN: -- I mean, they're taking their lead from you did, many would say. But what do you think of that, that --

TURNER: Well, I'm part of the giving pledge. I'm going out to California to a meeting with Warren and Bill. They're good friends, and I'm proud to be associated with them.

MORGAN: Is there too much greed in the world still? Particularly in America, do you think? Does that seem -- ?

(CROSS TALK)

TURNER: In some places, there's too much greed. But what is -- there's a lot of generosity, too. I think there's more generosity than there is greed.

MORGAN: Has money made you happy, happier than you would have been without money?

TURNER: Having some, you've got to have enough to eat. You know, you need enough to make -- you know, to live at least minimally. You have to have that. But it's nice to live well. It is nice to live well. There's -- I don't think there's anything wrong with being rich. I've been poor and rich. And I didn't give that billion dollars away till I made it. And so, you know, they both work.

MORGAN: I wanted to know what you were like when we had lunch a few months ago in New York. I went to one of your bison restaurants. And I was fascinated by one thing about the detailed way you must lead your life, because you ordered a specific number of fries with your bison burger, five fries.

TURNER: Yes, they're small.

MORGAN: But --

TURNER: I didn't want to eat a whole lot of fries, because I don't -- I'm fighting, like so many of us, older men particularly, but older women also, and even younger ones that have trouble with their weight, and I'm trying to keep the weight off of me. So -- but I do want a taste of French fries, because French fries, we make them fresh at Ted's. And I wanted to make sure that the quality's good.

MORGAN: So five is the optimum number?

TURNER: No, I could have had three. I -- actually now, I'm not eating any.

MORGAN: You've given up?

TURNER: On -- my doctors said I was allergic to potatoes, so I couldn't --

MORGAN: Really? TURNER: Yes.

MORGAN: That's terrible.

TURNER: Yes. Well, they're testing me for allergies. But at the current time, I'm not eating potatoes. I'm no dairy products, no cheese, no milk.

MORGAN: Any alcohol?

TURNER: No. No alcohol.

MORGAN: Tobacco?

TURNER: No.

MORGAN: Hard drugs?

TURNER: No.

MORGAN: Blimey, Ted, that sounds pretty Draconian. What are you allowed to do?

TURNER: I can't even drink a Coca-Cola, you know, no soft drinks.

MORGAN: Really?

TURNER: Yes. No caffeine, no coffee. MORGAN: What are you existing on?

TURNER: I'm -- water. Water and -- I'm not supposed to eat any bread, either.

MORGAN: My God, this --

TURNER: I can have bacon and sausage.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Let's come back. I want to talk to you about the presidential race. I want to know who you think is going to win, what you think of Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee.

TURNER: Well, first of all --

MORGAN: After the break.

TURNER: OK. Sorry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SINGING)

MORGAN: The hit song, "He Was Cable When Cable Wasn't Cool," by the Turnstyles. Here is Mr. Cable Cool, Ted Turner.

Let's talk politics briefly, Ted. The election's coming up in November. Mitt Romney is the likely Republican nominee for all intents and purposes. Who's going to win, do you think?

TURNER: I don't know. When I started CNN, I made the decision to stay out of endorsing candidates, and let the doers make up their own minds about politics, that it wasn't going to come from me. The other networks were all telling everybody what to do. But I wanted to be different and let people make up their own minds.

So I didn't -- I would talk about candidates. And I can say about Mitt Romney I think he's a real gentleman. I think he's been very successful. I think he's really smart. And I don't agree with everything that he believes, but I agree with a lot of it. And I think that he'd probably make a good president.

MORGAN: Are you more --

TURNER: But I'm not endorsing him.

MORGAN: Are you more Republican or Democrat these days?

TURNER: I'd like to say that right now, in the last few years, the Democrats have been closer -- have been more pro-environment. The coal industry is pretty well entrenched in the Republican Party and that's one of the things that we need to phase out, number one.

MORGAN: I've got an interview with President Bush coming up after this, specifically about military veterans. He was president for eight years before Barack Obama. What was your overview of his tenure?

TURNER: I -- a lot of the things that he did I didn't agree with. I didn't agree with the wars, for instance. And I didn't agree with -- he wasn't strong enough on the environment to make me happy. Very little happened during his term. I think we would have been much better served if Al Gore had won. I mean, it was so close.

Anyway, but then -- I think we would have -- if Al had been president, I think we would have stayed out of those wars, and we certainly would have gone a lot further towards switching over to clean, renewable energy, which we really need to do.

MORGAN: Of all the things that you've experienced in your life -- I mean, you won the America's Cup. You know, you bought a baseball team and had great glory. You dated some of the most beautiful women and married some of the most beautiful women in the world.

You made billions of dollars. All the things that you've experienced, what's been the greatest moment of your life?

TURNER: The greatest single thing is to see my children all turn out well, all five of them.

MORGAN: And have they? TURNER: They have.

MORGAN: Is that your proudest achievement?

TURNER: My proudest personal achievement. My proudest business achievement would be CNN.

MORGAN: How am I doing, by the way? I may as well get the verdict from the --

TURNER: How are you doing? I think you're doing great. I like watching you and I think you do a really good job.

MORGAN: It's almost like, you know, I'm a Catholic. It's like getting blessed by the Pope. You realize that?

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Finally, Ted, it's been fascinating for me to go through this. You said once that at your funeral, you said you'd like Willie Nelson to sing "To All the Girls I Loved Before."

TURNER: I've said a lot of things.

MORGAN: Would you still like --

TURNER: -- on my tombstone is that I have nothing more to say.

MORGAN: Ted, it's been a real pleasure.

TURNER: My pleasure.

MORGAN: Please come back again. TURNER: Let's do it.

MORGAN: I would love that.

TURNER: I'd be happy to.

MORGAN: That would be great. Thank you.

TURNER: You got it.

MORGAN: Ted Turner.

Coming up, former President George W. Bush in retirement, in a rare interview. He speaks out about America's veterans, a topic very close to his heart and a classic example of Keeping America Great.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: In a week when President Obama faced controversy over his trip to Afghanistan, one former president is quietly paying tribute to America's wounded warriors. It's a classic story of Keeping America Great and a rare interview with the man who has stayed out of the spotlight since leaving office, former President George W. Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I held our military in awe when I was president. And the stories they tell just increase the awe.

MORGAN: At first glance, Sergeant Major Chris Self (ph) is exactly what you'd expect in a race like the Warrior 100, over 60 miles of mountain biking under the blazing Texas sun. A marathon runner and triathelete, Chris has served the majority of his 27-year military career in the Army Special Forces, including remarkably seven tours in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joined the Army straight out of high school. Kind of what I wanted to do since I was about five years old, give or take. You know, as kids, we play soldier and all that stuff. I just never drew out grew out of it. I knew from the start. I started high school, they said you got to get good grades. I said, well, why? I'm going Army.

MORGAN: But his battle at home is now his greatest. Chris is one of the 20 U.S. military personnel here in Texas for the ride organized by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, led by President Bush himself.

BUSH: The W 100 is a -- is a 100 kilometer mountain bike ride to honor our vets who have been wounded in combat, to thank their families and to thank the groups that have helped them recover from serious injury.

MORGAN: Each of the warriors suffers from a devastating consequence of war. For Chris, it's his leg. The ride is a chance to prove to their former commander in chief and to themselves what they can do. BUSH: These are stories of courage, sacrifice, commitment. These are volunteers who wanted to serve the country. And they did. And they suffered serious injury.

MORGAN: December 2005, while serving in Iraq, Chris is caught in a cross fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of walked right into about 16-man prison break that apparently had killed their guards, their Iraqi guards, taken their AK-47s, apparently grabbed a few other AK-47s and was trying to escape. They were coming right around the corner. About 16 of them turned the corner and they were right there.

I shot, they shot. And in the process of maneuvering around behind a tree, I had actually gotten shot once in each leg.

MORGAN: One bullet severs a nerve in his right leg, leaving it paralyzed. Chris' wife Dana will never forget his phone call home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He couldn't feel his leg. He was very, very scared. He was starting to get a little bit -- you know, trying to -- he was having a hard time catching his breath. The pain was starting to kick in. So it was hard.

MORGAN: Back in the U.S., at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the prognosis is not good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The leg still wouldn't work. Really from the knee down, I don't have hardly any sensation. From about mid calf down, I had no sensation, no movement, no use.

So when I would walk, the foot would kind of flop there.

MORGAN: Seven months later, Chris and Dana made the devastating decision to have his paralyzed right leg amputated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was determined I'm going to get back and I'm going to do everything I did before I lost my leg.

MORGAN: Chris would have to relearn how to walk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two days before I got shot, I was training for a triathlon for when we got back from Iraq. And then two days later, I'm laying in a hospital bed where I can't move for two months.

MORGAN: Undeterred, relying on a prosthetic, Chris returns to Iraq for not one but two more tours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I found out that he was being returned to Iraq with a prosthetic, after he had already been injured, it was very, very scary, but we had a very -- our whole family is military, so we come from that. So we had a very, very overwhelming sense of pride that he was going to step up and do this.

MORGAN: Countless hours of rehabilitation and a return to combat, there was a chance meeting with his former commander in chief that gives him what no doctor could.

BUSH: I met Chris Self at the Brook Army Hospital. I had just finished my presidency, and was down there in San Antonio for a different reason and decided to go by the facility there. And there was Chris Self getting a prosthesis fixed for his leg. He said, I understand you mountain bike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we got to chitchat about bikes. He let me know that he was a mountain biker. And as the conversation ended, he started to walk off. He said you should join me in a bike ride some time. I said, you are the boss, you say when and where and I will be there.

He said, OK, Friday, 9:00 a.m., be at my ranch.

BUSH: Sure enough, he did. And a friendship and a lasting friendship started right there.

MORGAN: Since leaving office, President Bush has stayed out of the public eye, choosing instead to devote his time to veterans and friends like Chris Self.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seeing Chris around President Bush never gets old. Never gets old. He's a huge -- he loves him. He loves what he's done for the troops. He loves what he's done for the wounded. He's a wonderful, wonderful, genuine man. And it's meant the world to Chris to be able to be invited to these things and to be a big part of the W 100.

MORGAN: It means the world to the president as well.

BUSH: Well, it's important to me because I want to stay connected to the veteran community. I'm not going to be a very public person. I mean, this is a rare interview for me. And yet -- and therefore, I'm worried that the vets will think I don't care about them. And this is a way to say, not only do I respect them, but I love them and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

MORGAN: For President Bush, the Warrior 100 signifies that commitment to the veterans. For Chris Self and the others, the ride is about what they can still achieve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's inspiring because some of these guys have some injuries that make me look like I stubbed my toe. So you see that -- you see a guy riding a bicycle with one leg on the same trail as the rest of us are able-bodied guys riding. You can't help but be inspired.

MORGAN: An inspiration for 20 wounded warriors, their former commander in chief and a nation grateful for their service.

BUSH: The interesting thing you learn from a guy like Chris Self is when dealt a tough hand, he didn't fold. As a matter of fact, he didn't use his injury as an excuse. He used it as an opportunity to excel. This is a man who's been in combat seven times, twice on one leg. And to ride across the Paladora (ph) Canyon with Chris Self is awe inspiring.

He's a great example of what -- of the best of America. It's an honor to call him friend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: A moving and inspiring Keeping America Great. Goodnight.