CBS interview: Ted Turner won’t pursue suicide in face of dementia

Ted Koppel spoke with the media legend

Originally posted Sunday, September 30, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The "CBS Sunday Morning" interview today with Ted Turner did not offer much new beyond what CBS released Friday. But he said he would not opt for suicide under any circumstances, even if symptoms form his Lewy body dementia proved unbearable.

Turner's father Robert Edward Turner took his own life at age 53.

"I've got five children and 15 grandchildren," Turner told Ted Koppel, former host of ABC's "Nightline." "I wouldn't put them through that. That was painful for me. I knew when my father did it, I wasn't going to."

Koppel spent time with Turner on his ranch near Boazman, Montana. They even drove out to the far reaches of the ranch to try to catch the sound of wolves.

Turner briefly talked about Lew body dementia, saying it was a “milder” version of Alzheimer’s and “not fatal,” two statements that are not true. Many people who have had spouses or parents with Lew body dementia say it can be far worse and a 2006 medical study showed life expectancy is shorter with Lewy body dementia vs. Alzheimer’s.

ExploreRELATED: What is Lewy body dementia?

Koppel, in his narration, noted: "Ted Turner begins most mornings these days with some yoga. He has never been a quitter. His willingness to show up on network television in a diminished state is a testament to his courage and surprising absence of vanity." 
The CBS story included often amusing clips from past stories done about the brash Turner by "60 Minutes" going back to 1979 (with Harry Reasoner), 1986 (Diane Sawyer) and 2003 (Mike Wallace).

Koppel spent time on Turner’s philanthropy and how he helped bring bison back from near extinction. Turner owns 50,000 himself. (Turner estimates there are now about 500,000 total in North America.)

Curiously, a moment CBS promoted where he lightly criticized CNN for airing too much politics wasn’t included in the final cut that aired Sunday.

The end of the segment featured Turner reciting a poem he memorized at Brown University about Horatius Cocles, an officer in the army of the ancient Roman Republic who fought off enemies at a bridge. He admired the man facing insurmountable odds, much like himself.

The Captain of the gate: “To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better Than facing fearful odds. For the ashes of his fathers And the temples of his gods, “And for the tender mother. Who dandled him to rest,And for the wife who nurses His baby at her breast,And for the holy maidens Who feed the eternal flame,— To save them from false Sextus That wrought the deed of shame? “Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul, With all the speed ye may;I, with two more to help me,  Will hold the foe in play.In yon strait path a thousand May well be stopped by three:Now who will stand on either hand, And keep the bridge with me?”