Thursday, May 15, 2008

CNN's Historic Pre-1994 LBJ Connection

(The following article first appeared in the February 2, 1994 issue of the now-defunct alternative newsweekly, Downtown, when CNN was still controlled by Ted Turner)

“When the news is hot, so is CNN…Entering its second decade [in 1991], the network has a new president, Tom Johnson…He worked in the White House for Lyndon Johnson and most recently was vice-chairman of the Times-Mirror Company…”

New York magazine on Feb. 11, 1991

“Johnson, 50, is an affable Georgia native with a Rolodex full of political contacts, dating from his years as an aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson…”

Time magazine on Jan. 6, 1992

“Turner…controls [in the early 1990s] the largest newsgathering organization in the world…He also controls the largest library of motion pictures anywhere, one of the largest collections of animated film, and more individual programming networks than any other broadcaster. His CNN already airs in Spanish and Portuguese to all of Latin America…”

It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks: Ted Turner’s Amazing Story by Porter Bibb in the early 1990s

The president of the Cable News Network [CNN] in the early 1990s—then Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation Chairman of the Board Tom Johnson—worked as a key aide to the U.S. politician most responsible for escalating U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, following the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

As Thinking Big by Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolf noted in 1977, “during LBJ’s tenure in the White House,” the CNN President in the early 1990s, Tom Johnson, “became an intern under White House Press Secretary Bill Moyers and rose through the ranks to become assistant to Moyers’ replacement George Christian” and “when Lyndon Johnson returned to Texas in 1969, he brought Tom Johnson along to serve as executive assistant in charge of LBJ’s Texas Broadcasting Company.”

The same book also revealed that in 1970 the then-30-year-old Tom Johnson was elected executive vice-president of LBJ’s Texas Broadcasting Company and “he joined the board of directors of the City National Bank of Austin, headed up LBJ’s Austin station KTBC, and participated in the town’s business-dominated civic groups."

The Austin TV station which CNN’s President in 1994, Tom Johnson, headed in the 1970s was profitable because LBJ “had friends in high places among those who controlled the broadcast industry,” according to a 1978 book by another former LBJ aide, Bobby Baker, titled Wheeling And Dealing: Confessions of a Capitol Hill Operator. The same book also revealed that “it is no accident that Austin, TX, was for years the only city of its size with only one television station” and “LBJ demanded, and received, the opportunity to pick and choose programs for his monopoly station from among those offered by all three of the major networks.” Wheeling And Dealing also points out that “no other television station in America had such a unique and cozy arrangement” as the LBJ-owned KTBC station which CNN’s President in 1994, Tom Johnson, used to head for LBJ.

(Downtown 2/2/94)

Next: CNN’s Historic Newsday/Los Angeles Times-Mirror Connection