NEW YORK (Reuters) — Outspoken U.S. media mogul Ted Turner apologized Friday for calling Catholic employees "Jesus freaks" for wearing ashes to mark Ash Wednesday.
The comment last week from Turner, who's been dubbed "The Mouth of the South" for his freewheeling remarks over the years, outraged Christian groups.
"I apologize to all Christians for my comment about Catholics wearing ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday," Turner, the founder of the Cable News Network and vice chairman of AOL Time Warner Inc., said in a statement. "I do not believe in any form of prejudice or discrimination, especially religious intolerance."
Turner, 62, made his comment on Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, before about 300 people Feb. 28 at CNN's offices in Washington, D.C.
Noticing that several staffers had ashes on their foreheads to mark the religious holiday, Turner reportedly stared at them and said, "I realized you're just Jesus freaks. Shouldn't you guys be working for [rival network] Fox?"
The gaffe was reported by Fox News. Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter, celebrated by Christians to mark Jesus Christ's resurrection.
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said Turner had an "anti-Christian bias that runs deep in his bones," according to the New York Post.