The GOP's latest bombshellSeptember 10, 2013: 1:16 PM ET
Janine Turner, who turned heads as the star of television's Northern Exposure, is turning them anew as a conservative political commentator.
By David Whitford, editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- Possibly the last time you paid really close attention to Janine Turner was when she was playing Maggie O'Connell, the femme fatale bush pilot on the early 1990s hit TV series Northern Exposure. In which case, wild guess, you're a Blue-State liberal.
Red Staters are more apt to know that while Turner is still acting -- she's got a new movie coming out next year, Solace, with Anthony Hopkins -- her new gig is conservative politics. She spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention. She's on Fox News a lot with Hannity and O'Reilly. And she hosts a radio talk show that originated in Dallas, migrated to Houston when she signed a development deal with Clear Channel (CCMO), and is about to go national on Clear Channel's mobile app, iHeartRadio.
Turner is also co-founder of Constituting America, a non-profit that sponsors patriotic essay, songwriting and video contests for kids. It's online at constitutingamerica.org, where you'll also find Turner's published commentaries on the Federalist Papers, all 85 of them.
I called Turner for a chat from my office in blue New England.
Greetings from Massachusetts!
I love Massachusetts.
You love Massachusetts?
Yes, I'd like to live in Boston at some point in my life, if just for a little while, because it's where it all began. I've been a John Adams fan since I was eight years old. It's kind of weird. When my daughter and I visited Boston we visited John Adams's crypt in Quincy. Have you been there?
Oh my gosh! It's right down the road, it's like 10 minutes away. Obviously we wouldn't be here without George Washington. But John Adams was pivotal in so many aspects. I got there, and they said, "Be sure to go to the church of presidents." I did, and they said, "Would you like to see his grave?" I'm like, "Yeah, sir!" We walk downstairs, they open the door, it's this little, small room, all cement, and in there are four crypts. John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John's wife, Louisa. I walked in there, and I burst into tears.
There is John Adams, he is right there! And there is Abigail Adams. I just really couldn't believe it. It's really worth going if you ever have a break. It's so close. I know what it's like, though. It's like living in New York City and never going to the Statue of Liberty.
How did you become so interested in the Constitution and the founding fathers?
It wasn't any kind of direction or focus from my parents. They put me in ballet class and beauty pageants as a kid, modeling, things of that nature. I had a 1950s mother. But I was a straight-A honors student. I give them credit, but I also think you're sort of born with passions. It's one of mine.
We didn't have a lot of political discussions around our table, but when I was eight years old I looked at my father, he's a West Pointer, and I said, "Dad, if our founding fathers were to come back today, what would they be most disappointed about?" He looked down, he thought about it for a minute and he said, 'Taxes." Actually, since I've become a constitutional scholar, I believe the 16th Amendment ["The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes ..."] empowered government to become the monster that it is.
How long have you been doing radio?
About two and a half years. I started in my bedroom, using an iPhone app. Just like every entrepreneur, right? Because of my show-biz notoriety, I was able to get great interviews -- Michelle Bachman, Herman Caine, all these amazing governors. I was editing myself on my little computer and sending it out on social media. Then I was picked up about four months later by KLIF out of Dallas. I did a Saturday night show. It won best radio talk show in 2011 by the DallasObserver. That was pretty cool. I was with them for about a year and a half. Then I sent a letter off to the CEO of Clear Channel, John Hogan, and he got back to me immediately. He said, "Yes! We're always looking for new talent." I've been under a development deal with them the past six months out of Houston, every weekday afternoon during drive time, and now they're going to use my show as part of the new launch for their iHeart app nationwide.
Before you moved back to Texas, you lived and worked in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. What was it like to be a conservative in a liberal town?
It was a shock. I was engaged to Alec Baldwin -- there's a shocker! We know how liberal he is! When we were engaged I remember calling him, saying, "Oh gosh, I just read an article by William Safire about how we need more conservatives, more young kids to step forward, and that's going to be me!" And there was this long pause on the phone. He said, "You're a Republican? I'll try not to hold it against you." It only got worse from there. I was really sort of shunned and told to keep quiet and not talk. It was tough, but it didn't change my beliefs.
How would you summarize your political beliefs?
I'm socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I'm almost more libertarian. I think the government should just stay out of social issues. I think social issues are really hurting the Republican party, and I think we need to just focus on saving our country and getting back to limited government, and let the social issues be left to God.
Do you support gay marriage?
I really think I do. I believe in traditional marriage but I just don't think it's my business. I'm not the judge of people's lives, God is the judge of people's lives. Who am I to say? I think we should have stayed out of it all along.
Marriage for me is a union that's bound with religion. But you see, here's the deal. I'm a single mom. My daughter's father and I broke up when I was eight months pregnant. It wasn't a good thing. I would have loved to be in a traditional marriage. I believe in traditional marriage. However, it didn't work out that way for me or my daughter. So I have been raising my daughter, providing for my daughter. She's 15. She has written her own book about the Constitution. She's a straight-A student and she loves life. We read the Bible every morning. I teach her about sobriety because I'm sober. The reason I'm sensitive about social issues is because I hear single mothers being attacked all the time. I know how that feels. Single moms work really, really hard. And I believe if we're going to be pro life -- and I am pro life -- and if we're going to encourage people to have sonograms and look at the baby and don't abort life -- and we do -- then the far right shouldn't beat up on single mothers.
I know what it does to my daughter when Ann Coulter gets up there and says every child of a single mom is going to become a stripper and a drug addict. My daughter starts to cry. The impact they're having on women out there! No one knows their journey, no one knows their heart. Maybe they were married, then they got divorced. You don't know the circumstances of that marriage. You don't know what the father was like. Somehow it all just depends on the women.
Where are the dads? Let's put the focus on both. Let's teach our parents to teach their boys that if they have sex and there's a baby coming along and she doesn't want to have an abortion, it's not okay to walk. That's what I think abortion has done. It's given this kind of window where the guy says, "Get an abortion," and she says, "Well, no," and he says, "Well, you're on your own." Obviously, if everyone were married before they had sex, wouldn't that be the perfect world? But life hasn't worked that way since the beginning of time.
Do you support sex ed in schools so that kids can make smarter decisions?
If you want to not have pregnant kids have abortions, then birth control's pretty important. I'm not opposed to sex education, but I don't think it's sex education we need as much as we need a moral compass. I believe they've taken God out of the schools and there's no moral compass anymore. We're seeing it with kids shooting people for the fun of it. The First Amendment says not to establish religions; we came here to be free from that. But we also have the freedom to worship the God we want. Let kids have a 15-minute class with whatever god they want, whether it's a Jewish God or a Muslim God or no God. But let's not exclude God from the schools. Freedom is the ability to say. "Here's A and here's B. I've heard both sides. Now I'm going to use my reason to choose what I want to believe in." To me that's freedom. To take God out of schools and tell kids we were born out of evolution, or to just give sex education and not talk about the spiritual aspects, I don't think that's freedom.
Who do you like for president in 2016?
George Washington said in his farewell address that the party system will be the demise of America because people will care more about their parties than being an American. I think we're seeing that now. The candidates I like are the ones who say, "I don't care what the Republican party says or the Democrats, I'm going to do what I think is best for my constituents and for America." And the people I see doing that are the people who are trying to defund Obamacare, which would be Ted Cruz, Senator Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Those are the ones that I really admire.
You see the Tea Party a positive development?
I love the Tea Party, absolutely. They're an umbrella over all different types of parties. They're not really concerned with social issues, they're concerned with fiscal issues and limited government, and I'm concerned about those things. I'm not negating the Republicans, I think they love the country, too. And I think a third party would be detrimental -- we saw what happened with Bush and Perot -- but I really do love the Tea Party for the way they're shaking things up.
I take it you're opposed to universal health care and stricter gun control?
Right. I'm pro Second Amendment and against Obamacare. On gun control, I really feel, it's our culture, it all goes back to the culture. There's so much violence in movies, TV, and video games. I don't believe in censoring Hollywood, but I think we as a culture, as parents, can wake up and say, "Wait a minute, this isn't good for my child to see all these things." We can turn it off! Turn everything off! Take the earplugs out, turn off the TV, turn off the radio, go home, look at your kids, go out in nature, talk. We're not having conversations with our children anymore. The violence is coming more from that more than anything else.
Did you mark the recent anniversary of the March on Washington on your radio program?
I did! I read Martin Luther King's entire speech in my opening monologue, and then I talked about it. I think it was beautiful and momentous and God-based. He talked about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I think that's the way it should be done, I respect that a lot. He even quoted "My country, tis of thee, sweet land of liberty." He didn't say America was terrible. He actually said America has the promissory note. If we had more leaders like him today we'd be a different nation.