Friday, March 03, 2006

Oh Those Funny False Prophets

The compassionate conservative(s)

plotting their next genocidal invasion, while W. complains he has to go ...

Time to take christianity back from the psychopaths.

Falwell's Fascist Follies

(Deliver us from evil, eh!)

Bill Berkowitz

Working For Change 10.16.02

Falwell's follies

When the Rev. speaks, s**t happens

What do civil libertarians, gays, feminists, pro-choice advocates, pagans and Muhammad have in common? Within the past year or so, they've all felt the verbal wrath of the Rev. Jerry Falwell. For years, the Rev. Falwell's message of hate has been mostly a domestic matter. His recent remarks on CBS' "60 Minutes" calling Muhammad a "terrorist," however, caused an immediate international commotion.

Last year, shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Rev. Falwell told Pat Robertson's "700 Club" audience that "… I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle... all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"

Besieged by critics and perceived as being pretty damned nasty, the Rev. Falwell became apologetic. Well… sort of. A few days after teeing off on the laundry list of his life-long enemies, Falwell claimed that his comments were made "during a theological discussion on a Christian television program [and they] were taken out of their context and reported, and that my thoughts -- reduced to sound bites -- have detracted from the spirit of this time of mourning." Like the politician who tells a racist joke and then claims he didn't know he was being recorded, Falwell claimed his words were meant only for Christian true believers, and not for the public at large. That excuse doesn't change the nature of his comments.

Falwell: 'Muhammad was a terrorist'

Flash forward nearly 13 months: On the October 6th edition of "60 Minutes," the Rev. Falwell told CBS' Bob Simon:

"I think Mohammed was a terrorist. I read enough by both Muslims and non-Muslims, [to decide] that he was a violent man, a man of war. In my opinion, Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses, and I think Mohammed set an opposite example."
In short order, with critical comments against him mounting both at home and abroad, Falwell claimed that he was a victim of sound bite journalism - the real culprit was that Satanesque excuse for a journalist, Bob Simon.

The Rev. Falwell is no victim. His situation is in no way comparable for example to the time Connie Chung ambushed Newt Gingrich's unsuspecting mother and got her to say some nasty stuff on network television about Hillary Clinton. The Rev. Falwell is television-savvy; he's been a guest on more television programs in a year than most all other religious figures will appear on in a lifetime. On his website, the Rev. frequently informs the faithful of his upcoming talking-head schedule.

Playing the "I was tricked" card, the Rev. Falwell told WORLD, the weekly evangelical news magazine, that he "should have known" that CBS would use the comments "to stir up conflict and animosity." It wasn't that his comments were hateful, the Rev. seemed to be was saying. It was the fact that CBS would use them that was the problem.

According to Marvin Olasky, World's editor-in-chief, Falwell said that Simon "had called him back once the uproar began, fishing for more, and that he had complained about CBS extracting from 1 1/2 hours of interview tape that divisive side remark. 'I believe you exploited me and took advantage of me as a person,' he told Mr. Simon, who quickly got off the phone," Olasky reported.

Olasky rushed to Falwell's defense, and in his World column he declared Simon to be "a bigot." Olasky claims that the segment on "60 Minutes" was meant to focus on Christians and Israel, not Islam, "but Mr. Simon in passing asked Jerry Falwell if he thought Muhammad approved of violence, and Mr. Falwell fell into the trap. CBS then promoted 60 Minutes with the 'terrorist' sound bite, in full knowledge that it was incidental to the thrust of the piece. The evident goal: Hype the program, build the audience, and never mind the lack of context."
Shooting off his mouth

The Rev. Falwell has made a career out of shooting off his mouth. It is only during these past few years that his remarks have become part of the greater public discourse. Claiming as he did that the television figure Tinky Winky was gay was one thing -- laughable for its utter absurdity -- but branding the head of a religion a terrorist is a much more serious matter.

On October 11, Canadian Press reported that at least five people were killed in Hindu-Muslim rioting and police gunfire in western India. According to Canadian Press, "The violence erupted during a general strike to protest remarks" by the Rev. Falwell. In Iran to get that country's support for a tough UN resolution against Iraq, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he regarded Falwell's comments "as much an insult to me as a Christian as they are to Muslims."

Finally, on Saturday, October 12, the Rev. Falwell issued an apology. According to Reuters, the Rev. Falwell said he meant no disrespect to "any sincere, law-abiding Muslim."

In a prepared statement the Rev. Falwell said: "I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for CBS's '60 Minutes' were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims."

On October 14, the Associated Press reported that leaders in the two main branches of Islam generously "welcomed" the apology. Falwell "deserves thanks for his return to the righteous path," said Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the grand sheik of Al-Azhar, a Sunni Muslim mosque in Cairo.

In the Iranian city of Qom, an important Shiite Muslim center of learning, a high-ranking cleric said Falwell had shown courage. "A person courageous enough to apologize for his errors is worthy of praise," Ayatollah Hussein Mousavi Tabrizi told The Associated Press. "It's humanitarian and good Islamic behavior to accept an apology from a person who admits making a mistake."

As the editor of The Data Lounge pointed out on October 9, Falwell's statement has been one link of the chain of anti-Muslim sentiment spewing forth from fundamentalist preachers: "Pat Robertson… called the Prophet Muhammad "a wide-eyed fanatic" and "a killer" and denounced Islam as "a monumental scam." Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, claimed that Islam is "a very evil and wicked religion." The Rev. Jerry Vines, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told an audience of several thousand listeners at its annual conference that the Prophet Muhammad was "a demon-possessed pedophile."

So how sincere was Falwell's latest apology? As of this writing, the Rev. had not yet publicized either his comments or his apology at his official website,

Blaming the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on his political enemies and calling Muhammad a terrorist is pure unadulterated Falwell. The Rev. drops a rhetorical bombshell, eventually recognizes the damage he's done, and slips into full spin mode -- claiming victim-hood. And if that doesn't work, he issues an apology. And while the Rev. Falwell's latest remarks certainly add to his legacy of hate, Marvin Olasky's sprint to his defense indicates that the Rev. will no doubt maintain his good standing amongst some of the brethren. For more please see the Bill Berkowitz archive.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His Working For Change column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

Join Working AssetsWant to build a better world? Help make a difference by joining Working Assets Long Distance. Playing the "I was tricked" card, the Rev. Falwell told WORLD, the weekly evangelical news magazine, that he "should have known" that CBS would use the comments "to stir up conflict and animosity." It wasn't that his comments were hateful, the Rev. seemed to be was saying. It was the fact that CBS would use them that was the problem.


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