Jerry FalwellJerry Falwell is a prominent Southern Baptist Jesus freak, in addition to the whitest man who ever lived. He is famous for making ignorant and offensive pronouncements which are often followed by retractions and halfhearted apologies.
Falwell has built a shtick out of making ridiculously offensive statements about his detractors. A shining example of this was the statement he made two days after the 9-11 terror attacks, while the wreckage at Ground Zero was still smoking:
"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. 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, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen."
After withstanding a couple of days of tremendous public denunciations (even from conservative ally Rush Limbaugh), Falwell was ultimately forced to issue a non-apology. He tried his best to defuse the situation without actually backing down: "I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize."
Except that his statement explicitly did blame people other than the terrorists. Lots of them. The same people, in fact, that Falwell's continually blamed for America's problems ever since founding the Moral Majority in 1979.
Falwell once proclaimed: "I have a Divine Mandate to go into the halls of Congress and fight for laws that will save America." Accordingly, the Moral Majority was conceived as a tool to provide leverage for Falwell to influence the Republican party platform and help their candidates to get elected.
His mission? "We must, from the highest office in the land right down to the shoeshine boy in the airport, have a return to Biblical basics."
Falwell's strategy was to create a voting block of Christian conservatives and insinuate them into the Republican party. So he urged fundamentalists and evangelicals to set aside their differences and mobilize under his unifying banner. The Moral Majority's rank-and-file members were expected to vote the way Jerry told them. "Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions," he explained.
The Moral Majority began with fighting the Equal Rights Amendment tooth and nail. In typical Falwell fashion, he went out of his way to antagonize its proponents:
"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals... These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men; that's their problem."
The Moral Majority campaigned for public school reform, by which they meant the inclusion of creationism in science curricula and state-sanctioned prayer in the classroom. They also opposed the SALT treaties and nuclear disarmament in general.
But all this was just foreplay. The hardcore issues for the Moral Majority were always gay rights and legalized abortion.
Falwell believes that homosex is a horrific sin perpetrated by degenerates. But unlike Fred Phelps, who swears that "God hates fags," Jerry claims that God hates only the sinful acts of faggotry themselves. Nevertheless Falwell scolds America for failing to be sufficiently intolerant to gaiety: "AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."
Falwell's revulsion sometimes manifests itself in bizarre, nearly paranoid, ways. In 1999 he published an article in his National Liberty Journal entitled "Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet." The piece focused on disturbing clues that one of the characters in the hit children's show Teletubbies was designed to promote the gay lifestyle:
Now, further evidence that the creators of the series intend for Tinky Winky to be a gay role model have surfaced. He is purple -- the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay-pride symbol.
When the mainstream media ridiculed Falwell for analyzing the sexual politics of a show aimed at pre-schoolers, Jerry responded that he didn't understand how people could miss the subtext. He contended that gay periodicals had been discussing Tinky Winky's sexual orientation for quite some time. Falwell simply couldn't grasp that the gay community's embrace of the character had been tongue-in-cheek.
But then, Falwell never really had an appreciation for anyone else's idea of comedy. In 1983 HUSTLER magazine ran a fictional Campari liquor ad featuring Jerry Falwell extolling the virtues of drunken motherfuckage:
FALWELL: I never really expected to make it with Mom, but then after she showed all the other guys in town such a good time, I figured, "What the hell!"
Falwell sued HUSTLER's publisher, Larry Flynt. The case eventually wound up before the Supreme Court, and Jerry lost in a unanimous decision. The Court told Falwell that, as a public figure, he was fair game.
Perhaps Falwell learned something useful from the HUSTLER verdict. In 1994, he issued a direct mail piece asking financial contributors to "help me produce a national television documentary which will expose shocking new facts about Bill Clinton."
Falwell took the money and cranked out the smear-campaign-in-a-videotape called The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton. It was unsophisticated conservative agitprop, full of lies and unsubstantiated rumors about both the President and the First Lady.
The producer of the tape, Patrick Matrisciana, later confessed to having posed in the video as an anonymous journalist. The silhouetted figure on the tape told Jerry that President Clinton was killing off whistleblowers who knew too much about his private life. It was a complete fabrication. When the news broke about the complete dishonesty of the tape, in true form Falwell tried to disclaim having any editorial control over the project.
Although ostensibly motivated by hatred for the Democrats, The Clinton Chronicles had been primarily a moneymaking effort. Like any televangelist, money was always an issue for Falwell. His empire required continuous infusions of cash.
In 1994 Falwell quietly accepted $3.5 million from Korean cult messiah Sun Myung Moon as part of a larger deal to bail Liberty University out from under its horrendous debt load. Perhaps Jerry was moved by this staggering generosity. That might be the reason why Falwell publicly urged his friend President Reagan to pardon Moon's tax evasion conviction.
Jerry was widely criticized in the Christian community for lending legitimacy to Moon's organization. Moon had always claimed that he was Jesus Christ's successor and moral superior. It was inconceivable that a fundamentalist Christian like Falwell would regard Moon as anything other than a blasphemer. But, as always, whenever confronted with a choice between money, connections, or the appearance of propriety, propriety came last.
That fact alone, in retrospect, makes it strange that Falwell was selected to take over the PTL Ministry when Jim Bakker was taken down by scandal in 1987. Bakker tapped Falwell to protect PTL and defend it against marauders, specifically fellow televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. Falwell promptly stabbed Bakker in the back by steering PTL straight into bankruptcy court.
Then in 1988, Falwell launched another failed bid to gain a presidential pardon, this time for greedy traitor and convicted perjurer Oliver North. It should not have come as a surprise. After all, they were kindred spirits.