Falwell squirms in interview apology

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Interview: Reverend Jerry Falwell apologizes for his remarks made on Pat Robertson's "700 Club"

DIANE SAWYER, co-host: Well, as we said, last week, two days after World Trade Center attacks, on Pat Robertson's television show "The 700 Club," there was an exchange that has since made a lot of people in this country gasp, including many of those who suffered losses at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Reverend Jerry Falwell was talking, and he said that he saw the terrorist strike as--this is in essence what he was saying, as God lifting the curtain and allowing the enemies of America to, quote, "give us probably what we deserve." And why, in his view, would God do that? Well, take a listen to what he said.

Reverend JERRY FALWELL (Liberty University): I--I I really believe that the pagans, 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 try to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen.

Mr. PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur.

SAWYER: That was Pat Robertson speaking after the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who joins us this morning from Lynchburg, Virginia.

Reverend Falwell, if I can just leap right in here.

Rev. FALWELL: Yes.

SAWYER: Your words, "I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen." Since then, you have said, "I sincerely regret that my comments were taken out of their context." Tell me any conceivable context that could redeem those words.

Rev. FALWELL: Diane, I've also since made it very clear after rewatching the clip--the clip you've just shown me, I--I misstated my own deeply-held conviction that the hijackers, the terrorists, along with those who harbored and funded them, are solely and totally responsible for those barbaric deeds. But in that interview that you just aired, by the way, in between 14 other interviews, I was trying--I'm not going to make any excuses. I've been at this 45 years almost every day on television. No excuses. I was trying to say what President Lincoln said 160 years ago at his prayer proclamation regarding the cause of the Civil War and what King Solomon said 2700 years ago in the Proverbs, 14:34. I missed the mark. No human being--and I want to say this clearly--including myself, knows, has any idea when God is executing judgment, when he's not. I certainly don't believe that those innocent thousands in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, were the targets of God's wrath. But, unfortunately, my total failure to accurately state what I was trying to say left an impression that is of a vengeful--vengeful God who's done a terrible thing to the people. And I--I sincerely apologize.

SAWYER: Well, forgive me, Reverend Falwell, if your use of the word misstatement defies credulity here--and I want to make sure that this is not about religion.

Rev. FALWELL: I was wrong.

SAWYER: Well, this is not about religion because a lot of people who take their faith seriously, as do I, want to ask you some questions about what you do believe.

Rev. FALWELL: Please.

SAWYER: Because you've said things like this before. Pagans, abortionists, secularists, the ACLU, gays, all these lists of people. I want to know, do you believe that they provoke the wrath of God, that they--that they endanger America?

Rev. FALWELL: Diane, I'm a pastor and I, for 50 years, have been a pastor. The same, church, 45 years. I do oppose abortion. I do oppose the removal of school prayer and so forth.

SAWYER: It's a different issue, though, about endangering--it's a different issue about endangering America.

Rev. FALWELL: Yes.

SAWYER: And are you going to be...

Rev. FALWELL: I do not believe they endanger America. I misspoke totally and entirely. I'm here by choice because, you know, I want--want--we're helping. We're raising money for the firefighters fund, we're trying to minister, we have people on the ground there working. And that one stupid statement that I made is indefensible, it is not--it is not a blip, it was a mistake, and I--I didn't get to straighten it out. I--I made--by the way, I've done thousands of interviews and no--nowhere have I ever said any such thing, you know that. And this one time I hope that I can clearly say to the people who've been hurt in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, to all Americans, I do not blame God, I do not blame any human being. This is the act of terrible zealots who hate us because we love and support Israel.

SAWYER: Well, there was an ad taken out by a group, and we don't know exactly who they are. They call themselves TomPaine.com. And it says, "We needn't look halfway around the world for intolerance and zealotry. We have them right here at home." And your picture is there with Reverend Roberts as the American Taliban. And their point is that you demonize entire groups of people and that's exactly what the Taliban do.

Rev. FALWELL: Well, in that particular interview you just showed, I did do that. And I--I did not intend to do that. But I don't know what a Christian--I'm a Christian and a pastor, and my experience tells me that when we do something that we shouldn't do, say something we shouldn't have said, our apology and acknowledgment should be just as--as public as our statement. That's why I'm here on GOOD MORNING AMERICA to say to you, the American people, to the groups I mentioned, I did not intend to do what obviously I did do. I'm sorry. I have God's forgiveness and I ask yours.

SAWYER: And you will not be attacking these groups again, ever?

Rev. FALWELL: When you say attacking groups, I'll be speaking out against abortion for as long as I live. I'll be speaking out against the secularization of our country as long--but no, you will never hear me blaming individuals. I don't do that. I haven't done it, I'm not doing it now.

SAWYER: A quick final thought from you. Pat Robertson released a statement saying that you were, quote, "severe and harsh" and that in concurring with you, that he did it because, quote, "he frankly didn't understand you."

Rev. FALWELL: Well, Pat Robertson didn't...

SAWYER: Didn't he understand you?

Rev. FALWELL: Well, Pat didn't say what I said. I take the total blame for it. Pat was talking about something totally within the concept of a good Christian program. I am the one who made the stupid statement you just played, and I take full responsibility. Pat is totally nonresponsible, and I am sorry.

SAWYER: Reverend Jerry Falwell, joining us, as we say, from Lynchburg, Virginia, we thank you for being on our program this morning.

Rev. FALWELL: Thank you.

SAWYER: And as you just heard, an apology made. And we'll be right back.

******************************************************************************** Byron Werner hotwire@d2.com 310 314-2800 ---->NEW ext 2198
Digital Domain 300 Rose Ave. Venice, Ca. 90291 ********************************************************************************
"...many of your comments are as asinine as your taste in music."
-Chris Fuller on Byron Werner

Back to document index

Original file name: [Fwd- Falwell squirms in i - converted on Monday, 24 September 2001, 21:28

This page was created using TextToHTML. TextToHTML is a free software for Macintosh and is (c) 1995,1996 by Kris Coppieters