CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE
From the Associated Baptist Press
Controversial Falwell remark used in fund-raising appeal
October 31, 2001 - Volume: 01-91
By Robert Marus
LYNCHBURG, Va. (ABP) -- Critics say Jerry Falwell is attempting to
cash in on the controversy surrounding him in the wake of the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks, while a spokesman for Falwell accuses members
of the media and liberal groups of refusing to "take their foot off
In a fund-raising letter dated Oct. 4, Falwell's son, Jonathan,
appeals to would-be donors by casting his father as a victim of
"liberal lies." The letter, sent out by Jerry Falwell Ministries,
also contends that "liberals of all stripes, especially in the media,
have seized on this opportunity to trash dad's deeply held Christian
beliefs and to literally attack him day and night."
The letter comes after public apologies by the elder Falwell for
remarks he made on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" program Sept. 14. In
the appearance, the televangelist said that feminists, pagans, gays,
lesbians, abortion-rights supporters, supporters of church-state
separation and civil liberties groups have contributed to an
atmosphere of sinfulness that caused God to "lift the curtain" of
protection around the U.S.
The comments drew controversy even among Falwell's conservative
allies. Radio host Rush Limbaugh, Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly
and President George W. Bush all criticized the remarks.
Robertson said on the air he agreed with Falwell but later claimed he
had misunderstood Falwell's on-air comments. Falwell first claimed
the media had taken his remarks out of context. He later said his
comments had simply been misunderstood by a secular media untrained
in the nuances of theology. Finally, in a Sept. 20 appearance on
"Good Morning America," Falwell apologized and called his earlier
The Oct. 4 fund-raising letter, however, describes Falwell as being
"roundly vilified in the news media" and claims that "liberals, and
especially gay activists, have launched a vicious smear campaign to
Americans United for Separation of Church and State brought the
fund-raising letter to the media's attention. Barry Lynn, the group's
director and a frequent Falwell critic, said the Oct. 4 letter
doesn't square with Falwell's Sept. 20 apology.
"I don't see how one can say that one has apologized and then the
next moment turn the former apology into a fund-raising letter that
attacks some of the very people that he attacked initially," Lynn
said. "Clearly, he has not apologized or he wouldn't have sent out
this fund-raising letter. He thinks that he has been wronged. And he
has not been wronged -- he has not been wronged by the media, which
has given him an abundance of opportunities to apologize, and then to
clarify the apology."
Falwell's assistant, Ron Godwin, said the Oct. 4 letter was justified
in portraying Falwell as a victim of the media.
"Dr. Falwell misspoke, he apologized, and a number of people in and
out of the dominant national media will not take their foot off of
his neck," Godwin said.
Godwin contended that Falwell "continues to experience a smear
campaign" and that the preacher "has continued to be at the brunt of
an attempt to discredit him." He refused to point to any concrete
examples of the alleged smear campaign, however, suggesting that the
reporter look up such examples himself.
Lynn questioned Godwin's and Falwell's logic. "That letter is an
attack letter on the media, who did nothing but report [Falwell's]
own words," he noted. "How is that a smear campaign?"
Godwin accused Lynn and Americans United especially of trying to stir
up this controversy "because he can't get enough attention for
Godwin also said the Oct. 4 letter "in no wise is intended or was
intended to alter Dr. Falwell's original statements or his original
Falwell was for many years an independent Baptist who criticized
leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention for being too liberal.
However, in 1998 Falwell led his church to affiliate with the SBC,
and he has been a featured speaker at many gatherings of SBC
conservatives. SBC leaders have been silent regarding Falwell's
controversial Sept. 14 statements in news stories reported by Baptist
Richard Land, head of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty
Commission and a frequent political ally of Falwell's, declined to
comment on the situation.
Jim Baucom, moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and a
fellow pastor with Falwell in Lynchburg, Va., also declined to
comment further on the fund-raising letter. Baucom had earlier
published a strong critique of Falwell's initial statements and the
theology that prompted them.
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