On Meet the Press, Falwell lied about post-9-11 remarks and divorce rate


On the November 28 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Reverend Jerry Falwell defended his September 13, 2001, remark that abortion rights advocates, feminists, and homosexuals, among others, were responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks, falsely claiming that when he assigned that blame, he had "likewise" held responsible "a sleeping church, a lethargic church." Falwell also falsely claimed that the divorce rate is lower among born-again Christians than it is among all other Americans.

When Meet the Press moderator and managing editor Tim Russert raised Falwell's 2001 comment blaming "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians" for the September 11 terrorist attacks (he also blamed the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and People For the American Way), Falwell falsely claimed that after delivering that remark -- on the September 13, 2001, edition of Reverend Pat Robertson's The 700 Club -- he "went on to say, 'In a sleeping church, a lethargic church likewise is responsible.'" But Falwell's claim is false: The full transcript of Falwell's 700 Club appearance, provided by People for the American Way, shows he did not blame any church for the terrorist attacks. Just before his diatribe against the groups he deemed directly responsible, Falwell remarked that the attacks were "probably what we deserve." But that remark seemed to suggest that the United States "deserve[d]" the attacks because of the actions of the groups he named, and the church was responsible only because it did not stop those groups' movements. Later in his 700 Club appearance, Falwell noted that the numerous post-September 11 prayer meetings at churches across the United States "could be God's call to revival."

Also during the November 28 edition of Meet the Press, Russert and Falwell discussed religion and morality in the northern and southern United States. Russert noted: "A report came out that the state with the lowest level of divorce is Massachusetts. The states with the highest level are the so-called Bible Belt, in the South." Russert also noted that Desperate Housewives, an ABC television drama which some critics consider risqué, is "a widely viewed television series, particularly in the South." Falwell falsely claimed that the studies Russert reported do not hold true for born-again Christians: "I would take that poll a little further. Among born-again, Bible-believing Christians who take the Bible as the word of God, you'll find those stats are nonplus [sic]."

A September 8 study by Ventura, California research and marketing firm The Barna Group stated: "[T]he likelihood of married adults getting divorced [35 percent] is identical among born again Christians and those who are not born again [all Americans who are not born-again]." As Boston Globe columnist William V. D'Antonio noted on October 31, 2004, Barna Group founder and directing leader George Barna is himself a born-again Christian.

In addition to his falsehoods, Falwell attacked a fellow Meet the Press panel member, Sojourners Magazine editor in chief and progressive Reverend Jim Wallis, labeling him "anti-America" because Wallis was opposed to former President Ronald Reagan's Cold War policies of "peace through strength." He remarked that "we'd all be speaking German now" if Wallis had "been the president in World War II." Falwell also suggested that gay conservatives are not welcome in the Republican Party. When Russert noted that Newsweek magazine describes Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry as a "conservative gay Republican," Falwell replied, "Well, the fact that he's a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic Party."

The Center for American Progress's Progress Report also documented Falwell's Meet the Press appearance, noting Falwell's attempt to narrowly define "moral values" as opposition to gay marriage and abortion. In fact, exit polling from the November 2 presidential election more often cited voters as defining "moral values" as moral concern about "greed and materialism" and "poverty and economic justice."

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