L Y N C H B U R G, Va. , Sept. 20, 2001 -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell is taking back comments he made after last week's terrorist attacks, saying he shouldn't have blamed gays, civil libertarians and others for making America a target.
As the nation was still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, Falwell appeared on the Christian television program The 700 Club. He and the show's host, Pat Robertson, were expressing their sorrow over the death and destruction when Falwell broke into a speech about who should take some of the responsibility for the attacks.
He laid blame at the feet of homosexuals, abortion-rights supporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, saying their beliefs prompted God to allow terrorists to attack America.
Here is what Falwell said on The 700 Club:
"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 have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
Remarks Called Inappropriate
Falwell's controversial comments came two days after the attacks. His words drew fire not only from community leaders, but also a rebuke from President Bush, who said the remarks were inappropriate.
Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said Falwell's public comments were "stunning."
"They were irresponsible at best, and a deliberate attempt to manipulate the nation's anger at worst," Birch said in a statement.
TomPaine.com, an online journal of opinion that places an advertisement on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times every Wednesday, focused on Falwell this week. The ad, which pictured Falwell and Robertson with the title "American Taliban" across the bottom, stated, "We needn't look halfway around the world for intolerance and zealotry. We have them right here at home."
Falwell Apologizes for Comments
On Thursday on Good Morning America, Falwell said he "misspoke" when he said gays, lesbians and the ACLU made the attacks happen.
"I do not believe they endanger America. I misspoke totally and entirely," Falwell told ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer.
When shown a replay of his 700 Club remarks and the ad accusing him of intolerance, Falwell said, "In that particular interview you just showed, I did do that."
He went on, saying, "I did not intend to do what obviously I did do. I am sorry."
On the 700 Club, Robertson said he totally concurred when Falwell finished his controversial comments. Since then, Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network released a statement calling Falwell's remarks "severe and harsh in tone and, frankly, not fully understood" by Robertson at the time.