Trapped in San Francisco, away from her partner and children in the nation's capital, Elizabeth Birch, a prominent spokeswoman for gay and lesbian causes, said she awoke this morning to more discomforting news.
It was Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., calling to tell Birch about a Washington Post article on an exchange between Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in which the two well-known Christian conservatives appeared to suggest homosexuals, abortion-rights supporters and liberal civil-rights activists were partly to blame for the terrorist attacks that toppled the World Trade Center and destroyed part of the Pentagon, killing thousands.
Birch fired off a statement deploring the comments, and so began one of the first distinctly political exchanges on Tuesday's tragedy.
'God Will Not Be Mocked'
The comments came as Falwell was appearing as a guest on Robertson's daily 700 Club program. Both expressed their sorrow and outrage over the attacks and advocated a strong response to the terror. Then Falwell elaborated on who, in addition to the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks, was responsible for them.
God, he told Robertson, had protected America "wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results.
"Throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools," he said. "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.
"[T]he 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," Falwell continued, "I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
"Well, I totally concur," responded Robertson.
Remarks 'Beyond Contempt,' Says Birch
Birch called the remarks "beyond contempt."
"They were irresponsible at best, and a deliberate attempt to manipulate the nation's anger at worst," she said.
A White House official told the Post, "The president does not share those views."
Falwell released a statement today saying his comments were taken out of context. "I hold no one other than the terrorists and the people and nations who have enabled and harbored them responsible for Tuesday's attacks on this nation," he said.
Angel Watts, a spokeswoman for Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network, said Robertson "of course" did not blame gays or atheists for the attacks.