Two days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, television evangelists Jerry Falwell and PatRobertson, two of the most prominent voices of the religious right, said liberal civil liberties groups, feminists,homosexuals and abortion rights supporters bear partial responsibility for Tuesday’s terrorist attacks because theiractions have turned God’s anger against America. On September 13, during one of his regular appearances on PatRobertson’s “The 700 Club,” a TV show on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Jerry Falwell said,
“And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And withbiological warfare available to these monsters; the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats–what we saw on Tuesday,as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact–if, in fact–God continues to lift the curtain and allow theenemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.”
- Jerry Falwell on Pat Robertson’s “The 700 Club”
As you can hear, Pat Robertson agreed with Falwell’s statements throughout. Several days later, Falwell and Robertsonapologized after a White house spokesperson called the remarks “inappropriate.” Falwell admitted his statements wereill-timed, insensitive, and divisive at a time of national mourning. “I want to apologize to every American,including those I named,” he said. Falwell said a White House spokesperson called him the day after he appeared onthe show and told him the president disapproved. The outcry from commentators and social justice groups made a pleaagainst scapegoating and blame, and a call for unity during a time of tragedy.
But the Human Rights Campaign and other groups say that Falwell’s comments reflect a larger nationwide pattern ofscapegoating people of Middle Eastern origin or appearance. While these particular comments border on the ridiculous,they say, they may indicate the direction the country is moving—toward scapegoating ethnic groups and progressives.As we can see from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s comments yesterday praising Western civilization assuperior to the Islamic world, scapegoating takes many forms. We certainly don’t have to look far to recall the direconsequences of scapegoating Jews, progressives, and artists during World War II.
- Sonia Ossorio, Vice President of public information for NOW NYC.
- David Smith, public relations officer, Human Rights Campaign