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Falwell Regrets, Robertson Ducks

by David Vest

The Rev. Jerry Falwell has apologized for comments in which he and Pat Robertson blamed America, Americans and God for terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Falwell and Robertson’s remarks drew rapid disavowal by the White House and outright condemnation from conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, who said, “They can try to take them back all they want, but the bottom line is that their words are indefensible.”

“They have forfeited any claim to Christian leadership,” said the Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record.

Falwell’s apology described his remarks as “insensitive, uncalled for at the time and unnecessary.” He pointedly did not say that his remarks about America and Americans were wrong in additional to being “insensitive.” Nor did he indicate what would be the “right time” for such comments to be “called for.”

Falwell did, however, retract some of his remarks about “God’s judgment”: “I do not know if the horrific events of September 11 are the judgment of God, but if they are, that judgment is on all of America–including me and all fellow sinners–and not on any particular group.”

The controversial minister did not take back his earlier comment that Americans “probably got what they deserved” in the attacks. If he no longer feels that Americans have “insulted” God, he has not said so.

If Falwell’s statement of apology fell far short of the mark, Robertson’s statements were positively stupifying, suggesting a default mode even more self-serving than Falwell’s.

He denied that “anyone on his program” had suggested that anyone but terrorists was responsible for last Tuesday’s attacks. He then proclaimed that Falwell had “uttered a political statement of blame directed at certain segments of the population that was severe and harsh in tone, and, frankly, not fully understood by the three hosts of The 700 Club who were watching Rev. Falwell on a monitor.”

Having first denied, then blamed (but was it Falwell to blame, or that pesky monitor?), he then decided that the real fault lay with People for the American Way, “who for approximately the past fifteen years have taped every single telecast of The 700 Club and unfortunately take statements out of context and spin them to the press for their own political ends.”

So, since this didn’t happen in the first place, and even when it did, he was victimized by Falwell, the monitors, the press and People for the American Way, he’s ready to get this behind him and move on, folks. He “does not wish to comment further on something that is not personally in keeping with the spirit of prayer and sorrow that has been evidenced by the staff of the Christian Broadcasting Network over the past several days.”

One can only gather from this absolutely remarkable sentence that it would be disrespectful to his prayerful staff for anyone to expect him to tell the simple truth.

As Guy Owen’s Flim-Flam Man might say, “By God, that’s wonderful.” CP

David Vest is a writer, poet and piano player for the Cannonballs. A native of Alabama, he now lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit his webpage for samples of the Cannonballs’ brand of take no prisoners rock & roll and other Vest columns: http://www.mindspring.com/~dcqv

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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