• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Jerry Falwell and Pseudo-Pat Robertson

(corrected – Dateline Hollywood is satire; thanks to Mollie at Get Religion)

A massive banner headline in WorldNetDaily, billed as “Breaking News”:

L.A. Times admits false claim about Falwell, 9-11

So what new act of persecution against a good Christian is this? WND has the shocking details:

A column by a rabbi published in the Los Angeles Times falsely asserted Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed lesbian actress Ellen DeGeneres played a role in the 9-11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina because she was the host of the Emmy Awards before both events.

The Times ran a correction explaining the Baptist minister “made no such claim.”

The accusation appeared in a column by Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein that was critical of religious fundamentalism. But why did Stein make such an unwarranted suggestion? WND can’t be bothered to tell us, and the LA Times offers no clues either. However, two minutes of googling brings up the following, from satirical website Dateline Hollywood back in September:

Pat Robertson on Sunday said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of expressing its anger at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for its selection of Ellen Degeneres [sic] to host this year’s Emmy Awards.

…Robertson also noted that the last time Degeneres hosted the Emmys, in 2001, the September 11 terrorism attacks took place shortly before the ceremony.

“This is the second time in a row that God has invoked a disaster shortly before lesbian Ellen Degeneres hosted the Emmy Awards,” Robertson explained to his approximately one million viewers. “America is waiting for her to apologize for the death and destruction that her sexual deviance has brought onto this great nation.”

Yes, the rabbi made the huge error of confusing Falwell with Pat Robertson, in a general discussion of Christian fundamentalism. And embarrassingly, he picked a fake quote which originated with a satirical website, rather than choosing any of the far more reasonable utterances Pat is famous for. This has led to an appalling misrepresentation of Falwell’s true position on 9/11, which in no way places the blame on one lesbian:

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 who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.”

(Falwell endured considerable mockery and condemnation for this, and backed down)

First Larry Flynt, and now Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein – just how long will God allow his most faithful servant to be persecuted like this?

7 Responses

  1. Bartholomew,

    I pointed this out at Get Religion, but the Dateline Hollywood site you credit is a satirical site and the article about Pat Robertson and Ellen Degeneres is indeed a hoax. You can check it out at Snopes.

    Not that Pat Robertson doesn’t say some pretty interesting things . . . that’s just not one of them. Ditto Falwell.

  2. Thanks – I’ve amended the entry.

  3. Actually, it wasn’t this incredibly unlikely set of coincidences that caused the “error.” It was the fact that our good friend the Rabbi is a rabid anti-Christian and warps the facts to say what he wants them to say.
    Its not uncommon in today’s America.

  4. Falwell, Robertson and some other conservative Christians are all on record as associating disasters with homosexuality. The rabbi chose a duff quote, but he was hardly deliberately warping things, as you allege. And what “unlikely set of coincidences” are you talking about? And how is he a “rabid anti-Christian”, since his synagogue is involved with interfaith work? He’s clearly strongly anti-fundamentalist (rabid or otherwise), but that’s hardly the same thing.

  5. Unlikely set of coincidences: A) he confused Falwell with Robertson and B) he believed that a SATIRICAL news story was real. This isn’t an accident, it is SLOPPY JOURNALISM. Really, Michael Moore could do better.

  6. This isn’t an accident, it is SLOPPY JOURNALISM.

    We all know it was sloppy, but the story has been floating around as an urban myth for a while, and Stein was hardly the first to have been taken in by it. As I’ve said already, both Falwell and Robertson and others have linked disasters with homosexuality, so Stein’s mistake was quite understandable. There is also no honest reason to insinuate – as both you and WND have done – that a false quote was deliberately used by Stein as a plot against Falwell or other conservative Christian leaders. Why would he need to bother, when there are plenty of accurate quotes he could have been chosen that amount to much the same thing?

  7. I’m saying that in his rabidness to attack Christians he didn’t pay attention to the facts. I think that much has been mutually established.

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