Reverend Jerry Falwell's December 2 appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews marked his 12th media appearance on a major news program since the November 2 presidential election.
On Hardball, Falwell and Matthews discussed an advertisement for the United Church of Christ (UCC) that CBS, UPN, and NBC recently refused to air. The ad depicts bouncers outside a church turning away minority, disabled, and apparently gay parishioners. Falwell argued that unlike the minority and disabled parishioners, the gay people depicted in the ad were not born gay, because nobody "is born a bank robber or born a hostile left-winger or a hostile right-winger or gay or a promiscuous heterosexual." Rather, Falwell argued, the gay couple in the ad chose to be gay, because "all behavior is chosen." When Matthews asked Falwell if he chose to be heterosexual, Falwell answered, "I did." But moments later, when Matthews noted that when Falwell started dating he "chose girls," Falwell said, "I never had to decide. I never thought about it."
The media provides a frequent forum for Falwell, who considers himself "a missionary to the media," despite his incendiary rhetoric and false claims (which Media Matters for America has compiled). Since November 2, Falwell has appeared at least 12 times (according to a search of transcripts available on Nexis) on NBC, MSNBC, CNN, FOX News Channel or C-SPAN:
- CNN's Crossfire on December 2 (Falwell served as guest co-host)
- CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 on November 3, 5 and 29
- CNN's Paula Zahn Now on November 8 and 23
- CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight on November 18
- CNN's American Morning on November 4
- MSNBC's Hardball on December 2
- NBC's Meet the Press on November 28
- FOX News' Hannity & Colmes on November 22
- C-SPAN's Washington Journal on November 14
In a November 10, 1999, commentary, Falwell explained his "rationale" for his "frequent media appearances." Falwell stated: "A quarter century ago, God gave me my instructions regarding taking the Christian worldview to the public square. ... I have a calling from God: I utilize the secular media because I feel a personal calling and Divine enablement to confront the culture." Falwell went on to say that "I feel I must go to them through secular, pagan, prime-time media. This is my prophetic ministry: I utilize the secular media to lift up a biblical standard against the broad forces of darkness." Falwell added that "I average doing five-to-10 secular, and usually national, television and radio shows each week because I consider myself a missionary to the media."
Author and CNN host Tucker Carlson had this to say about Falwell's frequent media appearances in his book Politicians, Parasites and Partisans: My Adventures in Cable News (Warner Books, 2003): "For Falwell, appearing on television is an intrinsically positive event, a self-justifying act, an end in itself. Jerry Falwell does TV because he believes it is Good. In a theological sense. I remember how disappointed I was when I figured this out. I'd gone to the interview assuming that Falwell would live up to his reputation as an uncompromising right-wing ideologue. Instead, he was just another publicity hound."
From the December 2 edition of Hardball:
FALWELL: They're [the UCC] saying that the African-American, the Hispanic, the handicapped and then the gay couple or all four bona fide minorities. I would disagree. The two ethnic persons are as God made them, as I am Caucasian.
FALWELL: The handicapped person, behind his power, his handicap.
FALWELL: And the gay couple. They chose to marry each other.
MATTHEWS: How did they get to be gay, though?
FALWELL: Well, we probably differ there.
MATTHEWS: I'm asking.
FALWELL: But I think all behavior is chosen.
MATTHEWS: I'm open. I don't know.
FALWELL: I think that --
MATTHEWS: Did you choose to be heterosexual?
FALWELL: I did.
MATTHEWS: You chose it? You thought about it and you came up with that solution? That lifestyle?
FALWELL: Put it this way. I was taught as a child that's the right way to --
MATTHEWS: But did you feel an attraction toward women?
FALWELL: Oh, of course.
MATTHEWS: When people are born and they find themselves having an attraction to somebody from the same sex, do you think that's a choice?
FALWELL: I think you can experiment with any kind of perversity and develop an appetite for it, just like you can food.
MATTHEWS: You don't think it's nature? You think it's nurture.
FALWELL: I don't think any -- I don't think anybody is born a bank robber or born a hostile left-winger or a hostile right-winger or gay or a promiscuous heterosexual. I think there comes a time in childhood where environment may be a part of it, whatever, teaching, instruction, one chooses, I will do this or that. And that's why good, godly parenting --
MATTHEWS: How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?
FALWELL: Oh, I don't remember that.
MATTHEWS: Well, you must, because you say it's a big decision.
FALWELL: Well, I started dating when I was about 13.
MATTHEWS: And you had to decide between boys and girls. And you chose girls.
FALWELL: I never had to decide. I never thought about it.
MATTHEWS: I think it's a ridiculous proposition that you actually sit down and decide. Let me see, boy or girl this week. Anyway --
FALWELL: I don't think anybody does that.