On Fox News Watch, Newsday's James Pinkerton asserted that, during its coverage of Rev. Jerry Falwell's death, CNN featured "a picture of Falwell and [Adolf] Hitler together" as "kind of their idea of what he [Falwell] ought to be." In fact, the image appeared in archived footage of a demonstration in which protestors held placards featuring the faces of Falwell, Hitler, and other prominent political figures.
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On the May 19 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch, Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton asserted that, during its coverage of Rev. Jerry Falwell's May 15 death, CNN featured "a picture of Falwell and [Adolf] Hitler together" as "kind of their idea of what he [Falwell] ought to be." When host Eric Burns asked Pinkerton what CNN "sa[id] when they ran the picture," Pinkerton responded that "[t]hey didn't," adding, "[A] picture is worth a million words." Pinkerton also said, falsely, that the image was a "still" of "Falwell and Hitler together." In fact, the image to which Pinkerton referred appeared in archived footage of a demonstration in which protesters held placards featuring the faces of Falwell, Hitler, and other prominent political figures -- each emblazoned with the word "GUILTY." CNN aired the video as part of a broad segment on Falwell's supporters and opponents. CNN did not, as Pinkerton suggested, air photographs of Falwell alongside those of Hitler, in an attempt to equate Falwell with the former leader of the Third Reich.
In criticizing CNN's treatment of Falwell, Pinkerton credited the conservative Media Research Center (MRC) with having highlighted the image in question. Indeed, on May 16, Tim Graham, the MRC's director of media analysis, wrote on his weblog at NewsBusters -- an MRC Web project -- that CNN "prominently included old protest video that placed a large illustration of Falwell's face next to a large illustration of Hitler's face." The headline to Graham's post falsely accused CNN of "juxtapos[ing]" the images of Falwell and Hitler, when in fact it was the protesters who did so.
During the May 15 edition of CNN Newsroom, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reported on Falwell's legacy, describing him as a "visionary to conservatives" and a "Lucifer to liberals." After reporting on Falwell's personal history and airing a video clip of former President George H.W. Bush describing him as a "loyal friend," Crowley went on to discuss Falwell's record of "provocative" statements: "AIDS, he said, was God's punishment to homosexuals. September 11, that was God's punishment, too, unleashed on the America of abortionists, feminists, pagans, and gays. Falwell apologized for that one, blaming a lack of sleep, asking for the lord's forgiveness." This portion of the segment was accompanied by the archived footage of the protest featuring Falwell's image next to Hitler's.
In his May 16 post, Graham wrote, "CNN aired the Falwell-Hitler video ... lovingly for 15 seconds," and he pointed to Crowley's report on Falwell's death as an example of the media "stick[ing] to a script of liberal bias" because, he added, it "emphasize[d]" what the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation described as "Falwell's history of denigrative comments and examine[d] the cultural progress toward inclusion, acceptance and respect that he fought against."
From the May 19 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch:
ELLIS HENICAN (Newsday columnist): No, and I love all this misty talk, and I think some of it's even true. But, let's remember, there was another side to this guy that wasn't quite as charming as the fellow, Cal [Thomas, syndicated columnist], that you recall from the '80s.
He could say some awful stuff. I mean, he could be mean-spirited and ugly and, frankly, it hasn't surprised me, amid all the hosannas after his death, that there has been some commentary that's been a little harsh about the guy. It's the life that he chose, which was to be a bare-knuckles rhetoritician [sic] out there saying some -- and I think Jane [Hall, American University journalism professor] mentioned a couple of them -- some awful stuff. But when you live that life, you can't be surprised that upon death, there's a little more than tears.
PINKERTON: So, for example, CNN, as the MRC.org noted, they had a picture -- a montage of Falwell, and they had a little picture of Falwell and Hitler together. That was kind of their idea of what he ought to be. But that was relatively rare.
BURNS: Wait a minute, who had a picture?
BURNS: And what did they say when they ran the picture?
PINKERTON: They didn't -- a picture is worth a million words, and it was just -- the photo -- the still was Falwell and Hitler together.
From the May 15 edition of CNN's Newsroom:
CROWLEY: Son of an alcoholic who sold bootleg whiskey during Prohibition, father of a movement to restore America as God's country, a big thinker from small-town Virginia, growing his 35-member Thomas Road Baptist Church into a congregation of thousands, and then millions, as the fundamentalist reverend, raised on radio preachers, pioneered a new evangelism, the TV pulpit, beaming his Old-Time Gospel Hour into American homes, turning living rooms into pews.
Jerry Falwell said he found Jesus in 1952. He found politics in 1979, forming the Moral Majority to lobby against abortion rights, gay rights, pornography, and a host of social issues. He claimed credit for helping elect Ronald Reagan and a string of officials down the government ladder.
FALWELL: We have a goal of 200 of our people running for office this year at different levels across the country.
CROWLEY: A visionary to conservatives.
FALWELL: We admire and respect you -- the president of the United States.
PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Jerry, I am glad to have been introduced by a loyal friend.
CROWLEY: A Lucifer to liberals.
PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: In a very Christian way, as far as I'm concerned, he can go to hell.
CROWLEY: Pilloried by a high priest of porn in the pages of Hustler.
FALWELL: I personally was anguished -- am anguished -- am still hurt.
CROWLEY: Always provocative. AIDS, he said, was God's punishment to homosexuals. September 11, that was God's punishment, too, unleashed on the America of abortionists, feminists, pagans, and gays. Falwell apologized for that one, blaming a lack of sleep, asking for the Lord's forgiveness.
Through the decades, his targets ranged from terrorists to Teletubbies: Purse-toting, lovably lavender Tinky Winky was an agent of the homosexual agenda.