To his enduring shame, here’s the quote for which he’ll probably be best remembered. He was talking about the 9/11 attacks:
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.”
I’ve followed Jerry Falwell’s career for a long, long time. As a teenager in the Deep South during the ’70s, I had a peculiar fascination with the then-new breed of televangelists. My friends and I used to watch and goof on Falwell, Jim Bakker, and Pat Robertson years before they became household names. And I can tell you, they toned down their act considerably after reaching the national spotlight.
It’s easy for someone like me to bash Jerry Falwell. I reject his brand of religion, and I reject his backward social views. But in the spirit of not speaking ill of the dead, let me say this. In that fulcrum year of American politics, 1980, Jerry Falwell stood on the right side of history when he rallied evangelical support for Ronald Reagan. Notwithstanding his retrograde ideas and hateful intolerance, he thus made an important contribution to the restoration of American economic vigor, military strength, and national self-confidence.