An infamous figure passes
The Rev. Jerry Falwell died Tuesday at age 73. And I know we spend much of our time on this blog talking about the music and movies of the decade, but I'd be derelict in my duties if I didn't touch on Falwell's "contributions" to the '80s.
- He co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979, creating a conservative movement in politics that helped elect Ronald Reagan to the U.S. presidency.
- He supported the apartheid system of rule in South Africa and urged Christians to invest in the country when the rest of the world boycotted the white-minority government.
- And most famously, he crossed swords with Hustler publisher Larry Flynt over Hustler's parody ad in 1983 about Falwell's "first time" -- a fake Q&A describing Falwell having sex with his mother in an outhouse.
Falwell sued Flynt for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. While he was found innocent of libel, a jury did find Flynt guilty of the "emotional distress" charge. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court would rule in 1988 that a public figure could not recover damages for emotional distress based on a satire or parody.
In 1997, the two public figures met face to face again on the Larry King Show (on the eve of the film premiere of "The People vs. Larry Flynt"). Click the link to read the full transcript, but my favorite exchange -- the one that I think epitomizes their difference is this exchange. Click the link below to continue.
From CNN.com's transcript:
KING: What are your feelings right now, Jerry, toward Larry Flynt, today, right now?
FALWELL: Well, I have never had any ill feelings toward him. I think that his business is sleaze and garbage, and I think that it's demeaning to women and children.
KING: No ill feelings toward him?
FALWELL: Of course not.
KING: How do you break that down between feelings about sleaze...
FALWELL: I am a Christian. My interest is that the next time around Larry, when he accepts Christ, he'll really mean it and go on and get rid of that magazine and go for God.
KING: And how do you feel about Mr. Falwell?
FLYNT: I always thought Jerry was a hypocrite, and I still feel that way.
FLYNT: And I think the rhetoric he spews out has caused more harm than any ideas since the beginning of time.