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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Falwell: Faith and Fury; America Votes 2008
Aired May 15, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We wanted to bring you "Africa: Dispatches from the Edge" tonight, a look at what's happening on the continent of Africa, but the Republican debate, along with the passing of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, means we'll be airing that Friday night instead.
Jerry Falwell was 73 years old when he died today of heart failure in Lynchburg, Virginia. He leaves behind a wife, three children, a political legacy, and a conservative Christian empire.
More on the scope of that empire now from CNN's Dan Simon.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before he became popular for mega personalities Jerry Falwell, was a multimedia force -- from his books to his television shows to his university. Falwell all but invented the guide book for how prominent Americans could actually expand their reach and influence.
REV. JERRY FALWELL, DIED OF HEART FAILURE: We can evangelize the world.
SIMON: Falwell began his empire when he was only 22. He took a Baptist church with only 35 members and grew it into a congregation of more than 22,000. A precursor of the mega churches that are now so common now.
Falwell was among the first to use television to extend his reach, a kind of first minister of televangelism.
ANNOUNCER: The "Old-Time Gospel Hour."
SIMON: His "Old-Time Gospel Hour" sent him into living rooms. Millions heard his fundamentalist preachings.
(on camera): To succeed with his moral religious agenda, Falwell understood he also needed political influence. And that led to the creation of the moral majority, a lobbying group designed to take on abortion, gay rights and pornography.
Falwell helped elect politicians who agreed with his evangelical beliefs and defeat those who did not.
RICHARD MOUW, PRESIDENT, FULLER SEMINARY: Suddenly he has evangelicals describing themselves as the moral majority. I mean, that's an amazing shift of self-definition. And Jerry Falwell used all of the means of available to him.
SIMON (voice-over): Richard Mouw was president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He says Falwell understood the power of creating a brand matched by a strong ideology, an ideology he would bring to future generations at his Liberty University.
MOUW: He realized that a certain kind of public figure needed to have, among other things, an academic community as a base, as a political power base. And so he established this university and was quite successful at it.
SIMON: Naturally, Falwell was also a great polarizing force. AIDS, he said, was God's punishment to homosexuals. Tinky-Winky, the Teletubby, he thundered, catered to homosexuals, and a bad influence.
FALWELL: Parents, be very careful what your children are watching.
SIMON: But Falwell's most controversial comments came after 9/11. He seemed to blame feminists, gays and liberal groups for bringing on the attacks.
Although Falwell's moral majority disbanded in 1989, he remained a political force in the so-called religious right.
It was telling, perhaps that John McCain, who once famously criticized Falwell as an agent of intolerance, last year actually gave the commencement address at Liberty.
The turnabout, an apparent acknowledgement, McCain needed Falwell's support in a bid for the White House.
So for those who will measure Jerry Falwell's legacy, perhaps it's equal parts faith, and political power.
Dan Simon, CNN, Los Angeles.
COOPER: Joining me now is CNN Contributor and Radio Host Roland Martin.
You recently interviewed Reverend Falwell. He was very different than you anticipated. In what way?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, in that he was very laid back. He reminded me of that grandfather. He called himself an old softy in his later years. So he wasn't the usual firebrand that you usually expect. And so, more even keel.
COOPER: I want to play just a quick clip from the interview. He talked about -- you asked if there should be a Christian litmus test for presidential candidates. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FALWELL: I would rather have an atheist who is a neurosurgeon of excellent talents operating on me if I ever need a brain surgery than to have the best Sunday school teacher in the world who doesn't know a thing about it. I'd much rather have the atheist if that is his specialty.
We've got to elect a president who, whether he or she goes to church or which church or whatever, understands the issues. And the top issue today in our culture is survival.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's interesting. It's a different Jerry Falwell than perhaps he would have said 20 years before.
MARTIN: I was very surprised by that comment when he threw that out there. And I said many people watching will say, wait a minute. This is not the Jerry Falwell we know.
Because I think he understood that where we are in America right now, national security, is absolutely important. What he also said, I said, well you know, we did have a president who taught Sunday school. He said yes, he was one of the worst. He was speaking, of course, Jimmy Carter, who he did not think very highly of Jerry Falwell.
COOPER: And Jimmy Carter at one point said he can basically go to hell.
MARTIN: That's right.
COOPER: And Falwell was instrumental in campaigning against Jimmy Carter, even though he met with him early on.
A lot of people don't though the history of Jerry Falwell. And whether you agree with him or not, he made a tremendous impact on bringing conservative Christians into the political fore because the tradition in the fundamentalist movement had been a rejectionist tradition.
MARTIN: Well actually, let me sort of broaden that a bit. He brought conservative white evangelicals in. People of faith, African- Americans, black preachers, led the civil rights movement.
COOPER: Of course.
MARTIN: So they were involved in those issues. In many ways, those fundamental issues we're talking about, evangelicals, they were pretty much on the sideline.
And so what he said is, let's take these social issues -- after Roe v. Wade -- and then begin to galvanize people.
I don't care where you stand, you have to recognize the power of being able to mass that number of people, being able to pull them together. And what we see today -- Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family -- those are in essence the children of the moral majority. And so they were born out of that.
And so -- that's why people say, well, where's he been for the last 10 years? He didn't have to really be out there because you had a whole slew of people who in essence were preaching what he was preaching...
COOPER: Essentially standing on his soldiers, I think, as Ralph Reed said earlier on in the program.
The other thing that's interesting is that his definition of what it meant to be a Christian was there was a -- an evolving sense today of sort of -- there's some big name evangelists who are out there who are talking about expanding...
COOPER: ... the spectrum of who what it means to be a Christian and what issues should -- Christians should focus on -- poverty, social justice issues.
MARTIN: Yes. And actually in that same series, what would Jesus really do, Rick Warren talked about that. And he said don't call me a right wing Christian. He said I am a Christian.
And so and I asked Falwell that question. And he said, well, sure Christians are focused on those things. You know, we have a hospice and we need the homeless, he said. But the media doesn't focus on those things. And I think I let him off the hook by really not pressing him on that.
But the real deal is -- to me, that's where the mistake was. That's where Falwell's legacy sort of could have been heightened in that they went beyond abortion, homosexuality and really dealt with those issues.
I read a transcript before I came on with Reverend Jackson and Jerry Falwell on "Crossfire" 2005. And Falwell, well, Jesse, all you're concerned about is the poor. And Jackson said, well, Reverend -- he said to Falwell, all you're concerned about is the fetus in the womb. He said what about out of the womb?
And so that's part of the problem then. Christians need to be challenged on that issue, going beyond those two issues. They are important. They should be on the agenda. But they should also focus on the other issues as well because those are vital to life.
COOPER: Roland Martin, appreciate you being on the program. Thanks.
MARTIN: Thanks, Anderson. I appreciate it.
COOPER: As Dan Simon mentioned earlier, presidential candidate John McCain once called Jerry Falwell an agent of intolerance or at least referred to what we think was Jerry Falwell as that.
Senator McCain is singing a different tune now. But when it comes to gays and lesbians, Jerry Falwell never did change his tune.
CNN's Randi Kaye looks back.
FALWELL: We talk about AIDS as the judgment of God upon moral perversion in this society.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He once called AIDS God's punishment for homosexuals. But now the war of words between Reverend Jerry Falwell and the gay community is over.
FALWELL: There's no way, as a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, we could ever condone the behavior of homosexuals. What they do is wrong.
KAYE: Wrong in Falwell's eyes, even if you're a Teletubby. Falwell never liked the looks of Tinky-Winky, the purple Teletubby with the male voice and magic bag. Tinky-Winky, he warned, was promoting the gay agenda.
FALWELL: Parents, be very careful what your children are watching.
KAYE: GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is just one of the many groups that locked horns with Falwell.
NEIL GIULIANO, PRESIDENT, GAY AND LESBIAN ALLIANCE AGAINST DEFAMATION: His comments about the Teletubbies just showed how -- how out of touch he was with regard to America.
KAYE: GLAAD's Neil Giuliano says Falwell's attacks were a violation of religious faith.
GIULIANO: Religion and faith really should be something that pulls people together and gives people an opportunity to live as one human family. And gay and lesbian Americans are a part of that family.
KAYE: When Ellen DeGeneres told "TIME" magazine she was a lesbian, Falwell called her "Ellen Degenerate."
He sparred with liberal politicians, like openly gay Congressman Barney Franks.
FALWELL: I don't hate you. I think just that you're...
FALWELL: ... pervert.
KAYE: What some consider his most outrageous suggestion -- gays somehow contributed to 9/11. FALWELL: 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.
KAYE: Falwell later apologized.
(on camera): In the end, Falwell's finger-pointing may have worked not just for him, but also against him. Some gay rights activists say, by rallying his base, he brought visibility to the gay and lesbian cause, even sympathy.
GIULIANO: His views are being rejected by the majority of Americans with regard to the rights for gay and lesbian Americans. And, so, in that sense, it's good to have those people out there that are going to fight because we actually are making progress in spite of their efforts.
KAYE (voice-over): A fight they will carry on because the power of Falwell's anti-gay agenda didn't die with him.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Reverend Mel White became friends with Jerry Falwell while working for him as a ghostwriter in the 1980s. White was married and the father of two at the time.
When he later announced he was gay, he and Falwell didn't speak for five years.
White and his male partner founded an interfaith movement for gays called Soulforce, and moved into a house across the street from Falwell's church and began going to services there.
I spoke with Reverend White earlier.
COOPER: First of all, when you heard -- the moment you heard Jerry Falwell had died, what -- what went through your mind?
REVEREND MEL WHITE, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I felt sad. I felt really sad for his family and for the school and for the students. He was a good pastor, a good provost, a good family man.
But he was also so bad, in terms of his influence on the nation about gay people. So, I felt sad that the gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgendered people had never had a chance to hear him say, "I'm sorry," like the black people did in 1964. I was hoping for that, and it never happened.
COOPER: Do you think he would have changed? I mean, I know publicly you said you thought he might change his mind. You thought moving next to him, across the street from him, attending his church with your partner might show him the reality of -- of gay people in America. Do you think it made any difference?
WHITE: I think it made a lot of difference to a lot of people. For example, gay and lesbian people in Lynchburg were stunned and really surprised and happy. We had our first Out and About Lynchburg. We're going on with that.
But, in the church, I don't know. When we attend now, people recognize me. They say hello. But Jerry went closet. Jerry went silent. And I haven't heard from him in the last four years.
COOPER: There are a lot of people who would say that he hated gays, but then there -- you know, he always say, look, I hate the sin; I don't hate the sinner.
He viewed it, of course, as a sin. You spent a lot of time with him before he knew you were gay. Personally, do you think he hated gays?
WHITE: I like to say that I hate Jerry's sins, and I tried to love Jerry the sinner, right back at him.
The fact is, I -- I think he was really sincere about his feelings that homosexuality was a threat to the nation, really sincere that, by welcoming gays to this great country, that God would take his hand of blessing off this country and, thus, allow 9/11.
He was -- to call him a huckster is really dangerous, because he was a sincere believer. And that's much more difficult to deal with.
I don't know what he hated. I would say he thinks he loved us. But, in fact, he showed all the signs of hatred, and created a lot of hatred against us by his rhetoric.
COOPER: He never really admitted to that. He would always say, look, I -- you know, that -- that he wasn't promoting hate, that he wasn't -- that his words were not causing harm to gay and lesbian citizens.
You say that is not true.
WHITE: Yes, Jim Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, they all say, our rhetoric doesn't lead to any suffering and death.
Well, they're wrong. We have -- I have buried so many young gay people who have killed themselves from Christian families who have been influenced directly and indirectly by this rhetoric.
COOPER: There was an incident I read about where you were riding in a limousine with him, and there was a demonstration. And he was speaking about gay people. What was it he said?
WHITE: We were surrounded by gay protesters.
That's when I thought I was sick and sinful myself, before I realized that homosexuality is a gift from God to be accepted and celebrated. But, in that limousine, he said to me one day: I just love these gay demonstrators. Without them, I wouldn't get near the attention I get. If I didn't have them, I would have to invent them.
So, we played into his hand, in many ways.
COOPER: You think it was, in some ways, a way to raise money? I mean, he needed to raise a lot of money every year.
WHITE: Oh, yes.
He raised more money off the gay threat than any -- than off any other single cause. Maybe abortion ties with it. But he used these incredible pictures of gays as promiscuous, as gays as child abusers, as gays a threat to the nation, to the family.
But, Anderson, he also rallied us. He made us get interested in achieving justice for ourselves. Soulforce, I don't think would have happened unless Jerry Falwell had been so obstreperous about gay people.
We actually formed to visit his church to try to get this leading fundamentalist, this face of homophobia in the nation, to see gay people, and to see we're not at all like he says we were.
COOPER: Reverend White, we appreciate you being on the program. Thank you very much.
WHITE: Any time.
COOPER: Up next, tonight's other headlines, the presidential debate that just wrapped up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): Republicans, round two.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Spending is out of control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well how about benchmarks in Washington?
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe in a woman's right of choice.
COOPER: Who landed the punches? Who landed on the ropes? We'll break it down, in depth.
Plus, Tammy Faye. She said Falwell stole her husband's evangelical empire. Now she's speaking from her deathbed on the passing of Jerry Falwell, ahead on 360.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER (on camera): Jerry Falwell died as Republican presidential candidates were preparing for their second debate. This time in Columbia, South Carolina, where conservative Christians make up a large chunk of Republican primary voters.
The debate ended a short time ago. Joining me now is CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King.
John, what happened?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a quite more feisty debate, more pointed and more personal debate than we saw 12 days ago in California.
It started with some of the lesser known candidates taking aim at the frontrunners, trying to break out of the bottom of the pack, if you will.
But there were also some exchanges between some of the frontrunners. One of the notable ones, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, at one point was criticizing Senator John McCain, saying he didn't like some of the legislation McCain has worked on in Washington with liberal Democrats.
Well, McCain fired back and in doing so, he also suggested that Romney was a very different candidate, courting conservatives as a Republican running for president, than he was trying to run in much more liberal Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And my fear is that McCain-Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money and politics, and that's bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McCain, you want to respond to that for 30 seconds?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I've -- I take and kept a consistent position on campaign finance reform. Is there anyone who believes there's not enough money washing around money in politics which has corrupted our own party?
I have kept a consistent position on right-to-life and I haven't changed my position on even numbered years or have changed because of the different offices that I may be running for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: One of the things you always watch for in these debates, and one of the tactical approach a candidate takes. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, time and time again, came under conservative attack because of his support for abortion rights.
Listen to this exchange here. Mayor Giuliani comes und attack for supporting abortion rights. What does he try to do? He says maybe Republicans should think less about that and more about having the candidate best prepared to run against Hillary Clinton next November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we can respond to all of that and discuss all of that, but there's something I think really big at stake here. We're looking at a race where in which the leading Democratic candidate for president of the United States has said that the unfettered free market is the most disastrous thing in modern America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, Anderson, very little new ground broken on Iraq, but more humor in this debate, much more feisty exchanges, more personal exchanges as the candidates trying to break out. Much more crackling excitement, if you will, here in Columbia, South Carolina, than we had 12 days ago out in California -- Anderson.
COOPER: John, stick around. We're going to bring in our roundtable now.
John King, obviously; former Presidential Adviser David Gergen; Democratic Strategist Kiki McLean; and Republican Strategist Ed Rollins.
Appreciate you all being with us.
Ed, we had heard from the Giuliani camp that he would be honing his message on being pro-choice. How did he do?
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I thought he did very well tonight. I thought he basically was very much on message. He looked very presidential. I thought he probably had the best night -- he and Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee is in the second tier, but Mike Huckabee obviously was a star tonight and is a very articulate guy.
But of the three frontrunners, I thought Rudy had a very good night.
COOPER: Kiki, obviously John McCain lost in South Carolina during the 2000 primary. How did he do in front of this crowd tonight?
KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he did better tonight than he did last week. But I have to tell you, you know, I said after the last debate among the Republicans that probably the real winner is Fred Thompson because he wasn't there tonight.
And I would have to say that on the second-tier candidates, if you will, I suspect Sam Brownback, after the performance of the first debate and tonight, is getting some of those real conservative caucus attendees in Iowa to pay attention to him now. Folks didn't know him. He had nowhere to go, but up. And this guy has had a very serious performance in the last two debates to really appeal to those evangelicals and the far right conservatives who have felt like they didn't have a candidate in this race.
I agree with Ed, though, Giuliani stepped out, took his position and I think everybody on this panel will agree, it's a lot easier to defend a position that you have than try to argue why you shouldn't have one.
COOPER: David, did it surprise you that more elbows were being thrown around this time or is that just the natural course of this as people kind of get a beat on one another?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think it's the natural course of it. It would have been terribly boring had they not gone after each other a little bit. This was a much better debate, much less painful than the first one.
I think Rudy Giuliani won the night. He was not only more authentic because he was stating what he believed, but he fended off the questions about abortion. It was -- became clear all three of the frontrunners have, you know -- McCain and Romney as well as Giuliani have changed their positions on things.
But most importantly, Anderson, he seized a moment when Ron Paul sort of opened up this argument that maybe we had it coming, with 9/11. And Giuliani just jumped into the debate. He disrupted the debate to say, no, no, that's not right and I just don't agree with that. And what an extraordinary position. It was almost -- and Ed Rollins will remember this well -- it almost had a little bit -- it was like a minor national moment when Ronald Reagan, you know, seized the microphone. There was a quality here about showing his -- not only his anger, but his strength, that I think served him well tonight.
COOPER: Ed, do you agree with that? Did he have a Ronald Reagan moment?
ROLLINS: He had a Ronald Reagan moment. I thought he had a Rudy Giuliani moment. I mean, I really thought -- I mean, he used Paul like a speed bag and obviously Paul probably made the most inappropriate remarks of the night.
You know, the format was much better. These things I don't particularly like, but I thought it worked tonight. I thought it worked because the network that covered it and the moderators that performed tonight didn't have their own ego in it. They asked the kinds of questions we'd all like to ask. And I think to a certain extent they all performed pretty well and made me proud to be a Republican, which oftentimes that's hard to do.
But I thought the three frontrunners performed well, but I thought Giuliani basically came back from not a particularly great performance 12 days ago.
COOPER: I just want to play a little bit of what Giuliani said, and we can go to Kiki and John.
Let's play him on abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: And I think everyone on this stage, including most Democrats, could probably very, very usefully spend a lot of time figuring out how we can reduce abortion. It's going to take a while for the courts to figure out what too do about this. And while we're looking at that, we should do what I did in New York, which is to try and reduce abortions as much as you can, try to increase adoptions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: John, clearly the Giuliani camp has been very concerned over the last week or so or since the last debate about how he would respond to this question. Are they going to be happy tonight?
KING: They say they are more happy tonight. But, Anderson, here in the spin room, conservatives are already attacking that answer, saying no, it won't take very long for the courts to work this out. It would take maybe one supreme court pick in the next administration perhaps if one of the abortion rights supporters on the court retires. So he will continue to come under attack for that position.
But he is the only pro-choice candidate among these Republicans right now. And his campaign feels that at least they are now getting consistent answers or more consistent answers on the question.
When you're explaining yourself, when you can't say whether overturning Roe v. Wade would be a good day, you are confusing your position, not clarifying your position. He is back on what the campaign, the Giuliani campaign, believes now is much clearer ground.
Can he sell that in South Carolina? That is why we have elections after the debates.
And one more quick point. Kiki said Senator Thompson wins tonight. He is not here. But there are draft Senator Thompson supporters making the rounds here, making clear that there could be one more candidate in the race sooner rather than later.
COOPER: Could be more than just one more.
Kiki, we'll come back to you right after the break.
John King, David Gergen, Ed Rollins, stick around. A lot more on the debate. We have much more to discuss after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, AUTHOR, "GOD IS NOT GREAT": The empty life of this -- of the little charlatan proves only thing -- that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses, to morality and to truth in this country, if you'll just get yourself called reverend.
COOPER: Some very different opinions of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, a man who had big opinions and certainly more than one enemy. We'll talk to all sides, all angles, ahead on 360.
COOPER: Ten Republican presidential candidates faced off tonight in their second debate, this time in Columbia, South Carolina.
We're going to pick up where we left off with our political roundtable. CNN's John King, former Presidential Adviser David Gergen, Democratic Strategist Kiki McLean and Republican Strategist Ed Rollins.
Kiki, I want to play something for our viewers of -- who do I want to play first? Let me check this out.
Mitt Romney, talking about his faith and how it may play out. Let's take a look at that.
OK. We don't have that byte. We'll get back to it shortly.
Kiki, how do you think he did?
MCLEAN: Well, the reality is, I disagree with that. I think he had a horrible night. His debate team ought to be really upset. He spent the entire night not only on defense, repeating the accusations of his record of flip-flops, but in fact then presented flip-flops they hadn't even done yet. With his flip-flop on the Department of Education. This was not a good night for him. He's not proactively getting on a message he wants to be on.
On the other hand, Rudy Giuliani did that. He moved off abortion, got to his fiscal record in the cit of New York, which I think a lot of Republicans will tell you one of the reasons they lost Congress in the last election was because Republicans were seen as the leaders of bloated, overspending deficit-rising kinds of economic factors. And Giuliani is making a point to those conservatives -- I know how to run a conservative economy.
And I think he wins on that score. And I just didn't see Romney make one step forward on any kind of messaging he wanted to.
COOPER: We have the Romney byte. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've had to stand up for life, and I have. I've had to stand up for traditional marriage, and I have. In that very difficult state, I stood to make sure that we get English immersion in our schools because I think kinds should be taught in English. I fought for the death penalty. I fought for abstinence education. In the toughest of states, I made the toughest decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Ed, do you agree with Kiki, that this was not his night?
ROLLINS: Well, he obviously won the first debate and I think he's had a good 10 days.
I think tonight, both Rudy and McCain had better nights than they did the first time.
You know, I don't think he lost any votes tonight, but I don't think he moved the game forward. And I think if you were going to rank them tonight, it was probably Giuliani, Huckabee, and the Senator from Arizona, McCain, who had the best nights.
COOPER: David, does religion still play a big role with -- I don't know why I'm blanking out his name every time -- Mitt Romney?
GERGEN: Oh, absolutely.
COOPER: Is it going to continue to -- does he have to make one of those John F. Kennedy speeches where he clarifies his position vis- a-vis his church?
GERGEN: I'm not sure. I do think Kiki is right. He hasn't found a message that he can be consistent on. He was on the defensive a lot tonight. But I think the larger issue here, Anderson, is that the conservative right, the religious right, evangelicals, are a very powerful -- and remain a very powerful force in the Republican Party. They may not be able to nominate anybody, but they are pretty capable of vetoing somebody.
And right now they seem to be vetoing Mitt Romney. I think that's one of the reasons that he's not getting traction.
They have shown lots of reservations about John McCain.
And they have growing reservations about Rudy Giuliani. So even though Giuliani won -- I think won the debate tonight, he's still got major problems with the religious right, which does fuel this search for an outside candidate like Fred Thompson coming in.
COOPER: John, the former Governor Jim Gilmore was critical of some of the frontrunners. He has been in the past. He was tonight.
If we have the byte of Gilmore, let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM GILMORE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I looked back at the California debates and I think that some of the people on this stage were very liberal in characterizing themselves as conservatives, particularly on the issues of abortion and taxes and health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He's talking, John of course, about Giuliani and Romney, as well as McCain. Does his camp feel good about his performance tonight?
Clearly, we're having problems, John, with your audio.
Try for Kiki. Kiki, were you surprised at how he did tonight?
MCLEAN: I have to say, I think Gilmore did a fabulous job last week and this week for himself, which is amazing, given that he has one of the worst records as governor in history. And he has one of the worst political records as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. So he's doing far better in these debates than he ever did in the offices that he held.
COOPER: Spoken like a Democratic strategist. Perhaps I shouldn't have asked you the question.
Ed, how about Gilmore's performance?
ROLLINS: I thought Gilmore did fine. The irony of this is there are three or four very serious people who are conservative on every credential -- Duncan Hunter, a conservative major chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Gilmore, obviously; Tommy Thompson; Mike Huckabee, who I mentioned before; and Senator Brownback.
These are serious conservatives. They just can't get to that first tier because of the monetary needs of this kind of a race.
COOPER: David Gergen, what about that? I mean, do they have any shot? What needs to happen for any of them to be able to -- to sort of break through? Is this simply a money game and they don't have it?
GERGEN: I think it's very unlikely they're going to break through. And these debates don't give them much of an opportunity.
Mike Huckabee did get off the funniest line tonight, when he talked -- said Congress had been spending money like John Edwards at a beauty shop, and it got the biggest laugh of the night. I mean, it was a clever line.
But beyond that, I wish we had some way that you could put the frontrunners in one debate and the second tier in the second debate because the problem right now is when you watch all of this, it's really painful sometimes to hear these long discursive things when we have to sort of detour off to people who have no real shot of being the candidates.
And more than that, Anderson, the problem these guys have got so far is they are still mired in the issues that have really mattered in the past. They're still important, but they're not talking about issues -- the more serious issues on the domestic side, they're going to face the next president. Whether it's a meltdown with the health care system or the retirement of the baby boomers or the climate change Kyoto expiring, or what they're going to do about educating our kids for a 21st century global economy. They're just not dealing with those issues.
And the Democratic candidates in their debates -- in their debates so far have been much more forward leaning.
And the Republican Party is still arguing about these values. And they're important to talk about abortion, of course, but it sort of -- the issues of the past dominate these conversations.
COOPER: And David, is -- I mean, Iraq, they all seem to pretty much agree on Iraq except for Ron Paul, who has probably the most different position from anyone. Does that, then -- I mean, the fact they are all kind of in the same -- or at least all of the frontrunners are more or less on the same page? Does that just sort of cross it off as an issue in terms of an issue that a Republican voter is going to consider?
GERGEN: I don't know. We'll have to wait and see if Thompson and Gingrich (ph) get into this, who may have somewhat different positions. But I do think it is not helping them as candidates for the general election. This is not building anybody up to take on the Democrats. And when we don't have various sophisticated conversations, they're very, very -- you know, they're very across at the surface levels because there are so many people up there on that stage. I think it's very, very hard to get into and be a little more sophisticated, be more serious about what the future will bring. And it's very, very hard to break out of the pack if you're in the second tier, with 10 people on the stage.
COOPER: Yes, it sure is.
David, appreciate your perspective.
David Gergen, Ed Rollins, Kiki McLean, as well.
John King, sorry about the audio, but appreciate your reporting as well.
Thank you very much.
Of course, CNN has debates June 3rd and June 5th from New Hampshire. It should be very interesting. The Democratic debate is June 3rd. June 5th, the Republican debate. Hope you join us from New Hampshire for that.
We'll have a lot more ahead about the life and the legacy of the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FALWELL: I need about 20 more years to accomplish what my vision for the university is.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): 20 years?
FALWELL: I need at least another 20 years, so that's how I'm praying. In the Bible, there's a story of a guy named Hezekiah, who was dying, and he asked God for 15 additional years, and he got it. Well, I'm praying the same prayer with an option to renew.
AMANPOUR: And do you think you'll get it?
FALWELL: I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, talking to the Reverend Jerry Falwell several months ago, hoping for more years on his life.
Reverend Falwell, of course, died today, after a life of faith and controversy.
We've heard many voices in the last hour and a half discussing Falwell's life and his legacy.
Here on 360, we believe in giving all sides a chance to air their views. You, the viewer, can come to your own conclusions.
In a moment, we'll hear from Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, who has fond memories of Jerry Falwell as a friend and a pastor.
First, a very different point of view, though, a representation of another side, a viewpoint towards Jerry Falwell from author and outspoken Atheist Christopher Hitchens. He's the author of "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything."
I spoke to him earlier in the program.
COOPER: Christopher, I'm not sure if you believe in heaven, but if you do, do you think Jerry Falwell is in it?
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, AUTHOR, "GOD IS NOT GREAT": No. And I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to.
COOPER: What is it about him that brings up such vitriol?
HITCHENS: The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend.
Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?
People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup.
The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're -- we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, was found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.
How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?
Do you get an idea now of what I mean to say?
COOPER: Yes, no, I think -- I think you're making yourself very clear.
I mean, I...
HITCHENS: How dare he say, for example, that the Antichrist is already present amongst us and is an adult male Jew, while all the time, fawning on the worst elements in Israel, with his other hand pumping anti-Semitic innuendoes into American politics, along with his friends Robertson and Graham?
COOPER: And, yet, there are...
HITCHENS: ... encouraging -- encouraging -- encouraging the most extreme theocratic fanatics and maniacs on the West Bank and in Gaza not to give an inch of what he thought of as holy land to the people who already live there, undercutting and ruining every Democrat and secularist in the Jewish state in the name of God?
HITCHENS: This is -- this is -- he's done us an enormous, enormous disservice by this sort of demagogy.
COOPER: What do you think it says about America that -- and politics in America, that he was so successful in mobilizing huge swathes of the country to come out and vote?
HITCHENS: I'm not certain at all that he did deserve this reputation. And I...
COOPER: You don't think he does?
HITCHENS: Well, I'm not certain that he was a mobilizer. He certainly hoped to be one.
Well, the fact is that the country suffers, to a considerable extent, from paying too much, by way of compliment, to anyone who can describe themselves as a person of faith. Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Chaucerian frauds, people who are simply pickpockets, who -- and frauds -- who prey on the gullible and...
COOPER: Do you believe he believed what he spoke?
HITCHENS: Of course not. He woke up every morning, as I say, pinching his chubby little flanks and thinking, I have got away with it again.
COOPER: You think he was a complete fraud, really?
COOPER: You don't believe that, I mean, in his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in his -- I mean, whether you agree or not with his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in what he spoke?
HITCHENS: No. I think he was a conscious charlatan and bully and fraud.
And I think, if he read the Bible at all -- and I would doubt that he could actually read any long book of -- at all -- that he did so only in the most hucksterish, as we say, Bible-pounding way.
I'm going to repeat what I said before about the Israeli question. It's very important. Jerry Falwell kept saying to his own crowd, yes, you have got to like the Jews, because they can make more money in 10 minutes than you can make in a lifetime. He was always full, as his friends Robertson and Graham are and were, of anti- Semitic innuendo.
Yet, in the most base and hypocritical way, he encouraged the worst elements among Jewry. He got Menachem Begin to give him the Jabotinsky Medal, celebrating an alliance between Christian fundamentalism and Jewish fanaticism that has ruined the chances for peace in the Middle East.
Lots of people are going to die and are already leading miserable lives because of the nonsense preached by this man.
COOPER: The book is "God Is Not Great."
Christopher Hitchens, appreciate you being on the program.
HITCHENS: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Christopher Hitchens, his comments have provoked a great deal of e-mail, positive and negative, we should say. We'll read some of your comments ahead.
We'll also hear a much different view. My interview with a Falwell friend, Franklin Graham, and what he says is a side of Jerry Falwell very few people ever saw.
Power of Faith
Attendance at Thomas Road Baptist Church for Jerry Falwell's first sermon in 1956: 135
Current membership: 24,000
COOPER: A man who built a congregation from nothing.
Before the break, you heard from atheist and author Christopher Hitchens on the death of the Reverend Jerry Falwell.
As we mentioned, we cover all of the angles on 360.
Tonight, another point of view from one of Falwell's friends. Earlier I spoke with Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son, who runs the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. I asked him about his fondest memory of Jerry Falwell.
FRANKLIN GRAHAM, PRESIDENT, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION: All of my children went to Liberty University, and Jerry was a lot of fun. Jerry was a person who loved to play jokes on you.
GRAHAM: He loved to play -- oh, yes. He loved to play jokes on the students, and he was just a lot of fun to be with.
You know, I've been watching, Anderson, the program, and there's people that want to paint Jerry as this mean-hearted, evil person. Jerry was -- listen, Jerry was a wonderful man, a good man. He was a pastor who loved people, and he loved sinners.
He didn't hate the gay people. He loved the gay people. And he wanted to warn the gay people that God is going to judge sin one day, but God is willing to forgive if we're willing to repent of our sins and receive Jesus Christ into our hearts by faith. God would forgive us. But we have to turn from our sins. And he wanted to warn people.
Jerry Falwell was a great Christian. He was a great American. He loved this country. But he loved people.
COOPER: There -- earlier on the program, Christopher Hitchens was on, and he -- obviously, he's an atheist. He believes that Falwell was sort of -- didn't truly believe in what he was preaching.
Everyone else I've talked to seems to disagree with that wholeheartedly. Whether you agree with him or disagree with him, many people seem to agree he did truly believe in his heart all the things he was saying, right or wrong.
GRAHAM: Absolutely. And listen, Jerry was a man of God. And there has been a great statesman, a Christian statesman that fell today. He was a giant. I don't know of anybody who will be able to replace him.
He was controversial because he spoke the truth. And what I mean by speaking the truth, he opened up God's word, and he said, this is what God says. Now, there are statements that Jerry made that I didn't always agree with, but when he opened up the Bible and said, this is what God says, I agree with Jerry.
And I admire him because he had convictions, and he wasn't willing to take the politically correct avenue and try to appease everybody to where everybody would love him and like him. He wanted to say what God had to say. And he wanted to warn people.
And he wanted to tell people about God's son Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again from the grave and who would come into a person's heart if a person would just repent and receive Christ by faith. Jesus Christ could come into that person's life and change them right now, today. And Jerry wanted them to know that.
And I believe there will be millions of people one day in heaven because of Jerry Falwell.
COOPER: Franklin Graham.
On the radar tonight, your reaction to Jerry Falwell's passing and our coverage of it.
Some of you taking issue with our interview with outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens.
Lindsay in Indianapolis writes us: I hope you will apologize to America for allowing someone on your show that would call this man "a toad," as Mr. Hitchens said -- or Hitcherson, as she's called him. What would people think if I came on national television calling Ellen DeGeneres a lesbian toad?
Lindsay, I'm not sure what Ellen DeGeneres has to do with it, but we believe in presenting multiple points of view on 360. You seem to assume that I agree with all the guests that I have on. I don't. But I don't think that really matters. What I think doesn't really matter. We invite people on if they have legitimate points of view.
Falwell was certainly a divisive figure and we thought important to hear why.
Sue, on the other hand, in San Jose, says: Thank God AC360 included Mr. Christopher Hitchens on the show tonight. Mr. Hitchens' comments about Falwell were stunning and remarkable and refreshing. Linda in Boulder, Colorado, writes: May he rest in peace, and people can refrain from disparaging him now that he's passed. His faith was great, even if his social views were misguided.
On the other hand, Chaz, in Virginia Beach, says: I've met Dr. Falwell. He was decent, passionate and engaging. He had the strongest belief in his convictions of anyone I've seen, and I liked him very much.
As always, to weigh in, just go to CNN.com/360blog and follow the links.
Erica Hill joins us for a check of the headlines, coming up, including the latest problems for you know, what's her name, the one who's going to go to prison, the one who was arrested for drunk driving. Oh yes, that one. Wait until you hear what her psychiatrist is saying. Now, that story and more, when 360 continues.
COOPER: Erica Hill joins us now with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, U.S. troops in Iraq have questioned hundreds of people as they search for three soldiers believed to have been abducted south of Baghdad on Saturday. Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are taking part in the hunt. The soldiers went been missing after a deadly ambush on their military post. The military said today 11 people have been detained, four are considered high-value targets.
On Wall Street, another record close for the Dow, gaining 37 points to finish the day at 13383. The NASDAQ and S&P, however, both closed down.
And you can expect those high gas prices to stick around. Today, the government's top energy forecaster said it may be weeks before there is any relief because the prices still don't fully reflect the recent rise in wholesale costs. Right now the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded, a record $3.10.
And jail time has been pretty rough on Paris Hilton, even though she has yet to serve a single minute. How does that happen? Her psychiatrist says the hotel heiress is quote, "emotionally distraught and traumatized" over the 45-day jail sentence she received for violating her probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case and therefore, the psychiatrist says, Hilton should not be forced to testify later this month in an unrelated civil suit brought against her. Hilton is supposed to start her sentence June 5th.
And Anderson, we're going to just leave it at that.
COOPER: She gets a doctor's note not to have to testify.
HILL: Must be nice, huh?
COOPER: As we said, I vowed not to mention the name so I'm just not even going to comment.
HILL: All right. See you later.
COOPER: Thank you. I appreciate you honoring that.
HILL: I do what I can. I'll do the dirty work for you, how's that?
COOPER: Ah, yes, thank you.
We'll have more of 360 after this.
COOPER: A reminder: Be sure to catch "AMERICAN MORNING" for the most news in the morning. That's tomorrow, beginning at 6:00 A.M. Eastern. For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next. Here in the states, "LARRY KING" is coming up.
I'll see you tomorrow night. Good night.
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