Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Jerry Falwell's Legacy

Aired May 15, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Jerry Falwell once said that preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners. That was the late Reverend Jerry Falwell back in 1964. Sixteen years later, he led a movement that helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House, conservatives on the Supreme Court, and turned the Democratic South solidly Republican.

And, 43 years later, whether you mourn Jerry Falwell's passing or not -- and you will hear from both sides tonight -- it's fair to say the man had a major impact.

Jerry Falwell was 73 when he collapsed and died today of heart failure in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Tonight, in a brief written statement, President Bush praised him as a man who cherished faith, family and freedom. He said nothing about abortion, politics, or controversy, which Reverend Falwell never stopped embracing.


COOPER (voice-over): Just a few weeks ago, in one of his last interviews, Falwell told CNN his hopes for the future.

REVEREND JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, Liberty University: I am working very hard to overturn Roe v. Wade, bring it back to the states, and get back to where we were in 1973.

COOPER: Controversial to the end, loved and hated, respected and despised, Falwell was a polarizing figure who turned the religious right into a political mega-force. As a fundamentalist preacher, he built a church of just 35 worshipers into a congregation of 22,000.


ANNOUNCER: "The Old Time Gospel Hour."


COOPER: As a pioneering televangelist, Falwell's sermons would eventually find their way into nearly American home.

In 1979, he founded the Moral Majority, propelling religious conservatives into American politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FALWELL: We are hopefully going to be able, by 1988, to bring 20 million religious conservatives to the polls nationally in the presidential election.


COOPER: The Moral Majority pushed for what Falwell called traditional values, and that meant lobbying against abortion and pornography. He was a major booster to conservatives like Ronald Reagan and his successor.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jerry, I am glad to have been introduced by a loyal friend.


COOPER: Soon, his attention turned to his AIDS and his campaign against gays and lesbians.


FALWELL: If you claim the homosexual society is really serious about this disease, then they should willingly say, we will not, then, give blood transfusions. You probably caused the problem.


COOPER: Falwell called AIDS God's punishment for a country that tolerates homosexuals. He would apologize. He would also apologize to gays and feminists for blaming them for September 11.

Still, he said a few weeks ago abortion and gay marriage continue to make our country unsafe.

FALWELL: If we decide to change all the rules on which this Judeo-Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the lord to put his shield of protection around us.

COOPER: Some of his targets made people wonder. Remember his campaign against Tinky-Winky, the purple Teletubby? He said Tinky Winky was a symbol for homosexuality.


FALWELL: Parents, be very careful what your children are watching.


COOPER: Towards the end of his life, Falwell retreated somewhat from the public eye. But, as we find out, he planned on being around for a while.

FALWELL: 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.


COOPER: Well, he did not get those extra years. He did, however, make the most of his time on the political stage.

CNN's Tom Foreman explains how.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the raw politics of Jerry Falwell's life, he made conservative Christians matter in modern elections.

They had always mattered in a polite, restrained way. But, when Falwell created the Moral Majority in 1979, it became a juggernaut of righteous rage, vowing to reverse what he called a social and political shift toward immorality.


FALWELL: We're on the way back, because we have leadership in the White House, in the Congress, and in the courts.



FOREMAN: Reaching out through churches and religious radio, the Moral Majority awakened millions of conservatives to their potential as a voting bloc. Faith voters stormed the polls. And the Christian right swept Ronald Reagan into office.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have the firmest possible belief and faith in God.


FOREMAN: Then they launched an aggressive and often successful campaign to shape the American debate on women's rights, education, homosexuality, entertainment, even nuclear weapons.

Falwell could give votes or take them away. And both parties were kept hopping.

FALWELL: I am a strong social conservative who could just as easily vote for a Democrat as a Republican, if he or she stood right on the life and family and freedom issues.

FOREMAN: Falwell made plenty of enemies. He helped tear down Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian, by suggesting the president was not concerned enough about Christian values.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, in a very Christian way, as far as I'm concerned, he can go to hell.


FOREMAN: Falwell's clout eroded in recent years. But, when Hillary Clinton started talking about the presidency, there he was again, ready to rumble.


FALWELL: I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate. She has $300 million so far. But I hope she's the candidate, because nothing will energize my crowd like Hillary Clinton.


FALWELL: If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't...



FOREMAN: Falwell said he was joking about that Lucifer crack, but the simple truth is, he scared the devil out of many politicians, by showing them the raw political power of people of faith -- Anderson.


COOPER: Tom, thanks.

My next guest said once that Jerry Falwell led people out of the wilderness, out of self-imposed exile, into the political process.

Ralph Reed is the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, currently a Republican strategist. He joins me now from Atlanta.

Ralph, would there have been a Ralph Reed if there hadn't been a Jerry Falwell?

RALPH REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think all of us who came later, Anderson, and -- and did what we could to encourage conservative people of faith to have a voice in the conversation of democracy, in one way or another, we stand on Dr. Falwell's shoulders.

I mean, he was -- he was the guy who took a community that had really been in self-imposed political and cultural exile, going back, really, to the Scopes trial of 1925, and urged them to become civically engaged again.

And I would argue that, in the last 100 years, the two most significant demographic transformations in our politics were the movement out of African-Americans out of the Republican Party into the Democratic Party to help the FDR coalition in the 1930s, and the second was the movement of conservative people of faith out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party.

They both created two of the most durable coalitions at the ballot box that we have seen in American history.

COOPER: You make a really interesting point with that, historically. And what was it that changed Jerry Falwell's mind? Because, I mean, he started out as many fundamentalists did, saying -- sort of rejecting a political role, rejecting inclusion in that world.

There was very much a rejectionist stance among fundamentalist Christians. And Jerry Falwell spoke out against preaching politics from the pulpit. But, then, he -- he certainly did a complete 180.

What was that change?

REED: Well, he -- he talked about this. He wrote about it in his book "Listen, America!" which he wrote around the time of the Moral Majority.

And he talked about the fact that he came to understand that the isolation and the separatism that had been practiced by conservative people of faith, in particular fundamentalists, he came to see that the broader culture was going in an opposite direction than conservative people of faith were seeking to preach from the pulpit and teach in their schools and share with their children around the kitchen table.

And there are a number of seminal moments along that road. One, of course, is Roe v. Wade in 1973. Another is in the late '70s, when the Carter administration Treasury Department began, at least in the minds of many Christian schools, to -- to really seek to harass and regulate those schools.

But, in any event, it came along. And the groom at the wedding, so to speak, the marriage between that vote and the modern Republican Party was Ronald Reagan. And, so, Falwell was essential. Reagan was essential. It all came together.

And here we are today, amazingly 27, 28 years later, and it's still going on. I mean, tonight, the Republican presidential candidates are seeking to connect with that vote.

COOPER: And, whether you liked him or -- or did not like him, as -- and -- and opinions are very divided across this country -- we're getting a lot of response in our blog from -- from people on all sides of this -- you certainly can say -- have to say that he had a major impact.

Why was he so good at -- when he made that turn from the pulpit to politics? What made him so successful at it? There are plenty of people who would like to be able to do that, but why was he actually successful at it?

REED: Well, I think he was successful -- and a lot of people don't fully realize this, because they really didn't get to know him until he was a political figure. But you have to remember, had he never put a toe in any political waters, this was already one of the most significant religious figures in the last 50 years. I mean, he, by building Thomas Road Baptist Church, by founding Liberty University, by being one of the first religious broadcasters to go on television and share the Gospel over the airwaves, understanding the importance of cable television, he was probably the leading independent Baptist or fundamentalist religious figure in the nation. And...

COOPER: Did he like being in the public eye? Did he want -- was it power he wanted? I mean, clearly, he had belief, and he wanted that belief to as wide an audience as possible. But one doesn't become that successful without some sort of inner drive, beyond just a message.

REED: You know, it's funny. I never saw that. And I knew him over many manifestations, over a long period of years, and multiple presidents, and I never saw that.

You know, it was interesting. I encountered a lot of other people along my own political journey who were most interested in the meetings in the Oval Office or the Roosevelt Room and the cufflinks and the access to power. I never saw that in him.

COOPER: Interesting.

REED: I think that -- I think he genuinely believed that the country needed to change its direction. I think he understood instinctively that there were millions, and, indeed, tens of millions, of people in the pews who were not darkening the threshold of a ballot box on Election Day. He set out to change it, and he did.

COOPER: Ralph Reed, appreciate your perspective. Thank you very much.

REED: You bet.

COOPER: Author and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens is about as far from Jerry Falwell in his beliefs as one could get. Christian fundamentalists are a major target of his new book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." He joins me now from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Christopher, I'm not sure if you believe in heaven, but, if you do, do you think Jerry Falwell is in it?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": 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, just 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 (INAUDIBLE) 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 among 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 was holy land to the people who already live there, undercutting and ruining every democratic 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 -- 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, and because of the absurd way that we credit anyone who can say they're a person of faith.

Look, the president endangers us this way. He meets a KGB thug like Vladimir Putin, and, because he is wearing a crucifix around his neck, says, I'm dealing with a man of faith. He's a man of goodwill.

Look what Putin has done to American and European interests lately. What has the president said to take back this absurd remark? It's time to stop saying that, because someone preaches credulity and credulousness, and claims it as a matter of faith, that we should respect them.

The whole life of Falwell shows this is an actual danger to democracy, to culture, to civilization. That's what my book is all about.

COOPER: The book is "God Is Not Great."

Christopher Hitchens, appreciate you being on the program.

HITCHENS: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: We like to hear as many different points of view as possible on 360. That's what we're about.

Whether you think about -- whatever you think about Jerry Falwell, he built an empire, his church, and later his university. Here's the "Raw Data."

Lynchburg Baptist College was founded in 1971. It opened with just 154 students. It's now known as Liberty University, has more than 20,000 students from over 70 countries around the world. The university has a strict code of ethics that bans smoking, drinking, or what they call sexual promiscuity. That includes homosexuality.

Coming up, we are going to look at Jerry Falwell's war on homosexuality, blaming gays and lesbians for 9/11, among other things, even warned about the Teletubbies, as we mentioned. What was his problem with Tinky-Winky?

Find out next on 360.



FALWELL: I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actually 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.


COOPER: Reverend Falwell talking about the attacks on 9/11.

Over the years, Falwell spoke out against gays and lesbians repeatedly, calling homosexuality an abomination, among other things.

In a moment, you will hear from Reverend Mel White, who literally wrote Falwell's autobiography, before revealing his own homosexuality and trying to change Falwell's opinions toward gays and lesbian.

But, first, Randi Kaye looks back at Falwell and his attitude toward gay and lesbian citizens.



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 considered 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 actually 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: Well, we turn now to someone who spent years trying to convince Jerry Falwell that his anti-gay views were wrong.

Reverend Mel White became friends with 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 at his church.

Reverend White joins me now.

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. And I have buried a lot of young gays who have been bashed to death by gay people -- by anti-gay people who quote these guys, who quote the Scriptures, to give them a reason, an excuse for killing us.

So, I think their rhetoric condemns, it caricatures, it kills us. And I think we have got to deal with that rhetoric.

COOPER: There was an incident I read about where you were riding in a limousine with him, and there was a demonstration.


COOPER: 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. He went on and on, and undermining the American values.

He said these things. He created us as a scapegoat. And then he said, now, send me money, and I will create an environment here in Liberty University campus where young people will be trained not to be gay, where they will get over their sexual orientation problems.

But I will tell you, Jerry was sincere in that, but he was sincerely wrong. And he did terrible damage to gay people.

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: You can see our Falwell coverage on the new 360 daily podcast. You don't need an iPod. You can watch it on your computer at, or get it from the iTunes store, where it is a top download.

We're going to have more on the life and death of Jerry Falwell coming up, including a look at the showdown he had with another televangelist, Jim Bakker.

First, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, U.S. troops are questioning hundreds of people in their search for three missing American soldiers. They have also arrested nearly a dozen people. Four were considered high-value targets.

Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are searching for the missing soldiers. An insurgent group claims to be holding them. They disappeared after an ambush Saturday that left four other U.S. soldiers dead.

In Portugal, police say a 33-year-old man is a formal suspect in the disappearance of a 4-year-old British girl, but there is not enough evidence to arrest him. He lives near the villa where the girl disappeared nearly two weeks ago.

And you may have heard that due to overcrowding in Los Angeles jails Paris Hilton may not have to serve 45 days behind bars for violating her probation. But the publicity crazed sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, has another option for her. He says she can serve the entire sentence in his outdoor tent city at his Phoenix jail. Well, the temperature in Phoenix, of course, during the summer can easily top 100 degrees.

And Anderson, she may like the pink underwear they apparently have to wear. I hear she likes pink.

COOPER: I have a resolution not to mention that name.

HILL: Well, then I won't make you mention it. How's that?

If you've made your promise, I'll make sure you stick to it.

This next story, though, what were they thinking? A Dearborn, Michigan, cop resigns after he used marijuana confiscated on the job, used it to make brownies, which he ate with his wife. Apparently, though the high didn't turn out so well for them. He ended up calling 911.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm having an overdose and so is my wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. You and your wife?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overdose of what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marijuana. I don't know if they had something in it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you please send rescue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you guys have a fever or anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm just -- I think we're dying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much did you guys have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. We made brownies, and I think we're dead. I really do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is she breathing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's barely breathing.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can feel her. She's laying right down in front of me. Time is going by really, really, really, really slow. What's the score on the Red Wings game?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the score on the Red Wings game?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have got no clue. I don't watch the Red Wings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I just wanted to make sure that this isn't some type of, like, hallucination that I'm having.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? What does the score say?



HILL: How about that? Of course, they didn't die. The officer...

COOPER: They didn't die, because they were just stoned.

HILL: They were just stoned, man. Yes, the officer...

COOPER: That's what the operator should have said: "Sir, you're stoned."

HILL: Do you think they're allowed to say that on 911? Maybe not.

COOPER: What's the score of the Red Wings game?

HILL: I got the impression she wanted to laugh at one point, but maybe that was just me.

COOPER: I did get that impression.

HILL: Yes. But the guy, by the way, he's no longer with the police force, which you probably would have guessed, but he wasn't fired. He was actually allowed to resign. He's not going to face charges.

And that has one city councilman all riled up. We had him on our show last week. He says he wants answers, he wants action, he wants to talk to the police commander. And he wants to know why this guy only was allowed to resign because he's worried that he would go apply for a job somewhere else and that no one would know about it. How about that?

COOPER: And he'll bring the recipe for pot brownies with him.

HILL: He might. You never know. But he might want to doctor it since apparently, it didn't work very well that time.

But you can get all these kind of sort of wacky stories on our show every night, 6 p.m. Eastern, "PRIME NEWS", Headline News. Please join us. Get you ready for Anderson later on.

COOPER: A shameless plug, Erica Hill.

HILL: It's the only way to do it.

COOPER: Coming up now is Kiran Chetry with what's coming up on "AMERICAN MORNING" tomorrow -- Kiran.


KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Anderson. Coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING", does affirmative action work against certain racial minorities? All week, with the help of "Survivor" winner Yul Kwon, we've been exposing some hidden challenges faced by Asian-Americans in particular. And tomorrow, some of them will tell us how their race helped them get into a top college, while some say they think it hurt their chances.

That's tomorrow starting at 6 a.m. on "AMERICAN MORNING". Anderson, back to you.


COOPER: Well, still ahead on 360, more on the faith and fury of Jerry Falwell. Up next, his very public falling out with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Tonight, Tammy Faye is speaking out from her own death bed. She remembers Reverend Falwell in her own words. And we'll talk, also, to Reverend Franklin Graham ahead.


COOPER: In a moment, Tammy Faye Messner in her own words on the death of Reverend Jerry Falwell. She and her ex-husband, James Bakker, had a famous battle with Falwell, a battle that made headlines and played out like a soap opera.


ANNOUNCER: Jim and Tammy Faye!

COOPER (voice-over): Televangelists ruled the airwaves in the 1980s, and these two were the king and queen.

JIM BAKKER, TELEVANGELIST: That means there's over 5,000 memberships left of the lifetime partnerships.


BAKKER: That's right. That's all there is left.

MESSNER: Wow. That's exciting.

COOPER: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The married couple founded the Praise the Lord Club, better known as PTL. They also created Heritage USA, a massive Christian-based theme park and residential complex that became a top vacation destination.

For the Bakkers, the times were good. The money was rolling in. At its height, PTL had some 13 million viewers. But by 1987, their empire was crumbling. There were allegations of lavish spending, financial irregularities, and then scandal.

BAKKER: Seven years ago, Tammy and I went through a very severe marriage problem. Our marriage collapsed.

COOPER: America learned Jim Bakker was using PTL funds to keep former church secretary Jessica Hahn quiet about a sexual encounter. To save the minister, Bakker stepped down, handing control over to Jerry Falwell. A few days later, however, Bakker had a change of heart, but it was too late. Falwell said PTL was better off without him and Tammy Faye.

MESSNER: I would like to say I hope that Jerry Falwell and his family never has to suffer the way that they've made our family suffer. I wake up every morning wishing that they had killed me.

REV. JERRY FALWELL, FOUNDER, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: When you consider the condition this ministry is in, to say that Jerry Falwell and this board stole PTL on March 17 is like accusing someone of stealing the Titanic just after it hit the iceberg.

COOPER: Eventually, Falwell resigned from PTL. The ministry filed for bankruptcy, and Heritage USA had to close its doors. Jim Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison for defrauding his followers out of $158 million. He was released after nearly five years behind bars.

In time, Jim and Tammy Faye said they learned to forgive Falwell, but it wasn't easy.

MESSNER: I have had a hard time. I'm a Christian, and I really love God. But I've had a hard time forgiving what Jerry did. And I work with that daily, asking God to please help me to forgive Jerry for what he did.


COOPER: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker divorced in 1992. Tammy Faye remarried. She's now Tammy Faye Messner. She spoke to Larry King tonight. Here she is, in her own words.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": How did you learn about Reverend Falwell's death?

MESSNER: My son heard it somehow, and when he said Jerry is in the hospital, I mean, immediately my heart just -- I couldn't believe it. And then he said, "They think he might be dead." And then he went on to say he is dead. And when he said Jerry had died, I just broke into tears.

KING: You had some harsh things to say about Jerry Falwell. You were angry with him when he took over the PTL Club. You have said things on this program not very nice about him. Why did his death hit you so hard?

MESSNER: I think I wish we could have cleared everything up. I wanted to talk to him and settle him -- and settle things with him. I tried to do it many times, and I tried to do it nicely. And I wanted so badly to just give him a hug and say, "Hey, you know, it's all right. It's OK. We're all human. We all make mistakes. But just start over again. And yesterday is yesterday. Today is today. KING: So your sorrow is that you didn't get a chance to befriend them or make up for all the past grievances at the end?

MESSNER: Yes. That could easily be. Maybe someday I'll be sitting up in heaven talking to Jerry.


COOPER: Up next on 360, a Falwell friend, Franklin Graham, joins us live to talk about his legacy.


GRAPHIC: Falwell vs. Flynt. Amount Falwell sued "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt for parody depicting drunken incestuous relationship with his mother: $45 million

COOPER: Jerry Falwell was as controversial as he was influential. Even fellow ministers, including the Reverend Billy Graham, sometimes took issue with his views at times.

Today Billy Graham's son, Franklin, runs the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He's also president and CEO of the nonprofit Samaritan's Purse and a good friend of Jerry Falwell. He joins me now.

Thank you so much for being on. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances, but it's always good to have you on the program.


COOPER: Mr. Falwell was your friend. What is -- what's your best memory of him?

GRAHAM: Well, 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.

COOPER: Really?

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's -- 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 whole- heartedly. 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.

I believe there will be millions of people one day in heaven because of Jerry Falwell and the great example that he set and the truth that he preached.

COOPER: It's interesting. I think what a lot of people don't realize, and I hadn't realized until I started to do research today, reading the history of what Falwell was able to accomplish politically, bringing people who really had been isolating themselves from the larger society in terms of politics, not really taking part in the political process. He really brought them, in many ways, to the table or encouraged them to come to the political table.

What was it that made him so successful in bringing those people along? He started out believing you shouldn't be mixing politics from the pulpit; you should be preaching God's word from the pulpit, not necessarily talking about politics. He had a change of heart. What was it that he was -- made him able to bring people along?

GRAHAM: Jerry was a uniter. And when people spent time with Jerry Falwell, they realized he was a sincere, honest person. You could disagree with him, and you could be from a different religion. He spoke to Hindus; he spoke to Buddhists; he spoke to Muslims, to Jews; and he found the things that united us on moral issues such as abortion, the homosexual/lesbian issues. These things brought a lot of conservative people together that had moral values. And now Jerry didn't hate people because they thought differently. He didn't hate the gay and lesbian people. And I want people watching tonight, especially the gay and lesbian community, Jerry Falwell did not hate you, he loved you. He -- but he wanted you to know that your practices were sin. And God was going to judge sin. He wants to warn you.

But Jerry Falwell did not hate you. He was a uniter who brought people together, and I just admired him for that, loved him for that.

And my heart goes out to Macel, his sweet wife, and to his great children, Jerry Jr. -- he's a great man of God -- Jonathan, a great preacher of the gospel, his daughter Jeannie and all the grandchildren. Just -- my heart goes out to them, and I pray for them that God would just give, well, comfort to them right now. They need the comfort. They've lost their father, their husband, and he is going to be missed by the Christian church around the world.

COOPER: Franklin Graham, appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, you've heard the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, remember this picture of Jerry Falwell? In happier times, Heritage USA. It's our "Shot of the Day", coming up next.

Also tonight, are Republicans duking it out in their second presidential debate? We'll have complete coverage in our next hour.


COOPER: "The Shot of the Day" is coming up, a flashback in the life of Reverend Jerry Falwell, a happier time at Heritage Park USA.

But first, Erica Hill joins us from Headline News with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, rescue teams in Denver are searching for a 2- year-old boy. He was swept into a river during flash flooding. A teenager who jumped in to save -- into the water to save that boy is also missing.

Now, his mother fell into the river. Firefighters managed to get her out, though.

AT least 300 additional homes have been evacuated near the Georgia-Florida state line after a massive wildfire jumped a containment line. This fire has burned nearly 390 square miles in both states, and more than 400 other homes were evacuated in just the past week.

In Florida, the fire now 50 percent contained, but on the Georgia side, only 15 percent contained. Home prices have fallen for the third straight quarter. The median price now for a single family home, $212,300. That's down 6.5 percent from the peak last year.

And the city of Miami probably not going to brag about this one. For the second year in a row it has earned the title of worst road rage in a survey done by Autovantage. New York is second on the list, followed by Boston. Hmm.

COOPER: Hmm. Go figure.

HILL: How about that?

COOPER: Time for "The Shot of the Day". It's a different side of the Reverend Jerry Falwell we saw back in 1987. Do you remember this, when he slid down a water slide in his suit?

HILL: That's a moment no one can forget.

COOPER: There you go. Of course, the theme park, Heritage Park USA. PTL Ministry owned it in South Carolina.

He did this because donors met his fund-raising goals: 1,000 people each donated $1,000. The cash didn't last long enough. He gave up, as we mentioned earlier, the ministry seven months after he took it over from the Bakkers after learning that PTL's financial troubles were simply too severe.

So another way to remember Jerry Falwell.

Erica, we want you to send us your "Shot". It's not just you, Erica Hill. Just about everybody at home, if you see some amazing video, tell us about it at, and we'll put some of your best clips on the air.

Coming up in the program ahead, CNN contributor Roland Martin on his recent and sometimes contentious interview with Jerry Falwell.

Also, all the hits and misses from tonight's GOP presidential debate.

Around the country, around the world, you're watching 360.


COOPER: You're watching the only live newscast on cable right now.

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 on Friday night instead.