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CNN Larry King Live
The Death of Reverend Jerry Falwell
Aired May 15, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the Reverend Jerry Falwell dead at 73 of heart failure -- powerful, controversial. He made the religious right a major political force, called AIDS god's wrath against homosexuals and blasted abortion rights supporters.
Then, exclusive -- Tammy Faye Messner with her reaction to Reverend Falwell's passing and how she's doing now that her doctors have stopped treating her cancer.
Plus, Falwell's life and his legacy with Billy Graham's son, Franklin; Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family; Dr. Robert Schuller of California's Crystal Cathedral. Plus, Al Sharpton and more, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin by talking with Tammy Faye Messner.
She's with us by phone.
She's the former wife of televangelist Jim Bakker, of course. She co-hosted "The PTL Club." Jerry Falwell took that club over in the aftermath of a series of scandals. And Tammy Faye has been waging a long, tough battle against cancer.
Tammy, are you in -- are you in a hospice or are you home?
TAMMY FAYE MESSNER, FORMER "PTL CLUB" CO-HOST: I'm in a hospice -- I'm in hospice, but the hospice comes to our house, Larry.
KING: Oh, it's a visiting hospice.
MESSNER: Yes, it's a visiting hospice and -- and I'm so happy that they are using my daughter and her friend, because I feel very comfortable around them.
KING: How are you doing?
MESSNER: I -- yes, I'm -- I have a hard time speaking, because I run out of breath. But -- my tummy bothers me all the time and my back. But I make it. I make myself go out everyday. I make myself get dressed every day. And even if I just get out for one hour, I come -- then I come back home and go back to bed again.
But I do get up and make myself do the things I don't feel like doing. And I think that that is very, very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- you know, people need to do that. KING: Yes.
All right, we'll get to your treatment in a while.
But first, how did you learn about Reverend Falwell's death?
MESSNER: Well, you are not going to believe this. I was -- I was sitting in a -- in the restaurant eating, trying to eat, I should say. I weigh 66 pounds, so I'm not eating much. And I went to eat. And -- but we -- my son heard it somehow -- because Jamie is here -- and talked about it.
And when he said, "Jerry is in the hospital," I mean immediately my heart just -- I just 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: Jerry -- the surprise -- I mean, Tammy Faye, the surprising thing about that is 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. And I tried to do it many times and I tried to do it nicely. And I wanted just 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. Let's just start over again and -- and go forward from here.
Yesterday is yesterday. Today is today.
KING: We have an e-mail question for you, Tammy, in that regard. It's from John Viev (ph) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And the question is: "My family is keeping you in our prayers during your illness. You are an inspiration to us all. Do you think Jerry Falwell has gone to heaven?"
MESSNER: I knew I was going to be asked had Jerry gone to heaven. And it's -- you know, the only thing I know is what god's word says about it. And the bible says that we've all sinned and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the glory of god. And if he asked the lord to come into his heart, if he's been living for Jesus, certainly he'll be in heaven.
KING: So your sorrow is that you didn't get a chance to befriend him or make up for all of the past grievances at the end?
MESSNER: Yes. That could easily be. Maybe someday I'll be sitting up in heaven talking to Jerry.
KING: Earlier this month, Tammy Faye, you posted a letter on your Web site addressed to "your dear faithful friends." And some took that as a -- as a farewell letter.
Is that what you intended?
MESSNER: I don't really intend to say farewell. I really believe that god -- that -- that god is going to give me some time. That's my belief.
However, I came to a great -- you'll have to excuse me, I'm on medication. I came to a great peacefulness when -- when, a few days ago, I finally said lord, not my will but thine be done. If you want to take me, you take me. If you want to heal me, you heal me. But I put it in your hands and I'm going to work until you take me.
Are you accepting of this?
MESSNER: I'm very -- I've finally accepted it. And it took a while. It takes a while to accept death because we've never been there, so we don't know -- we don't know how to get there. We don't know what's going to happen, you know?
And that's the thing that I've had a hard time accepting is I don't know what's going to happen.
But I don't have to be afraid, because I have a loving -- a very loving Jesus that doesn't ever want to hurt us. He wants to hold us in his arms. He wants to love us and he wants to take us the way he wants to take us.
KING: Why have you stopped treatment?
MESSNER: I had to. There was nothing they could do. The last -- the last treatment they gave me, I -- I had a very bad reaction to it and couldn't breathe and was there for, what, a half hour, trying to get me breathing again. And they just said they just can't give me anymore.
And so that's what I -- I just say well, that must be god.
KING: Are you in...
MESSNER: And I just give that to god.
KING: Are you in pain?
MESSNER: Yes, constantly.
I would ask the people to remember me. I'm failing. When you pray for us -- when you pray for others, Larry, you know that god heals you and takes care of you, too. That's what the bible says. And that's what I'm believing.
I'm praying for other people. I'm not praying for me. I'm praying for others.
KING: Have you made plans for dying?
MESSNER: Not really. I tried to. I'm a typical woman -- skirting the issue.
Are you scared?
MESSNER: Yes, a little bit. I can't say I'm not, because I really am -- just of dying. I'm not afraid of seeing Jesus. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that's what I've lived for all these years. That's what I preached. That's what I've sung all these years.
But I'm just afraid of how it's going to happen.
MESSNER: You know, you're afraid -- you don't want to choke to death. You know, you understand what I mean.
I thank you so much, Tammy Faye.
We wish you nothing but the best.
MESSNER: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Thanks for joining us to express your thoughts of forgiveness of Jerry Falwell.
MESSNER: ... and I want to pray for his -- that family and tell people to pray for that precious family. They've got huge wholes in their hearts tonight and we need to pray for the kids at the university that loved Jerry Falwell and...
MESSNER: And I just want people to know that they need to pray all over this country for that family tonight.
KING: Thanks, Tammy Faye.
MESSNER: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Coming up...
MESSNER: Bye-bye. KING: Bye.
Coming up, three of Jerry Falwell's peers pay tribute to the man and his legacy.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1980)
REVEREND JERRY FALWELL, MORAL MAJORITY, INC.: A nation that is aborting one and one half million babies a year is in the same danger that Nazi Germany faced when murdering six million Jews.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1983)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In our opinion, that the Moral Majority, the time has come to stop playing politics with the tragic victims of AIDS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1991)
FALWELL: They're the ones who have been crying out to keep on this -- this downward spiral of decadence and -- and gratuitous sex and profanity and pornography, and have been ever since (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: Joining us now at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, is Reverend Robert H. Schuller, the founding pastor of that cathedral.
Best-selling author and host of "The Hour of Prayer," Boone, North Carolina, where we find Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
And in Lynchburg, Virginia, the hometown of Jerry Falwell, Reverend Mel White. Reverend White ghost-wrote two books for Jerry Falwell, his books for Billy Graham and Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker. He is a gay man who came out publicly in 1993. He and his partner, Gary Nixon, are cofounders of Soul Source.
Before we begin with the gentlemen, here's a statement from President George W. Bush: "Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, a man who cherished faith, family and freedom as the founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Jerry lived a life of faith and called upon men and women of all backgrounds to believe in god and serve their communities. One of his lasting contributions was the establishment of Liberty University, where he taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon god's word throughout each stage of their lives."
We'll start with Reverend Schuller.
But in all honesty, Reverend Schuller, in the '80s, Jerry Falwell was a supporter of apartheid. He said that the antichrist would be a Jew. He said that AIDS is the wrath of god and that the National Organization for Women is the National Organization of Witches.
How do we praise him?
REV. ROBERT SCHULLER, FOUNDING PASTOR, CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL, GARDEN GROVE, CALIFORNIA: Well, I never heard those comments attributed to him before.
I was never close to Jerry Falwell because he had his ministry, I had mine. And we came from different theological training and from a different psychological education.
And, you know, interesting -- I'm shocked he died and I want to say my condolences to his wife, his family and I'm very saddened today. I really don't know why, because I wasn't a close friend. But he -- he was an American icon.
SCHULLER: I'm sure of one thing, those -- those comments attributed to him, he would say himself, if he were alive today, they're horrific. How could I have said that?
And we all grow. And I think he grew in his life, I'm sure.
Well, he did...
SCHULLER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) story...
KING: He did later say that...
KING: ... that he was sorry for -- for a lot of what he said earlier.
KING: But he -- he said god hates homosexuality, that gays are moral perverts.
Let me get the thoughts of Franklin Graham.
Is this a conflicted man to you, Franklin?
FRANKLIN GRAHAM, PRESIDENT/CEO, SAMARITAN'S PURSE, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION: Oh, Larry, he -- was a giant. We lost a giant today in the Christian world.
One thing I -- appreciate about Jerry Falwell, Jerry believed very strongly that Jesus Christ was the son of god, who died and rose for our sins, and that if we would confess and repent and ask Christ into our hearts, into our lives, that Christ would make a difference immediately in our life.
And Jerry believed that.
Now, Jerry could disagree, but he would do it always with a smile and he did it with grace. And I appreciate Jerry and his ministry. The university is one of the largest -- is the largest Evangelical university in the world -- 27,000 students. I think they have 10,000 on their campus. They have another 17,000 -- 16,000 that are -- that are -- do it by the Internet.
But this is a -- church -- the Thomas Roads Baptist Church is one of the largest churches in the country. And, Larry, this man is going to be missed. He -- was a giant. There's nobody to replace him...
KING: But you...
KING: ... you agree he was very con...
GRAHAM: ... we loved him.
KING: You agree he was very controversial.
GRAHAM: Well, he -- he was very strong on his moral convictions and what he believed. He would not back down. And that was controversial, especially in a world where everybody has to be politically correct.
Jerry stood by what he believed. And that's what I appreciate about the man.
KING: Reverend White, who ghost-wrote books, who is a gay man -- well, let's play this clip for you, Reverend White.
Here is Jerry Falwell discussing homosexuality.
And then we'll get your thoughts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM LARRY KING LIVE, MAY 2000)
FALWELL: And if gays and lesbians are watching now, I want to say to you...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But these are...
FALWELL: ... god loves you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are people...
FALWELL: Go to yourworld.com (ph) and get "The Planet's Salvation"...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are people...
FALWELL: Go to Billy Graham. Hear about Christ and...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are people who are not going to church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not listening to you.
FALWELL: Well, let's get them to church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not -- they're hearing...
FALWELL: Let's bring them to the gospel, Father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're hearing you say that you're an abomination. And when you -- when you reduce me...
FALWELL: No. No, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
FALWELL: I'm saying the act...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you reduce me...
FALWELL: I'm saying the sexual...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you reduce me to an abomination...
FALWELL: You did not hear me say that, Father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
FALWELL: You did not hear me say that, Father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear you say that I am...
FALWELL: I said the act is...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... a sexual abomination...
FALWELL: ... is an abomination...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and I am not.
FALWELL: ... as adultery is abomination.
FALWELL: But gays and lesbians and straights...
FALWELL: ... are all sinners in need of a savior.
KING: We're going to...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, Reverend White, how do you react to your friend, Jerry Falwell?
REV. MEL WHITE, GHOST-WROTE 2 BOOKS FOR FALWELL, NOW HEADS A GROUP CALLED SOULFORCE: Well, you know, I know his family and I -- I cried for them. I cried for the church. He was a good pastor, a good father. He was a good president of the university.
But I also cry for my brothers and sisters who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, who have been victims of Jerry Falwell's anti-gay rhetoric. I just wanted so much for him to change and be able to say god loves gays, god created gays and god wants us to celebrate and accept our own intents -- our sexuality.
But he never said that. So I'm weeping today, because I've lost my chance to make a difference with him.
KING: Did you ask him to say it?
WHITE: Oh, many, many times, yes. He just looked at me strangely. He really believed, even though he was sincere, though he was sincerely wrong. But I couldn't get through to him the fact that gay people are good Americans, that gay people are Christian and Jewish and Muslim, that gay people are at the heart of this country.
He never could see it, even though they were part of his ministry and part of his student body and part of his church.
KING: More with Reverend Schuller, Reverend Graham and Reverend White right after this.
And when we come back, Jerry Falwell's definition of the word "Christian" and how it compares to the definitions of others.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1987)
FALWELL: And when you're in the barber shop, and when you're working at the plant and the office, and so on, and god brings you into -- into close contact with persons who may not know Christ, are you carefully, prayerfully, attentively, aggressively, lovingly sharing Christ?
You may be the only detour on the road to hell for that person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1987) FALWELL: Christianity is not Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell or Jim Bakker. Christianity is Jesus Christ and in him there's no disappointment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "CNN PRESENTS")
FALWELL: I think the unborn are the last disenfranchised minority and 30 years is just a drop in the bucket. I -- I don't believe that I will live long enough to see all -- after we overturn "Roe v. Wade," we have 50 states that we must battle with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's the office where Jerry Falwell collapsed. And he was doing an interview a week ago -- probably his last interview -- with Christiane Amanpour. We don't know any since. It will air as part of a "CNN PRESENTS" this summer.
Back with our panel.
This -- in March of '93, Reverend Schuller, despite a promise to Jewish groups to stop referring to America as a Christian nation, Jerry Falwell gave a sermon saying: "We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours."
What's your reaction?
SCHULLER: Well, my reaction is I have a -- I have a different belief system. I come from a different background. And I believe this is a country where we can have freedom of religion and we have to create an environment where non-Christians will not feel threatened by Christians.
SCHULLER: I don't know how much time I'm going to have.
Larry, let me tell a story that I think is very important. Jerry and I had different teachers, a different education, from different cultures. And so we were never on the same page. We each had, I think, dynamic ministries.
But about only a few months ago, I was watching the news and I saw Jerry Falwell and he looked terrible. And I thought he could die. And I have really never talked to him. I think I should talk to him before he dies.
I picked up a telephone, got his number, rang the office. It was late. And the next morning he called me back. And I said, "Jerry, you know, you -- you don't look well."
And I said, "In fact, I think you look deathly ill with something and I wanted to know what it was."
And when I said, "That really is a matter of something else (ph). You have spent your life -- you are an icon confronting what you perceive to be sins and evils in the world today. And you have a vast majority that support you and agree with you."
And I have never been with you...
SCHULLER: ... we've done our own thing. But I -- I couldn't let you die, Larry. I'm calling you because I couldn't let you die, Jerry, without telling you that I admired your courage.
KING: How long ago was that?
SCHULLER: The kind of principles -- maybe four months ago.
SCHULLER: And he was...
KING: I'm sorry, but we've got limited time.
How did it conclude?
What did he say?
SCHULLER: Oh, he thanked me for calling and he sounded very humble and most appreciative for my concern for him and expressing the fact that a lot of things that he was doing I'm interested -- we're interested in morality, all of us.
SCHULLER: We're dealing...
KING: I'm glad.
I'm glad you got to make the call.
Reverend Graham, a statement from Pat Robertson. And he said: "Jerry's courage and strength of conviction will be sadly missed in this time of increasing moral relativism. I join with the tens of thousands of his friends to mourn the passing of this extraordinary human being."
Did you share his view, Franklin, that this is a Christian nation?
GRAHAM: Well, I think -- of course it's not a Christian nation. But it was founded, certainly, by men of faith and women of faith, the Pilgrims, when they first came. So when you look at the beginnings of this nation, yes. But, of course, we are not a -- a Christian nation today. We are -- we are far from that.
And so, you know, there's a lot of sin in this world and that's why Jerry was a preacher of the gospel. Jerry was faithful, to lift up the name of the lord, Jesus Christ, every chance he had, all -- all over the world.
And so there are missionaries today, there are educators today, there are lawyers today because of Jerry Falwell. And there will be thousands and thousands of people in heaven because of Jerry Falwell and the impact that he has had on this nation, but not only this nation, but around the world.
He was a faithful servant of -- of Jesus Christ. He was an example to me, Larry. I will miss this man. He was a friend to me and a great help to -- to my work.
Interesting to hear that.
And Reverend White, is he going to be remembered as a pastor or a political figure?
WHITE: I think he'll be remembered as both. For the gay community, we remember him as a person who gave us voice. He mobilized us. He became the face of homophobia. And we have to thank him, because a lot of gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgendered people have marched, taken their own steps toward getting justice because of Jerry Falwell.
So I think he'll be remembered by the gay community as the worst person in terms of misinformation about us, but as a great person for mobilizing us for -- for justice.
KING: As a gay man, Reverend White, how could you have worked with him?
WHITE: Well, I didn't know I was gay when I worked with him. I thought homosexuality was a sickness or a sin, like he did. Then I learned, thank god, that it was not. It is a gift from god, not a sickness nor a sin.
Once I learned that, then I was free to go back to Jerry and say, you know, when I worked with you, I didn't understand that gays are god's children, too. And I need to tell you the tragic consequences of your rhetoric against us.
Of course, he was deaf to that appeal.
KING: And you had no inclination you were gay when you worked with him?
WHITE: Oh, I -- I was struggling with what I thought was a sin, Larry. KING: Oh.
WHITE: I've only known same-sex attraction. So -- so I thought what the church told me was true. But the church had told me wrong, as they were wrong about slavery and they were wrong about apartheid, as Jerry was.
Jerry was a real racist during the civil rights movement, you know?
And he changed. And last -- a few years ago, he got the NAACP award here in Lynchburg.
WHITE: That's why I thought he might change about us. Now, he hasn't. It's too bad.
KING: Thank you all very much.
Up next, another pair of people with things to say about Falwell's philosophies. Find out what they have to say now.
As we go to break, a historic debate between Reverend Falwell and "Hustler" magazine publisher Larry Flint.
It happened right here and ended with them actually liking each other.
We'll be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM LARRY KING LIVE, JANUARY 1997)
FALWELL: Christ, when he was on Earth, you know, he condemned sin, but he loved sinners. And I -- I think what Larry is doing is very damaging to people. I think it is wrong. That isn't -- and that's who we are. We are pastors. We -- we're not supposed to be preaching to the choir. I'm going...
KING: So you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
FALWELL: ... the reason, when you invited me to come, I wanted to -- I wanted to get this close to him to tell him I love him, I'm praying for him, I want to see him come to Christ and I want to be his pastor one day.
KING: Don't you believe him?
LARRY FLINT: I?
KING: Don't you believe Jerry when he says that?
FLINT: I think Jerry is full of it, Larry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: We're back. You saw that clip of Jerry Falwell that we went out with, with Larry Flynt. That's part of the 300 greatest interviews on LARRY KING LIVE available on DVD right now. You can add it to your collection of DVDs. We think it's very well done. They put it together beautifully, did the folks at CNN and Time Warner. And you can you order it at kingoftalkdvd.com. If I do say so myself, very well done.
We're joined now in Atlanta by Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, the famed Republican strategist; and in New York by Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, a Civil Rights activist and a former Democratic presidential candidate.
Ralph, I know you worked closely with Reverend Falwell. What was your reaction today?
RALPH REED, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CHRISTIAN COALITION: Well, you know, Larry, I think even though we knew that Dr. Falwell had experienced some health difficulties, as you know, he went through a real scare in 2005, even so when you hear the news, it's a shock. And I worked with him and knew him as a friend for 24 years. He had a huge influence on me. I think he had a huge influence on the direction of the country. And tonight our thoughts and our prayers are with his family and with the Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist family and Lynchburg community. I know they've lost a dear friend and a leader. And our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them.
KING: Reverend Sharpton, what was your thought?
REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Well, you know, I met Jerry Falwell many years ago. Reverend James Coldwell, who heads our organization over in Lynchburg, brought us together. And we didn't agree on anything. I mean we really debated. We used to do a lot of TV debates, even "Meet the Press." We used to do a weekly debate on another show.
But he was the kind of person, as you got to know him, you couldn't dislike. He was a genuinely kind person. And it was to the point where he would take personal interest. I remember I was going through a family crisis once, and he said, "Send your daughter down to Liberty." And he would call me and inquire. We would tease each other about our weight.
I think that one of the things that always struck me about him is that you would never see him never pass a guy in the studio, if he was a cameraman or a doorman in the hotel; he was a regular guy who had a phenomenal ability to organize. Even though I was against all of what he organized for, he really showed an iconic level of putting people together in this country. You had to appreciate his ability even if you feel they were misused.
KING: Former President George Bush, president number 41, said today, "I had a great deal of respect for the Reverend Falwell even when we disagreed. I admired his convictions and faith. We were proud to call him a friend."
Ralph Reed, how is he able to do that? He can have some, we might call, bizarre opinions like pro-apartheid, and still retain friendships with people who wouldn't share that opinion at all?
REED: Well, you know, I think that, first of all, his heart was that of a pastor. I would second what Reverend Sharpton said. That was certainly my experience. I mean I got to know him when I was a young buck coming up politically in my 20s and he was then at the peak with the moral majority, friend of the president of the United States, a man friend to presidents and speakers and prime ministers and some of the most powerful and wealthiest people in the country. And yet, when I interacted with him, I never felt like he was looking past me at somebody who was more important.
I mean you know Larry, I think we can learn something from his life which is it's important to stand up for what you believe in. It's important to stand up for your convictions and to make a difference while you're here on earth. But there's a lot more to be said than we often give credit for today in our public discourse for treating other people with respect and dignity, including and especially those with whom we occasionally disagree. I always saw that in him. I never saw him as somebody who had any enemas in his heart towards anybody with whom he disagreed politically or theologically.
And I think that was a big part of it. If you were around him, you liked him. He was fun to be around. He had a great sense of humor. He didn't take himself too seriously. And yet he took seriously the cause of Christ to which he had been -- he had been called.
KING: Was it hard -- Reverend Sharpton, some of his views, especially early on in the Civil Rights area, had to be diametrically opposed to you, wasn't it difficult for you emotionally?
SHARPTON: It was very difficult. And the thing that was distracting was that he understood it and we would argue it. And I understood that some of my views were very difficult even as he evolved. And I think one of your earlier guests said, rightly so, he was even honored by the NAACP in Lynchburg. But I remember once I visited him at his office at the college and he would laugh at the fact that some of the students were shocked that he and I got along. It was never personal with him.
And the other thing that I thought was important, Larry, is that I really believed, no matter how outrageous and wrong I thought he was, he really believed it. He was not disingenuous. You meet people offstage that you feel like that was just something they were doing. I guess you had to respect him no matter how much you were opposed to him because you really believe he was saying what he really meant.
KING: More with Ralph Reed and Reverend Sharpton when we come back. And later, a focus on the families, James Dobson weighs in on the legacy of Jerry Falwell. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JAMES FALWALL, TV EVANGELIST: I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat either. I vote for values and I vote for persons who are committed to the sanctity of life, born and unborn, and the sanctity of marriage.
When we started the moral majority, we were novices. You could you have gotten most of our preaching who were interested in public policy in the phone booth at the time, but it was an idea whose time had come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FALWELL: Romans Chapter One, very clear. I hope you'll go home tonight and read it because it simply says that men with men working that which is unseemly, women burning in their lust, one toward another, and God said it is unseemly, it is abominable. And I can't change that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Ralph Reed and Reverend Al Sharpton. Let's take a call. Leads, Maine, hello? Do you want to turn your TV down, dear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's down.
KING: OK, I'm sorry, sir, go ahead, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello?
KING: Yes, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I have a question...
KING: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question about Jerry Falwell.
KING: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Jerry Falwell was such a heavy duty Christian and following the preachings of Jesus and walking like Jesus, why did this man have so much hate? He promoted hate. He just hated everyone. And another thing is it's not in the Ten Commandment that's thy shall not be homosexual.
KING: All right, Ralph, did he promote hate?
REED: No, he did not, Larry. He was somebody who loved people with whom he disagreed. He believed that Christ died for everyone's sins.
And you know the clip you showed earlier, you know, of him on the set with Larry Flynt, I mean I think that demonstrated it, putting his arm around him, telling him he loved him. You know Christ didn't die for the righteous; he died for the sinners of which we all are. And that was his message and I saw him many times, both on the stage and behind the curtain and saw nothing but generosity in his heart for others.
So I just -- look, he had ideas with which people disagreed but that doesn't mean there was anything in his heart other than love for others.
KING: Lynchburg, Virginia, hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I personally had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk to Jerry Falwell when he was alive and I'm a student at Liberty University now. My question is why is so much pressure being put on his being the president of the university, being the pastor? He was just a normal guy. When you would walk around campus, you would see him, he would stop and talk. You could tell him a joke and he would laugh. He wasn't high and mighty. You know if you had...
KING: Is a caller presenting him as high and mighty?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, often times on other channels, like when they show him or when they just showed the news, they show him and he's like -- they show him in his formal gear for being a pastor and stuff and they don't show him out on the streets or after the church is over talking to the congregation.
KING: You're saying he was a regular guy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a regular guy and he loved people.
KING: Reverend Sharpton, do you want to comment?
SHARPTON: Well, I think again, as one who disagreed with a lot of his social policies and felt they were entitled, I did not find him to be anything but a regular person. And I'm talking about to everybody. I mean people that would travel with me, travel with him, he would talk to people around me more than he would me. He did not come off as a guy that was too impressed with himself or took himself too seriously.
That's why -- as I said, as vehemently as we opposed each other politically, you couldn't dislike him if you got to know him.
KING: Billy Graham said today, "Jerry Falwell was a close personal friend for many years. We did not always agree on everything but I knew him to be a man of God. He leaves a gigantic vacuum in the evangelical world."
It must be asked, Ralph, why didn't he take better care of himself? He was way overweight. REED: Well, I think he had some health difficulties. I know that he was under the care of outstanding physicians. I don't know all of the details of his health regimen. But the reality, is, Larry, is that, you know, we're all called to be good stewards of what God has given us, but on the other hand, there's going to come a time when we're all going to go home. And I know he was aware of that. He was very conscience of not only his own personal mortality but the tremendous responsibility he had to Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist and his other ministries to ensure transition. And I think he should be commended for preparing for that.
I think back to what the caller said earlier about why can't we capture the regular guy, you know, it's difficult wherever you're dealing with a figure of this historical import -- and let's remember, this was the man who blew the trumpet and awakened the slumbering giant of the evangelical vote and really presided over the wedding ceremony of that vote with an ascendant, confident, Republican Party. So hopefully that will come out, but let's all cherish the consequential nature of this life.
KING: Thank you both very much, Ralph Reed and Reverend Al Sharpton. And when we come back, Dr. James Dobson joins us. And by the way, Larry Flynt joins us tomorrow night and he'll talk about his issues with Jerry Falwell but also about that odd friendship they formed on this program. As we go to break, another clip from that debate years ago right here on the show. Stick around.
FALWELL: I think pornography is a scourge on society. It's demeaning to women and children. Gloria Steinem and I don't agree on much, but we agree on this, that Hollywood will never be about Klansman and Nazis.
KING: But they can?
FALWELL: They could but they would never do that. And for Oliver Stone and DFI, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) merchant. And that's why Larry is here in all due respect to him.
KING: But you love him?
FALWELL: I do love him and pray for him. He won't believe that, but I do pray for him. KING: We need to break, guys.
FALWELL: He needs his salvation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now from Denver, Colorado, just arrived from London, by the way, Dr. James Dobson, an old friend. He's founder and chairman of Focus on the Family. He's a syndicated radio commentator and best-selling author.
How did you hear about Reverend Falwell's passing? DR. JAMES DOBSON, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Well, I was on a long plane flight, 13 hours, and I got a radio message brought to me saying that I needed to see the agent at the gate. And when I stepped off the plane, I was told that my friend Jerry Falwell was gone.
KING: When did you last see or speak with him?
DOBSON: It's been a couple of years. I have known him for almost as long as I've known you, Larry and I considered him a very, very good friend and a man that I respected very highly. And I just regret his loss today more than I can say.
KING: He can say, as we have discussed on the program, incredibly controversial things throughout his life. How did you deal with -- or you couldn't agree with everything. How did you deal with the areas you disagreed with?
DOBSON: Well, there wasn't a whole lot I disagreed with. You know I see the social issues very much the way Jerry did and appreciated the fact that he had the courage to stand up for them.
You know, I really, frankly, resented the caller who talked about Jerry being a man of hate. I never heard him one time say anything mean or hurtful to anybody. He had strong views and some of those views were not politically correct. But I never heard him try to wound or hurt anybody. That's just not who the man was.
KING: But if you're gay and he calls it an abomination, you might feel hurt by that statement?
DOBSON: Well, you do have to understand that is in the scripture and so Jerry's ultimate commitment was to the Bible, to the scriptures. If it was there, he was going to talk about it. And that is written in the Book of Leviticus. I don't believe he said it in a mean way because we all -- as Ralph Reed said, we all are sinners and we're in need of a savior. But I just never saw him do anything that embarrassed me in that way. KING: A statement by Senator John McCain today, "I joined the students, faculty and staff of Liberty University and Americans of all faiths in mourning the loss of Reverend Jerry Falwell. Dr. Falwell was a main of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country."
But back in 2000 in that presidential race, McCain pointed to Falwell and Pat Roberts as agents of intolerance. Did they change or did McCain change?
DOBSON: I think McCain changed. I think he was very angry at that time. That was after the North Carolina primary that didn't' come out the way he wanted it to, as I recall, and he kind of let it go there. But they patched it up and were friends at the end. And I appreciate Senator McCain saying those things about him.
KING: I think it was South Carolina, though.
DOBSON: Was it South Carolina?
KING: Yes, I think -- yes. What's Falwell's legacy?
DOBSON: Well, his legacy is his commitment to Jesus Christ. Everybody talks about what he had to say about the Pro-Life Movement and the defense of marriage and the family and his opposition to pornography and the other things.
But ultimately what he cared about most was his relationship with Jesus Christ. And I really do believe that he has had a profound impact across this nation and around the world by having the boldness and the courage to stand up for the things that he believed.
KING: We'll be back with some more moments with Dr. James Dobson, the founder and chairman of Focus on The Family right after these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is President Reagan living up to your expectations?
FALWELL: I personally am prejudiced. I think he's the finest thing that's happened to America in a long, long time. I do believe it is a reality and we're going to have a new beginning not because I'm trusting a man to do it, but I think he is going to provide the leadership. He is a communicator. His philosophy is, in my opinion, correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Our text vote question last night seems even more timely today than when we asked it at the end of the show. It was, "Does a political candidate's religion matter to you?" Fifty- five percent of you said yes.
Tonight's text question is about Reverend Falwell. Will he be remembered as a pastor or a political figure? You can text vote from your cell phone to CNNTV, which is 26688. Text KINGA for Pastor and KINGB for political figure and we'll reveal the results on tomorrow night's show. And the correct total was 58 percent say religion matters.
What do you think, Reverend Dobson -- Dr. Dobson, I'm sorry, on that question, will Falwell be remembered as pastor or politician?
DOBSON: Well, I think the answer is yes. I think he was a pastor and a minister and a university president who had great influence on politics. So I don't know why we have to choose between the two. With the moral majority and his awakening the evangelical community the way he did, I don't know anybody that had a greater impact, especially during the '80s and early '90s, than Jerry Falwell did.
KING: Let's take a call for Dr. Dobson.
Gainesville, Virginia, hello.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, hi, first of all, I just wanted to give my condolences to the Falwell family. And I had a question for Dr. Dobson.
Dr. Dobson, why do you think that Jerry Falwell just created so much emotion in people when it did come to homosexuality and abortion when many other preachers across the country preached the same message every week from the Bible? Why do you think it just stirred so much emotion?
KING: Good question.
DOBSON: Well, you know, I mentioned before, he had such courage and boldness, and that's what he did. He was not afraid of political correctness. And as a result, he just got skewered by the media and by, you know, the print media trying to make him out to be something that he never was.
We were in London last night, as I told you, and I saw a special on him, either on CNN or the BBC, I can't remember which one and they really did a number on him, whoever it was. It was on global warming. And he didn't say he didn't believe in global warming. He said the jury is out. And because of that, they tried to make him look like a clown. And they brought the camera right in so that you could see the pours of his face.
There was an effort to marginalize this man because he had such political influence. And as a result, people saw him in a way that was simply not accurate from my perspective.
KING: A namby-pamby, he was not.
DOBSON: He was not. I mean he would say it if he believed that he said it. But he did not, Larry, he did not say it with hate. I don't know. Did you ever hear him say anything hateful?
KING: I never thought he was hateful. You could disagree with him but he was never, never -- in fact, he was so likable, it was hard to hate him.
DOBSON: Well, that's it. I regret that he didn't take better care of himself.
KING: Yes, sure.
DOBSON: And I don't know that he didn't, but he was overweight. And I tell you, the world lost one of the generals and we're poorer for it.
KING: Thanks, Dr. Dobson.
DOBSON: Thank you, Larry. KING: Thanks for giving us this time after all those hours in the air. Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on The Family.
Larry Flynt of "Hustler" magazine fame will be with us tomorrow night. It will not be dull.
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