(UPDATE JAMIE: Falwell says he doen't not know Haggard, but has met him. He was real hesitant in saying that he has met him. H/T to all the commenters on that one)
Reverend Jerry Falwell appeared on the Situation Room last night to talk about the midterm elections and the evangelical vote. When Paula Zahn asked him about the allegations surrounding Ted Haggard , Falwell said "I don't know him..." and played down his influence in the evangelical movement as negligible. When asked about David Kuo's new book and his assertion that the Bush administration expolited the evangelical vote, Falwell said Kuo "has never been a Bush supporter" and has "contempt for evangelical Christians" before dismissing it as "fiction."
Although Haggard may not be a household name like Falwell, Dobson or Robertson, there's no doubt that he is a hugely influential figure in the religous right movement. It's laughable for Falwell to play down his influence when he was President of the largest evangelical organizaion in the America representing more than 30 million members.
When will these people learn that the internet archives virtually everything from (at least) the past five years?! This is Dick I've-Never-Met John-Edwards Cheney2003 email that Ted Haggard sent out describing his trip to Washington DC to witness President Bush as he signed the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003: all over again From a
"[...] I sat with those from the Senate and House who voted for the bill, and afterward was escorted to the President's motorcade and taken to the White House. I and seven others were able to spend 55 minutes with the President in the Oval office discussing any issue we liked...
Attending the private meeting with the President were Rev. Jerry Falwell from Liberty University, Janet Parshall, author and host of the nationally syndicated radio broadcast "Janet Parshall's America," Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Dr. Jack Graham, former SBC President Dr. Adrian Rogers, American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, National Religious Broadcasters President Frank Wright, and President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Dr. Richard Land."
From The Carpetbagger Report :
"Haggard was listed by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America last year, and this is one of a handful of religious leaders with immediate access to the Bush White House. Harper's recently wrote, "No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted.""
(Transcript below the fold..)
From CNN.com :
ZAHN: The Reverend Ted Haggard, who is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a man who represents some 30 million evangelicals in this country, is stepping down after allegations he carried on a three-year affair with a male prostitute. You're reaction?
REV. JERRY FALWELL: Well, I don't know him. I haven't met him, and he's been rather critical of activists like Dr. James Dobson and myself. In pastors' meetings, he's said we shouldn't be aggressive as we have. I certainly sympathize with his family and the great congregation that he pastors there...
FALWELL: [...] He'll no be longer able to pastor his church or lead the evangelical movement. He doesn't really lead the movement. He's president of an association that's very loosely-knit, and I have never been a member of it. Most of people that I know have not, and no one has looked to them for leadership.
FALWELL: Well, I won't use national television to tell you what I know about David Kuo... He has never been a Bush supporter. He should not have been hired. The people who worked around him -- I have e-mails that have come in today, even, telling me of his negative comments, his contempt for evangelical Christians. He didn't belong there. He never was a part of a team. And I think the book, as is indicated by the low sales, has been and will be a total fiasco.