Hitchens joined Anderson Cooper last night on a shortened version of "AC360" to discuss the life of Jerry Falwell. Former Director of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed was first up and as expected, praised Falwell...then came old Chris and he offered up an alternate perspective. Steve Benen documents some interesting moments of his life...
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.
HITCHENS: The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're -- we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, was found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.
How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like "Elmer Gantry"** radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?
Do you get an idea now of what I mean to say?
COOPER: Yes, no, I think -- I think you're making yourself very clear.
I mean, I...
HITCHENS: How dare he say, for example, that the Antichrist is already present amongst us and is an adult male Jew, while all the time, fawning on the worst elements in Israel, with his other hand pumping anti-Semitic innuendoes into American politics, along with his friends Robertson and Graham?
COOPER: And, yet, there are...
HITCHENS: ... encouraging -- encouraging -- encouraging the most extreme theocratic fanatics and maniacs on the West Bank and in Gaza not to give an inch of what he thought of as holy land to the people who already live there, undercutting and ruining every Democrat and secularist in the Jewish state in the name of God?
HITCHENS: This is -- this is -- he's done us an enormous, enormous disservice by this sort of demagogy.
COOPER: What do you think it says about America that -- and politics in America, that he was so successful in mobilizing huge swathes of the country to come out and vote?
HITCHENS: I'm not certain at all that he did deserve this reputation. And I...
COOPER: You don't think he does?
HITCHENS: Well, I'm not certain that he was a mobilizer. He certainly hoped to be one.
Well, the fact is that the country suffers, to a considerable extent, from paying too much, by way of compliment, to anyone who can describe themselves as a person of faith. Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Chaucerian frauds, people who are simply pickpockets, who -- and frauds -- who prey on the gullible and...
COOPER: Do you believe he believed what he spoke?
HITCHENS: Of course not. He woke up every morning, as I say, pinching his chubby little flanks and thinking, I have got away with it again.
COOPER: You think he was a complete fraud, really?
COOPER: You don't believe that, I mean, in his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in his -- I mean, whether you agree or not with his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in what he spoke?
HITCHENS: No. I think he was a conscious charlatan and bully and fraud.
And I think, if he read the Bible at all -- and I would doubt that he could actually read any long book of -- at all -- that he did so only in the most hucksterish, as we say, Bible-pounding way.
I'm going to repeat what I said before about the Israeli question. It's very important. Jerry Falwell kept saying to his own crowd, yes, you have got to like the Jews, because they can make more money in 10 minutes than you can make in a lifetime. He was always full, as his friends Robertson and Graham are and were, of anti- Semitic innuendo.
Yet, in the most base and hypocritical way, he encouraged the worst elements among Jewry. He got Menachem Begin to give him the Jabotinsky Medal, celebrating an alliance between Christian fundamentalism and Jewish fanaticism that has ruined the chances for peace in the Middle East.
Lots of people are going to die and are already leading miserable lives because of the nonsense preached by this man.
COOPER: The book is "God Is Not Great."
Christopher Hitchens, appreciate you being on the program.
HITCHENS: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: Christopher Hitchens, his comments have provoked a great deal of e-mail, positive and negative, we should say. We'll read some of your comments ahead.
**Thanks to C&L reader "ssssss" for deciphering.