Hitchens Takes on Fox News on Jerry Falwell

I've transcribed this segment from Fox News after the death of Jerry Falwell for your reading enjoyment. It has become a Hitchens youtube classic, with over a million views. It is obvious why this is the case: Hitchens is at his best here, and his concluding jab at Falwell is perhaps the greatest thing that has ever been said on the mainstream media. Without further ado:

Dramatis Personae:
Alan Colmes, former host of Fox News show Hannity & Colmes.
Sean Hannity, former host of Fox News show Hannity & Colmes, now host of his own Fox News show, and generally a Falstaffian fathead.
Christopher Hitchens, no introduction needed.
Ralph Reed, religious entrepreneur friend and colleague of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, leader of the Christian Coalition, demagogue and sycophant.

Colmes: “The controversial televangelist was a polarizing figure, emboldening conservative Christians while alienating many liberals, but there is no question about the impacting legacy Falwell leaves behind. Joining us now is Republican strategist Ralph Reed and author of God is Not Great, columnist Christopher Hitchens who made news last night with his harsh critique of the Reverend. Christopher let me start with you here and talk about the things you've said, which, obviously, we know where you stand on religion, we know where you stand on Reverend Falwell. By being so angry about what his legacy was and is are you not hurting his family and others who may have no dog in that hunt but who would just like a few moments to celebrate his life and have some peace?”

Hitchens: “Well, I don't care whether his family's feelings are hurt or not, but if they are, they can take comfort from the extraordinary piety and stupidity, and generally speaking, uniformity of the coverage of the man's death. It is after all said, was said by Jesus of Nazareth to his followers, that they must expect to be mocked for their beliefs, because their beliefs will appear to many people to be ridiculous, if not worse than that, and that they are to take it for granted that they will be ridiculed. That's true, I think, of the most devout and serious and thoughtful Christian, but for a vulgar fraud and crook like Reverend Falwell it's an obligation to say what one thinks about him, or be left off the air and have people like yourselves broadcasting only piety, and that won't do.”

Colmes: “Well, whatever, I'm not broadcasting only piety, I had you on my radio show and now we're having you on here to talk about your view...(inaudible).”

Hitchens: “Yes, you're having me on and then arguing that maybe it's bad taste to have me on, I don't think that's very hospitable.”

Colmes: “Well I thought it was a legitimate question because I think people are wondering...”

Hitchens: “Yeah, well I've answered it, I've answered the question...(inaudible).”

Colmes: “You have, and I will now move on to Ralph Reed since you've answered that question (chuckles).”

Hitchens: “Good.”

Colmes: “Ralph, does Christopher Hitchens have a point? It is a free speech issue, he was a polarizing figure, Reverend Falwell was, and there are many people, maybe not all of them feeling as strong [sic] as Christopher Hitchens, but who feel that Reverend Falwell was indeed a polarizing figure who said things that offended many Americans.”

Reed: “Well, you know look, any time Allen, that you are an agent of change, the way Doctor Falwell was, who had the kind of impact that he had upon American religion, upon our culture and on our politics—he was one of the most important historical figures of the last fifty years in each of those areas: ending the self-imposed exile of evangelicals from civic and cultural engagement and, I think, transforming them into one of the most important and vibrant and energetic constituencies in the entire electorate—no one does that, liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat, of any faith, and not stir controversy. But I, it's just my belief—as an American, not as a conservative, not as somebody of any particular denominational background or faith, but just as an American—in terms of elevating the civility of our discourse, that when somebody dies, that we ought to show a measure of respect and appreciation for their family and for their loved ones and for those who are grieving right now, and our thoughts and prayers ought to be with them, regardless of whether we agree with Doctor Falwell or not.”

Hannity: “Hey, uh, Christopher Hitchens, hey Christopher...”

Hitchens: “Oh come on, play the world's smallest violin. Listen, he established a business, a racket in my opinion, he was a religious businessman, in the same way as Mr. Ralph Reed is a religious entrepreneur, he's left the business to his children—it's an hereditary job. Let that console them. You can't have me on and say that I have to say I'm terribly sorry he's dead.”

Hannity: “Hey, hey, Christopher...”

Hitchens: “One reason you can't ask me to do it, is because I am not. I think we have been rid of an extremely dangerous demagogue who lived by hatred of others, and prejudice, and who committed treason by saying that the United States deserved the attack upon it and its civil society on September 2001 by other religious nutcases like himself.”

Hannity: “Hey, Christopher, let me jump in, he profoundly and repeatedly apologized and I, I'm sure you're perfect...”

Hitchens: “Not enough. No. Not enough.”

Hannity: “I'm sure you're perfect in your life, and that you've never made any mistakes, but let's...”

Hitchens: “I've never committed treason like that; I don't believe in the sincerity of his apology...”

Hannity: “Let's look at the thoughlessness and the meanspiritedness of your very remarks that you've made about Reverend Falwell.”

Hitchens: “By all means.”

Hannity: “You think 'it's a pity that there isn't a hell for him to go to', you said.”

Hitchens: “Yes, I do.”

Hannity: “On his death you write: 'The discovery of the carcass of Reverend Falwell on the floor of his obscure office is in [sic] almost zero significance except for perhaps two categories of people'...etc.”

Hitchens: Nods. “(inaudible)”

Hannity: “You also say, 'the evil he did will live after him.'”

Hitchens: “Yes.”

Hannity: “I knew Reverend Falwell, Christopher. I know the good work that this man has done.”

Hitchens (with heavy sarcasm): “Tell me about it.”

Hannity: “Well, he, he, for unwed...”

Hitchens: “Takes a lot to make me cry.”

Hannity: “Would you like...I know you think you're the smartest guy in the room, but you sound like a jackass when you attack his family like this. But I know, I know what he did for unwed mothers...”

Hitchens: “I didn't attack his family, I said I don't...”

Hannity: “...I know what he did for alcoholics...”

Hitchens: “I did not, excuse me, I did not attack his family.”

Hannity: “...I know what he did for drug addicts...”

Hitchens: “I did not, excuse me, I did not attack...excuse me, sir.”

Hannity: “Yeah?”

Hitchens: “I did not attack his family, and no fair-minded viewer of yours would say that. I'm not going to be conscripted into saying that it's my job when you invite me on to discuss this man, first to say how sorry I am for him and his family. That isn't what I feel. You, no doubt, as a Christian or whatever you are, require hypocrisy of people—I'm sorry, you've asked the wrong person.”

Hannity: “I'm not asking for...no...but I am asking for human decency, and if you don't think it has an impact upon his family to use even the four phrases tonight that he's vulgar, fraud, and a crook, and then to say that the discovery of his carcass...”

Hitchens: “Am I supposed to conceal...am I supposed to conceal my...you asked me on...”

Hannity (talking over Hitchens): “I think you are incredibly mean...”

Hitchens: “...you invited me to give...”

Hannity: “...incredibly selfish, and incredibly thoughtless...”

Hitchens: “You invited me, sir...”

Hannity (pertly, looking down bovinely at his notes): “I invited you, sir.”

Hitchens: “...to give my opinion of the departed. I give it to you, and you say, 'Well, might that not upset his family.' I said it while he was alive—...”

Hannity (interrupting): “Well, you give his [sic] opinion about...”

Hitchens: “...might that not have upset his family too. This is a (inaudible) on your part.”

Hannity: “You know, you give the opinion about him, and I'm giving the opinion about you and the thoughtlessness of your remarks here, and I'm really calling for any human decency that you may have in your...”

Hitchens (shaking his head negatively): “You're going south all the time.”

Hannity: “...pseudo-intellectually superior mind of yours.”

Colmes: “Uh, we, uh (inaudible)...we will uh (inaudible)...more of the debate on this coming up in a moment.”

Hannity: “Sorry.”

Colmes: “Later, an unbelievable video of a toddler...”

Hitchens: “We haven't had a debate yet.”

(Commercial Break)

Hannity: “(inaudible, garbled nonsense) continue now with Republican strategist Ralph Reed and author and columnist Christopher Hitchens. You know, Christopher, I interviewed you a little bit about your book a short time ago; it made me think a lot; Jerry Falwell, because I do know him, he does a lot for people that are in trouble, gave a lot of scholarships to his school, he helped women that were pregnant and needed help, he'd give them food and a place to live and an education, uh, he did a lot to people that are alcoholics and, etc., etc. You have your hostility towards religion, and that's without saying, you know, I just wonder, when you compare his life, you know, there are a lot of good atheists out there like Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and, you know, they slaughtered millions, Jerry sl- Jerry Falwell slaughtered nobody in his life, he may have misspoke [sic] once or twice, but he devoted his life to his religion, do you have nothing good to say about him at all?”

Hitchens: “No, I repeat, Jerry Falwell lived on hatred and superstition and bigotry, he preached dislike of people whose lives he knew nothing about, he raised money from credulous fools...”

Hannity (interrupting): “You knew nothing about his life.”

Hitchens: “Now excuse me sir, you can either ask me on and ask my opinion or you may not, but I don't have to be here if you're going to take that attitude.”

Hannity: “You could leave.”

Hitchens: “You spent the first half by saying that I don't have the right to the opinion you'd asked me on to express, now you're tiring me out. I repeat though...”

Hannity: “No, what I said is that your opinion was thoughtless. What you wrote was crude and mean and hateful, that's what I said.”

Hitchens: “You took up all the time for my answer with your long, rather unlettered question. Jerry Falwell made a career out of sponsoring dislike and superstition, said that people he didn't like were going to hell, said the United States deserved to be attacked by Islamic fascists, said he believed that people would be raptured into heaven leaving all the rest of us to wallow behind. I think his death is a deliverance.”

Reed: “Sean...”

Hitchens: “And if you say that someone who occasionally makes a charitable donation is a good person, then you have to say that Hamas and Hezbollah, who do all this charitable giving and charitable organizing are the same.”

Hannity: “How dare he practice religion in a country that celebrates it Ralph Reed?”

Reed: “Sean...Sean...you know, look, I just...”

Hitchens: “And why not a word now from the friend of Jack Abramoff, to give a kosher stamp to religious fraud...”

Colmes: “Wait, we only have a moment here, Ralph, let me get Ralph in here, here's an important question about Jerry Falwell, Ralph...”

Hitchens: “That's all it needs now, let's hear from the Abramoff faction and all the other religious rip-off artists. You should be ashamed of yourselves...”

Colmes (interuppting Hitchens): “Ralph...hold on Christopher...Ralph, the big controversy about Falwell is that he fused religion and politics, and that's what people will be debating I guess going forward. And after he said he would not do such a thing. Would Jesus have advocated the GOP...”

Hitchens (laughing): “What a question.”

Colmes: “...and was he right to bring and marry those two and give that impression? We only have a very short time left Ralph.”

Reed: “Well, I don't think that's ever what Doctor Falwell said...”

Hitchens (laden with sarcasm): “Doctor Falwell.”

Reed: “...what he said was that there were certain transcendent values, such as the protection of innocent human life, the sanctity of marriage, the need to defend the state of Israel, his opposition to Communism, his opposition to radical Jihadism...”

Hitchens: “No, the need to defend the Israeli occupation.”

Reed: “...and what he believed is that those values should be reflected in public policy. And I think that, you know, when you have a community of Liberty University, with its ten thousand students in residence, you have twenty two thousand members of his church, you have millions of others of people who looked up to him and admired him, I would really hope that people like Christopher would show the decency and respect to let those people mourn...”

Hitchens: “Tell it to Jack Abramoff.”

Reed: “...and remember his memory without it being torn down and attacked.”

Hitchens: “Tell it to Jack Abramoff. Tell it to your business partner. Tell it to your religious racketeer friends.”

Reed: “Good try Christopher.”

Hannity: “Reverend Falwell was a personal friend of mine, and I'll miss him.”

Hitchens: “If you gave Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.”

Views: 2164


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Comment by Eric Tyler Powell on June 7, 2012 at 12:03pm

Hi Bill,

Glad you enjoyed it. The show aired on May 16, 2007. You can watch the segment on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doKkOSMaTk4



Comment by Bill A on June 1, 2012 at 11:22am

This is absolutely wonderful - thanks so much for transcribing and posting it. I've just finished reading Hitchen's "god is not great," "Hitch 22" and am now nearly through with his "Portable Atheist." We will all miss him. Such moral sense, energy, intellect and wit. As for Fox and friends, I'll bet they won't let the truth in the door again any time soon - and if they do I doubt I'll be watching.  Eric, could you add the date of the interview?  Thanks again for the great post.

Comment by Loren Miller on May 31, 2012 at 9:09pm

Bare-knuckle commentary.  Hitch never believed in kid gloves as it comes to religion or religious hacks like Falwell, and I for one am glad of it.  If the idiot children from Fox were stupid enough to drop their left (which they did), they should not at all be surprised to find Christopher's verbal right cross crashing in on them.

That interview was the equivalent of the proverbial 98-pound weakling stepping into the ring with Mohammed Ali.



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