By Rob Boston
Poor Jerry Falwell Jr.! The media in Lynchburg, Va., is being soooo mean to him. It breaks your heart to read about it.
You might recall that Falwell got himself in a bit of hot water the other day when it came to light that he had secretly videotaped a meeting between university representatives, the mayor and the city manager about the school’s expansion plans and how they might affect local zoning issues.
Falwell, the Lynchburg News & Advance reported, OK’d the secret recording, which his minions made by hiding a small camera behind some books. (What a class act this guy is!)
Not surprisingly, Mayor Joan Foster and other local officials were not pleased when they learned that had been on Falwell’s candid camera without their knowledge. They argued that such actions erode trust and make it difficult to sit down and discuss these issues.
I don’t blame them. There’s just something creepy about the whole thing. Sure, this is the era when we’re all enamored of wacky You Tube videos, but most of us still don’t want to think we’re ever being secretly videotaped.
Falwell could have apologized for his coarse actions. Instead, he has decided on a different tack: whining that everyone is picking on him. Yes, the man who presides over a multi-million dollar religious empire and who moves in circles with governors and other legislators says he’s being mistreated!
At a press conference he convened yesterday, Falwell called the flap over the videotaping a “diversion” and said it’s time everyone gets back to the real issue at hand: making sure the city council unanimously buckles under to his demands that Liberty University be granted an unfettered right to expand as it sees fit. He also complained that he is being “vilified in the press.”
Liberty University wants the council to vote to lift zoning requirements so the school can grow as it sees fit. Falwell insists that he was told the Lynchburg City Council would vote 7-0 in his favor. City officials dispute that claim.
Falwell wants to get the discussion away from his sleazy behavior and back to the zoning matter. I’m not surprised. People who engage in ethically dubious actions aren’t usually interested in having long, drawn-out discussions about them.
In fact, Falwell’s event yesterday wasn’t really a press conference. He read a statement and then stormed off without taking questions. It kind of makes you wonder if he’s afraid of some tough questioning.
I have to admit, when Jerry Falwell Sr. died, a tiny part of me hoped the new regime would make some changes at the fundamentalist Vatican in Lynchburg. I hoped that maybe Falwell Jr. would be a little more honest, a little more open, a little less nasty. I thought it was possible that Jerry Jr. had learned some lessons from his father’s missteps.
I have been disappointed. If anything, Falwell Jr. has so far been even meaner, more duplicitous and (amazingly) more politically partisan than his father.
This sorry incident is another example of that. Falwell Jr. hasn’t asked for my advice, but what he needs to do next is blindingly obvious to anyone with a moral center: What you did was wrong. You want to clear this matter up? The first step is to stop whining about being mistreated and apologize.