...you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you'll 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 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.
The whole consideration 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.
It's time to stop saying that because someone preaches credulity and credulousness [and] claims it is a matter of faith that we should respect him. The whole life of Falwell shows this is an actual danger: to democracy, to culture, to civilization. That's what my book is all about."
In this column at Slate, Hitchens calls out Falwell's enablers: "the editors, producers, publicists, and a host of other media riffraff who allowed Falwell to prove, almost every week, that there is no vileness that cannot be freely uttered by a man whose name is prefaced with the word Reverend." Hitchens went on to excoriate Falwell for his post-9/11 comments:
In the time immediately following the assault by religious fascism on American civil society in September 2001, he used his regular indulgence on the airwaves to commit treason. Entirely exculpating the suicide-murderers, he asserted that their acts were a divine punishment of the United States. Again, I ask you to imagine how such a person would be treated if he were not supposedly a man of faith.
As I observed at the time of the infamous Falwell/Robertson exchange:
What bothers me most about comments like theirs (aside from how many people agree with them) is that ignorance and hatred are often overlooked in our country when cloaked in the dominant religions. Imagine the furor that would result if a Hindu or Muslim group (or an atheist one!) spouted crap like this on TV...but (some) Christians can get away with it. An idiot like Louis Farrakhan would need police protection just to show his face in public, but Robertson and Falwell are still on the air - just like every other day. [...] My gripe is that the zealots' desires for an American theocracy are excused and eventually forgotten. The accountability, somehow, never happens.