The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Tuesday night couldn't resist ridiculing the late Jerry Falwell for pointing out how a children's character on a PBS show appeared gay -- though gay rights advocates had earlier made the same observation -- and CBS brought aboard liberal presidential historian Douglas Brinkley who called Falwell “comedy fodder for people,” found it relevant that “feminists never liked him,”and dismissed him as “a backlash figure” whose “returning to family values was returning to women being in the kitchen.”
On ABC's World News, which unlike CBS and NBC did not lead with Falwell's death, Dan Harris asserted: “In the final years of his life Falwell alienated some in his own movement with a series of controversial statements. For example, he said the children's TV character 'Tinky Winky' was a gay role model.” CBS's Richard Schlesinger recalled that in later years “Falwell started making embarrassing missteps, denouncing a popular cartoon character as a gay role model.” Over on the NBC Nightly News, Bob Faw, who concluded his piece by asserting that “the Reverend Jerry Falwell -- crusader and polarizer -- was 73,” raised the PBS show: “In 1999, Falwell was ridiculed when he complained one of the PBS Teletubbies was gay.” But a 1999 Cox News story archived on a gay news Web site, began: “In the flap over whether Tinky Winky the Teletubby is gay, the real news is that the Rev. Jerry Falwell is late to the party.” Phil Kloer pointed out that in 1998, the year before Falwell spoke out, “the gay magazine The Advocate presciently wrote that 'PBS is clearly terrified that the same fundamentalists who boycott Disney are going to flip once they get wind of the latest lavender love puppet.'”
The CBS Evening News, which featured a brief interview by Katie Couric of the Reverend Robert Schuller and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, returned to Falwell at the end of the half hour as Couric went to Jeff Greenfield and Douglas Brinkley, the “CBS News analyst” who wrote a book quite favorable to John Kerry, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War.
Picking up on a point made by Greenfield, Couric asked Brinkley:
"And, Doug, he did blame the pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and others for helping to make the September 11th attacks happen. How did that affect his standing, in your view?"
Douglas Brinkley replied: "Well, many people started writing him off as a joke. He was a vibrant political force in the 1980s, but, by 2001, Falwell was kind of comedy fodder for people. The feminists never liked him in the United States. He was always warring with the women's movement. In many ways, he's a backlash figure. He was opposed to the Great Society and opposed to some of the progressive liberal high water marks in the 1960s, and certainly he wanted to, his returning to family values was returning to women being in the kitchen, in many ways."