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Tinky Winky Update: America Laughs, Falwell Fulminates.

In the wake of widespread public ridicule for "outing" Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby, the Rev. Jerry Falwell has issued a statement in his own defense saying it was all a set-up to make him look foolish.

The March issue of Falwell's National Liberty Journal contains a front-page article by Falwell headlined, "I Didn't 'Out' Tinky Winky." In the piece, Falwell insists that he has never seen "Teletubbies" and that the original piece saying that Tinky Winky is gay was written by the newspaper's senior editor, J.M. Smith.

But Falwell refused to back down from his beliefs about Tinky Winky's sexual orientation. Noting that some gay activists had hailed Tinky Winky as a gay icon, he wrote, "As a Christian, I believe that role-modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to children."

Smith ran an article in the same paper defending his beliefs about Tinky Winky. Headlined, "Tinky Winky Is The Tip of the Iceberg," the article accused Hollywood of promoting "a vast homosexual influence in popular sitcoms and dramas.... Considering the dramatic influx of homosexual themes in modern television, it should come as no surprise that there might appear gay subtexts in a few TV shows -- even shows designed for children."

Continued Smith, "[W]hen an apparently naive character such as Tinky Winky is becoming a symbol of 'gay pride,' the National Liberty Journal feels it is not only appropriate, but necessary, to document this occurrence to our 295,000 readers. Parents have a right to know and decide for themselves if their children should be watching the series."

Falwell also blamed Associated Press reporter David Reed for writing "a devious story ... which left the false impression that Jerry Falwell had personally launched an attack on the Teletubbies in general and Tinky Winky in particular. This is what I call yellow journalism."

A statement on Falwell's personal website (www.falwell.com), asserts, "This entire controversy is the worst form of yellow journalism.... clearly designed to stereotype and damage Dr. Falwell."

The flap began last February after Americans United leaked information about the National Liberty Journal's criticism of Tinky Winky to the Associated Press as a way of educating the public about Falwell's extreme views. (The monthly is edited and published by Falwell with support from his Thomas Road Baptist Church.)

Once it hit the AP wire, the story quickly went nationwide. Editorial cartoonists had a field day, late-night talk show hosts made jokes at Falwell's expense and several newspaper columnists weighed in. Sentiment was almost uniformly critical of Falwell.

In January, Falwell stirred controversy when he told a pastors' conference in Kingsport, Tenn., that the Antichrist prophesied in the Book of Revelation is a Jewish male living in the world today.
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Publication:Church & State
Date:Apr 1, 1999
Words:452
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