In a televised debate today, the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson accused each other of racism as they clashed over the merits of economic sanctions against South Africa.
“It is interesting that Mr. Falwell has finally found a minority he can support,” Jackson said, referring to South Africa’s ruling white community. “He cannot very well support minorities in this country. Falwell, you supported apartheid in Southern America (the U.S. South) until it was over. Now you’re supporting apartheid in Southern Africa while it’s still alive.”
Falwell, who has admitted that he was a segregationist “until the Holy Spirit led me away,” said, “I’m sorry that Rev. Jackson still thinks whites are bad people.”
Falwell, who appeared with Jackson, on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” repeated his view that South African blacks do not support economic sanctions as a means of forcing their white minority government to abandon the policy of segregating blacks from whites.
Jackson spoke from a Boston television station while Falwell was interviewed from Lynchburg, Va.
Falwell managed to speak more during the debate, leaving a visibly frustrated Jackson trying to interject his comments.
In his remarks, Falwell spoke of his just completed five-day trip to South Africa where he said he talked with government officials and representatives from each of the various races in the country. No one, he insists, favors economic sanctions being discussed in Congress.
Falwell said film shot during his trip which will be broadcast Sunday will show blacks “who weep and say: ‘Please, don’t sanction. Don’t cut (us) off, our children die.’ ”
Saying Falwell has taken a “fateful step backward,” Jackson said, “Apartheid right now is a sin. It’s a theological disgrace, and in some sense Mr. Falwell’s position does not represent the white Christian church of this country.”
Jackson also lashed out at Falwell for comments Tuesday that Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu is “a phony.” (Story, Page 11.)
He defended the bishop and said “to call him a fraud is to disrespect the Episcopal Church.”
“It is unrepresentative of good judgment,” Jackson said. “Just as Reagan sent agents to represent his view on the cautious overthrow of Nicaragua, I’m convinced you’re operating, setting a climate for Reagan policies in South Africa.
“It’s an insult to those of us who are Christians and we care.”
Falwell denied being an agent of Reagan and added: “God saved me from racism. I love everybody.”
At another point in the debate, Falwell said: “I don’t believe any Christian can support segregation and apartheid. I do not support that policy of the (Pieter W.) Botha government any more than I support the total discrimination of the Soviet Union’s policies, or Red China, Cuba or most of the African nations outside South Africa.
“However, I believe we can cut out the cancer without killing the patient and handing over to the Soviet Union one more nation.”