The Rev. Jerry Falwell tendered a qualified apology Friday for calling Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa “a phony.”
In a series of interviews, Falwell said he did not mean to criticize Tutu as a religious figure. But, Falwell said, Tutu has no business speaking for Africa’s nonwhite population.
Falwell, the leader of the conservative Moral Majority, first criticized Tutu on his return this week from a five-day visit to South Africa.
“I specifically said if Bishop Tutu purports to speak for all of the blacks of South Africa, he is a phony,” Falwell said in an interview published Friday. “I don’t believe he is a phony as a Christian or a servant of God. I think he is a good man.
“However, I totally disagree with his conclusion (supporting economic sanctions against the South African government) that the best way to help the oppressed nonwhites of South Africa is to starve them to death.”
Falwell made similar comments in an interview for weekend release on the Cable News Network.
In remarks addressed to Tutu, Falwell said: “If the word phony . . . , as communicated to you, meant that I was impugning you as a person or a minister, I apologize. I was impugning the fact that you, sir, do not speak for the South Africans any more than I speak for all Americans.”