Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

It Bears Repeating

Posted by Adam Graham on May 21, 2007

Dennis Mansfield shares a Robert Knight article that makes a great point:

Virtually every major news outlet made sure that Falwell’s controversial comment following 9/11 and his notorious “outing” of the “gay Teletubby” Tinky Winky got ink and airtime.

The New York Times noted that it was an article in the National Liberty Journal, which Falwell published, that touched off the Teletubbies ruckus. But the article failed to mention that the Liberty Journal piece quoted The Washington Post’s outing of Tinky Winky, and that the gay press and several other mainstream outlets had cheered openly for a year that the boy in the purple suit, carrying a purse and bearing the homosexual symbol, an upside down triangle, on his head, was clearly the first openly “gay” character in a children’s program.

I recall faxing The Washington Post article to the National Liberty Journal back in February 1999. I had also faxed an article from a gay newspaper in which one of Teletubbies’ creators boasted openly that Tinky Winky’s character, which combines a deep daddy’s voice and mommy’s handbag, was a deliberate attempt to make children think differently about gender. The Liberty Journal editors decided to stick with the Washington Post as the main source, which seems like a wise thing to do. But in the end, it didn’t matter.

In the 10 years since, the press magnified and sustained the myth that Jerry Falwell “outed” Tinky Winky with no apparent evidence. He just did it for the heck of it, to be mean to gays. As smears go, it made him easy to ridicule. Try as they might, that was the best they could do, since they unearthed no hint of scandal involving his integrity. In March 1999, Liberty Journal Senior Editor J. M. Smith pointed out the media’s distortions, but the myth continued to gain strength. Dr. Falwell himself took it in stride, even placing a stuffed Tinky Winky on top of his computer as a joke. Given his own generous spirit and lack of vitriol, he didn’t seem to understand the damage that was done to his reputation.

Over the years, I’ve tried to set some of my media friends straight about the inception of the myth, but the response has been pretty much, “That’s our story, and we’re sticking with it.” And why not? It’s a very useful device. It’s so good that even many conservative commentators have bought into it, pointing it out from time to time in order to polish their own images as more reasonable people than someone like Jerry Falwell.

I hate it when history is distorted and now as Paul Harvey says, “You know the rest of the story.”

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