WASHINGTON (BP)-Jerry Falwell urged his fellow religious leaders to pray for civil rights activist Jesse Jackson in the wake of charges that Jackson had an extramarital affair that resulted in the birth of a daughter.
Falwell delivered his remarks at “America Come Together,” an inaugural prayer luncheon for unity and renewal held in Washington on Jan. 19.
“This is not the time to put our foot down on the neck of anyone because they are down,” said Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and chancellor of Liberty University.
Falwell told the gathering of religious leaders that he had spoken with Jackson at length. “He asked for us to pray for him,” Falwell said. “He has confessed and repented before God and that’s about all a man can do.”
Falwell’s conciliatory tone was met with choruses of approval from those in attendance.
“We talked and he asked me to communicate to you his sorrow over what has happened,” Falwell said. “And we need to pray for him and his family as they go through this time. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the Christ-like thing to do.”
Jesse Jackson revealed Jan. 18 that he had an extramarital affair that resulted in the birth of a daughter. “I fully accept responsibility and I am truly sorry for my actions,” he said.
Jackson, a Baptist minister and one-time aide to Martin Luther King Jr., issued a statement admitting that he fathered the child, now 20 months old, and has provided “emotional and financial support” since her birth. “As her mother does, I love this child very much,” he said.
“I was born of these circumstances, and I know the importance of growing up in a nurturing, supportive and protected environment,” Jackson said. “So I am determined to give my daughter and her mother the privacy they both deserve.”
Jackson did not say why he issued the statement. His New York-based spokesman, John Scanlon, told CNN that Jackson acted to get out in front of anticipated tabloid reports about the child, who Scanlon said was the result of an affair Jackson had with a woman who worked in the Washington office of Jackson’s advocacy group, the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition.
“He’s obviously concerned for his family, for his child and the child’s mother,” Scanlon told CNN.
“This is no time for evasions, denials or alibis,” Jackson’s statement said. “No doubt, many close friends and supporters will be disappointed in me. I ask for their forgiveness, understanding and prayers.”
Jackson was a steadfast presence at President Clinton’s side as the president struggled with the public revelation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment proceedings that followed. It was Jackson who went to the White House to pray with Clinton’s family on a grim weekend in August 1998, as Clinton admitted the truth to his wife and daughter and, in a nationally televised speech, to the nation.
Last August, Clinton awarded Jackson the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. At that time, Jackson lavished praise on his wife, Jackie, and his five children for supporting him in his long civil rights career.
Jackson said his family was aware of the situation with the child and was experiencing “an extremely painful, trying and difficult time.”
“I have asked God and each one of them to forgive me, and I thank each of them for their grace and understanding throughout this period of tribulation,” Jackson said. “We have prayed together, and through God’s grace we have been reconciling.”