When scandal surfaces, the public is quick to pounce on the offender like a pack of wolves — and often rightfully so, in the sense that seeking justice is a noble pursuit.
But often, on the scale that balances justice and mercy, the latter can be outweighed by the wave of rage following the wrongdoing.
Perhaps there’s no greater example of this than the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, where the movie mogul was accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women. Unsurprisingly, the news sparked mass public outrage and created the powerful #MeToo movement in its wake.
But in several of these cases, while everyone else was throwing stones at the perpetrators, TODAY Show host Kathie Lee Gifford explained why she picked up the phone to call the offenders who quickly became the most hated men in America overnight.
In an interview with Andy Cohen, the 49-year-old host asked Gifford if she reached out to Bill Cosby and Weinstein after news of their sexual allegations broke.
She replied, “Yes, I’ve been friends with Bill a long, long time… Harvey Weinstein was a friend of mine for 30 years.”
While Weinstein didn’t pick up the phone, she was able to leave him a message.
As a victim of sexual assault herself, Gifford made it clear that she doesn’t take their deeds lightly.
“Since I got into this business as a teenage girl, I have been sexually harassed, I have been sexually abused and I have been date raped. And don’t tell me they’re all the same, because they are not–they are not the same,” she told Andy. “I don’t want to throw everybody on the same manure pile. Being a jerk is not the same as being a rapist. It just isn’t.”
Still, whether it be harassment or rape, the TV personality firmly believes that the blood of Jesus covers all who seek forgiveness, and those deemed publicly as “monsters” for their sins are no exception in the eyes of God.
“I just want people to know I don’t judge them.” said Gifford. “I don’t like what they do, but God knows their hearts and there’s hope for them. And you can’t call yourself a friend when, the first minute where there’s trouble, you run. That’s called a fair-weather friend … and that’s not a friend at all.”
She elaborated that while she in no way finds their behavior acceptable, she does believe our world needs to put a heavier emphasis on mercy:
“I hope people aren’t misunderstanding this. I am not saying that that kind of behavior is in any way acceptable. It isn’t and it’s horrible, as a woman who’s experienced it, it’s awful. But, can we at least look at each individual case and see it for it what it is and be merciful to people that are sorry for what they’ve done? If we stop having mercy as a part of our vocabulary, Andy, our world will completely die.”
Her response after the Matt Lauer scandal surfaced echoed her message encouraging an attitude of grace.
After Lauer was fired, Gifford shared that she sent her former TODAY co-anchor a text that simply read “I adore you.”
“No one is perfect in this world,” she said shortly following Lauer’s termination. “What we need now is forgiveness and mercy for one another. I send out my love to the person who came forward. May God heal that person. I send it to Matt his children and his wife.”
“We’re broken and we need someone to put us back together,” she added. “It is so possible, I am living proof of it. I didn’t mean to go to church but sometimes, you gotta go to church.”
While she’s as appalled by the actions of these men as the rest of America, Gifford has clearly made an effort to separate the sinner from the sin, as Jesus did.
As Christians, I pray we all learn from her example to champion for mercy as passionately as we’ve championed for justice.