Vice mayor Ed Farrell explained his controversial Facebook post on Tuesday, saying he had no idea who Fred Phelps was or that the obituary Farrell posted was a fake piece from The Onion.
“We need more Fred Phelps in this world,” Farrell initially wrote on his wall. “May you rest in peace sir.”
The Maricopa Monitor attempted to contact Farrell by phone and through email Monday, hours after the City leader praised the anti-gay pastor and Westboro Baptist Church leader in a social media post that morning, but was unsuccessful.
“I had no idea who this Phelps guy was, I had no idea about the publication the Onion,” Farrell told the Monitor in a phone conversation Tuesday afternoon. “I was just simply scrolling down my news feed and saw this article.”
Initially, Farrell thought Phelps was just a Kansas-based minister, rather than the instigator of protests at U.S. soldiers’ funerals.
“I had no clue about this guy; he’s an idiot,” Farrell said. “I can’t believe that I posted what I posted…shame on me.”
A recent upsetting experience triggered the post, the vice mayor said.
It stems from a trip to Washington, D.C. for the City of Maricopa, where Farrell lobbied for capital projects such as Interstate 11 and the Santa Cruz Wash plans. One morning, as Farrell was using a shower in a hotel health club locker room, a male employee took pictures of Farrell in the shower with a cell phone.
Farrell said once he spied the intruder, the man ran out of the locker room and off the hotel premises. Despite reporting the incident immediately to hotel staff, the man wasn’t caught until eight hours later, Farrell said, and the investigation remains ongoing,
The vice mayor was livid and said he felt extremely violated. “If I would have caught this guy, I would be in jail right now,” he said.
Farrell said he worries about the time period from the incident until the man was caught.
“I have nightmares about me seeing my naked body on the Internet,” Farrell told the Monitor. My heartbeat go up every time I go to the Internet, I think ‘is this the time, is this the time?
“It scares the crap out of me,” he said.
When he came across the satirical article about Phelps, “quite honestly it was refreshing” after that experience, Farrell said. “I'm a little scarred right now.”
Farrell stands by at least one part of his original post. “I wish America could get back to the Biblical foundations,” he said Tuesday.
Farrell joins a long list of prominent celebrities, politicians and other actual news agencies who have seen an article from “The Onion,” and believed it to be fact, including Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith and China's official state newspaper.
“Many have pointed to Phelps’ preaching against the sin of homosexuality as the overwhelming reason why all homosexual advocacy groups died out entirely in the early 1990s,” the fake obit states.
Farrell posted a clarification in the comments section of his original post about 9:30 p.m. Monday.
After mentioning he has “many, many” gay and lesbian friends, Farrell states he read the article with no prior knowledge of Phelps or The Onion. “If you read the article, it mentions nothing about him being anti military, which by the way, I support our troops 100 % and thank God every morning for the ones that put their lives and their families on the line for America,” Farrell writes. “All the article mentions is how this guy fought against Gay rights on a biblical platform that God set before us.”
The vice mayor then lists Bible verses that address homosexual acts before affirming he isn’t judging anyone: “Heck the bible also says that God hates divorce. I am a divorced man, a convicted man! I pray to God every day to please forgive me,” he writes.
Later on in the post, Farrell mentions his frustration at small groups’ advocacy to push for laws that reflect, in his opinion, unpopular views. “What just irritates me the most is when these 10% want to change the law through the constitution that our founding fathers made before us with the fear of God in all of their hearts, souls, and minds while making these laws….if I have offended anyone, please accept my apologies, that was not my intent at all.”