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Fox 11 Archives: How A Comment Killed John Lennon

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It's been 33 years since music legend John Lennon was gunned down in front of his Manhattan co-op apartment house.  Could an offhand remark he had made 14 years earlier led to his murder?  Though Lennon asked the world to give peace a chance, there were many people, especially in America, whose anger at him stemmed from an interview he gave to a British reporter in 1966.  At that time Beatlemania was at its height, and commenting on declining church attendance in his home country, Lennon said, "We're more popular than Jesus now."

The quote didn't make waves in Britain, but several months later, when it was reprinted in the U.S., there was extreme anger, especially in the South, directed at The Beatles, and Lennon in particular.  In August of 1966 the group was beginning an American tour.  In response to the Jesus statement, some radio stations banned Beatles records, and there were scattered protests and even a few threats.  Lennon made several public apologies, including this one – in the video clip above – when our reporter spoke with him when the group was in Los Angeles.

And what's the connection to Lennon's Jesus remark and his murder?  The man who killed him, Mark David Chapman, was a born-again Christian who said that Lennon's statement was blasphemous.  Chapman had travelled to New York several months earlier with the intent to confront Lennon.  After firing the shots, Chapman waited patiently for the police to arrive.  He received a life sentence, and he remains imprisoned in upstate New York.

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