Pat Robertson

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Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson

Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson (born March 22, 1930) is an American Christian televangelist, entrepreneur, and Christian right political activist. He is the founder of numerous organizations and corporations including: the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the Christian Coalition, the Flying Hospital, International Family Entertainment, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, and Regent University. He is the host of The 700 Club, a TV program which airs on many channels in the United States and on CBN affiliates worldwide. His strongly conservative views have often provoked controversy, especially his statements recommending the dissolution of the barrier between church and state, the condemnation of groups he believes to be living in sin, and often violent denunciations of perceived communists or radical Islamic followers. Robertson is broadly considered a partisan of the Republican Party and launched a failed bid to be that party's candidate in the 1988 presidential election. He is a Southern Baptist and was active as an ordained minister with that denomination for many years, but holds to a Charismatic theology not traditionally common amongst Southern Baptists. Robertson, as a result of his seeking political office, no longer serves in an official role for any church. However, many U.S. Christian churches do not have a national leader that represents or speaks for them, a contributing factor to Robertson's ability to claim a position as a leading Christian voice.


Life and career


Robertson was born in Lexington, Virginia, into a prominent political family. His parents were Absalom Willis Robertson, a conservative Democratic United States Senator, and his wife Gladys Churchill Robertson. He married Adelia "Dede" Elmer in 1954. His family includes four children, among them Gordon P. Robertson, and at the time of writing (mid-2005) fourteen grandchildren.

At a young age, Robertson was given the nickname of Pat by his six-year-old brother, Willis Robertson, Jr., who enjoyed patting him on the cheeks when he was a baby while saying "pat, pat, pat". As he got older, Robertson thought about which first name he would like people to use. He considered "Marion" to be effeminate, and "M. Gordon" to be affected, so he opted for his childhood nickname "Pat". His strong awareness for the importance of names in the creation of a public image showed itself again during his presidential run when he threatened to sue NBC news for calling him a "television evangelist" at a time when Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker were objects of scandal. He insisted upon being called a "religious broadcaster."

Robertson is proud of his family history and has traced his family to such ancestors as governor of Virginia and signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Harrison V, and United States presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison VI. Robertson is also related to Winston Churchill.

Education and military service

When he was twelve, Robertson was enrolled in the military preparatory McDonough School outside of Baltimore, Maryland. From 1944 until 1946 he began attending the Chattanooga, Tennessee military prep McCallie School. He graduated with honors and enrolled at Washington and Lee University, where he majored in history and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, one of the most prestigious honor societies in the country, and joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Robertson has said that he partied hard during his years at Washington and Lee and enjoyed spending time with young ladies from nearby girls' schools. [1]

In 1948 the draft was reinstated and Robertson was given the option of joining the Marine Corps or being drafted into the army. He opted for the former, which allowed him to finish college under the condition that he attend OCS during the summer at Quantico, Virginia. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree and was the first person to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant at a graduation ceremony at the university. In 1950, Robertson began service in the Korean War. Paul "Pete" McCloskey, Jr. asserted that Robertson served in Korea, but spent most of his time in an office in Japan. His time in the service was not in combat but as the "liquor officer" responsible for keeping the officers' clubs supplied with liquor, and that Robertson's father intervened to keep Robertson out of combat. Paul Brosman, Jr., another veteran who had served with Robertson testified in a deposition that Robertson had sexual relations with prostitutes and sexually harassed a cleaning girl. Robertson has called these allegations "an attack by liberals to discredit me."

Robertson was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1952 upon his return to the United States. Robertson then went on to receive a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale University Law School in 1955, but was unable to pass the bar exam. He went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from New York Theological Seminary in 1959.

Religious career

The staff of Robertson's television show, The 700 Club
The staff of Robertson's television show, The 700 Club

In 1956 Robertson was led to faith in Christ by Dutch missionary Cornelius Vanderbreggen, who impressed Robertson both by his lifestyle and his message. Vanderbreggen quoted Proverbs (3:5, 6), "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths", which Robertson considers to be the "guiding principle" of his life. Soon afterwards, he 'spoke in tongues' for the first time. He was ordained as a minister of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1961.

In 1960, Robertson established the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He started it by buying a small UHF station in nearby Portsmouth. It is now seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages. In 1977, he founded the CBN Cable Network, which was renamed the CBN Family Channel in 1988 and later simply the Family Channel. When the Family Channel became too profitable for Robertson to keep it under the CBN umbrella without endangering CBN's nonprofit status, he formed International Family Entertainment, Inc. in 1990 with the Family Channel as its main subsidiary. Robertson sold the Family Channel to the News Corporation in 1997, which renamed it Fox Family. A condition of the sale was that the station would continue airing Robertson's television program The 700 Club twice a day in perpetuity, regardless of any changes of ownership. It is now owned by Disney as ABC Family.

Robertson founded CBN University in 1977 on CBN's Virginia Beach campus. It was renamed Regent University in 1989. Robertson serves as its chancellor. He is also founder and president of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest law firm and education group that defends Christians whose First Amendment rights it believes have been violated. It hold the view that separation of church and state is superseded by an individual's right to worship as he or she chooses. The law firm, headquartered in the same building that houses Regent's law school, focuses on what it calls "pro-family, pro-liberty and pro-life" cases nationwide.

1988 presidential bid

In September 1986, Robertson announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Robertson said he would only pursue the nomination if three million people signed up to volunteer for his campaign by September 1987. Three million responded, and by the time Robertson announced he'd be running in September 1987, he also had millions of dollars in his campaign fund. He surrendered his ministerial credentials and turned leadership of CBN over to his son, Tim. However, his campaign against George H. W. Bush (the incumbent Vice President) was seen as a longshot.

Robertson ran on a very conservative platform. Among his policies, he wanted to ban pornography, reform the education system by allowing the Bible in public schools, eliminate Conrail and Amtrak, and eliminate departments such as the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. He also supported a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.

During the presidential primary election season started in early 1988, Robertson's campaign was undermined by a statement Robertson had made about his military service.

In his campaign literature, he stated he was a combat Marine who served in the Korean War. When word of this got out, other Marines in his battalion contradicted Robertson's version, saying he had never spent a day in a combat environment. Instead of fighting in the war, Robertson's primary responsibility was supplying alcoholic beverages for his officers.

Robertson ended his campaign before the primaries were even finished. His best finish was in Washington. He later spoke at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans and told his remaining supporters to cast their votes for Vice President George H.W. Bush, who ended up winning the nomination and the election. He then returned to CBN and has remained there since then, even though he never renewed his ministerial credentials.

Libel lawsuit

In the late 1980s, Pat Robertson sued Congressman Pete McCloskey and Representative Andy Jacobs for libel over their statements that Robertson's father used his influence to keep his son out of combat.

The trial found letters from Robertson's father on Senate stationery to Marine officials expressing concern with Robertson's preparedness to be a combat officer. During the trial Robertson admitted he hired John Hasbrouck to interview McCloskey. Hasbrouck represented himself as a reporter for "Worldwide News Service" for this interview. Robertson admitted that he told Hasbrouck what questions to ask and reviewed the hour-long tape before deciding to sue McCloskey.

Robertson ended the lawsuit before trial, asserting that the March 8 trial date, the day of the Super Tuesday primaries, was too inconvenient. The court ordered that Robertson pay a percentage of McCloskey's court costs, but not legal fees.

Personal wealth

Robertson's net worth is between $200 million and $1 billion USD according to the 2002 book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast. Robertson has made a number of shrewd business deals. Probably the most lucrative was the purchase of a number of FM radio stations in the 1960s (when they were viewed by most investors as worthless technology) and selling them in the 1980s for massive gains. He also has interests in such diverse assets as a shuttered California refinery.

Robertson's books have been very successul and well-selling. The Secret Kingdom, Answers to 100 of Life's Most Probing Questions, and The New World Order were each in their respective year of publication the number one religious book in America.

Through his charitable organization, Operation Blessing International, Robertson claims to have spent $1.2 million bringing aid to refugees in Rwanda.

Political activism

After his failed presidential campaign, Robertson used his campaign organization to start the Christian Coalition, a political organization which campaigned mostly for Christian conservative candidates. It became, almost instantly, one of the most influential organizations in American politics. However, the organization's popularity faded when it was fined by the Federal Election Commission. Robertson left the Coalition in 2001.

While Robertson is primarily popular among American evangelical Christians, his support extends beyond the Christian community. In 2002, he received the State of Israel Friendship Award from the Zionist Organization of America for his consistent support for a Greater Israel. In that year the Coalition for Jewish Concerns also expressed its gratitude to Robertson for "unwavering support for Israel" and "standing up to evil."


Robertson is outspoken in both his faith and his politics and controversies surrounding him have often made headlines:

Claim that some denominations contain the spirit of the Antichrist

On January 14, 1991, on "The 700 Club", Pat Robertson attacked a number of Protestant denominations when he declared: "You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist."

Claims about the power of his prayers

Robertson claims to have used the power of prayer to steer hurricanes away from his companies' Virginia Beach, Virginia, headquarters. He took credit for steering the course in 1985 of Hurricane Gloria, which caused millions of dollars of destruction in many states along the U.S. east coast. He made a similar claim about another destructive storm, Hurricane Felix, in 1995. In 2003, Robertson called on God to prevent Hurricane Isabel from hitting Virginia Beach. In 2005, Robertson launced Operation Supreme Court Freedom, a televised nationwide 21-day prayer campaign asking people to pray for vacancies on the Supreme Court, where "black-robed tyrants have pushed a radical agenda". Robertson declared that "God heard those prayers"[2], after the announced resignation of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Attacks on feminism, homosexuality, and liberalism

Among his more controversial statements, Robertson has described feminism as a "socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." Robertson's views mirror those of the controversial evangelical activist Jerry Falwell, who has made frequent appearances on The 700 Club. He agreed with Falwell that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were caused by "pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians, the ACLU and the People for the American Way." After public outcry regarding the dialogue, which took place only days after the attacks, Robertson stated that he had not understood what Falwell was saying during the interview, which was conducted via television monitor.

On the June 8, 1998 edition of his show, Robertson denounced Orlando and Disney World for allowing a privately sponsored "Gay Days" weekend. Robertson stated that the acceptance of homosexuality could result in hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorist bombs and "possibly a meteor." The resulting outcry prompted Robertson to return to the topic on June 24, where he quoted Revelation to "back up" his claims. This incident was perhaps the best known of Robertson's nearly continual demands that government comply with his interpretation of biblical law.

Support for Charles Taylor

Robertson repeatedly supported former President of Liberia Charles Taylor in various episodes of his 700 Club program during the United States' involvement in the Liberian Civil War in June and July 2003. Robertson accuses the U.S. State Department of giving President Bush bad advice in supporting Taylor's ouster as president, and of trying "as hard as they can to destabilize Liberia." Robertson has been criticized for failing to mention in his broadcasts his $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mine. Taylor had been at the time of Robertson's support indicted by the United Nations for war crimes, and prosecutors also said he had harbored members of Al Qaeda responsible for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. According to Robertson, the Liberian gold mine Freedom Gold was intended to help pay for humanitarian and evangelical efforts in Liberia, when in fact the company was allowed to fail leaving many debts both in Liberia and in the international mining service sector. Regarding this controversy, Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy said, "I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one."

Robertson has also been accused of using his tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, Operation Blessing, as a front for his own financial gain, and then using his influence in the Republican Party to cover his tracks. After making emotional pleas in 1994 on The 700 Club for cash donations to Operation Blessing to support airlifts of refugees from Rwanda to Zaire, it was later discovered, by a reporter from The Virginian Pilot, that Operation Blessing's planes were transporting diamond-mining equipment for the Robertson-owned African Development Corporation, a venture Robertson had established in cooperation of Zaire's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

An investigation by Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs determined that Robertson "willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements and other implications" and called for a criminal prosecution against Robertson in 1999. However, the Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, a Republican, (whose largest campaign contributor two years earlier was Robertson himself) intervened, accepting that Robertson had made deceptive appeals but overruling the recommendation for his prosecution.

Political statements

On his The 700 Club television program, Pat Robertson has sharply criticized elements of the United States government. In interviews with the author of a book critical of the United States Department of State, Robertson made suggestions that the explosion of a nuclear weapon at State Department Headquarters would be good for the country, and repeated those comments on the air. "What we need is for somebody to place a small nuke at Foggy Bottom," [3] Robertson said during his television program, referring to the location of the State Department headquarters. State Department officials said they believed the comments to be in extremely bad taste, and have lodged official complaints against Robertson for his remarks.

Chinese abortions

In a 2001 interview with Wolf Blitzer, he said of that the Chinese were "doing what they have to do," with regards to China's one child policy, sometimes enforced with forced abortions, though he said that he did not personally agree with the practice. His comments drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. [4]

Judicial Activism vs 9/11 Terrorists

During an interview on ABC's This Week, on April 30, 2005, Robertson was speaking about judicial activism when he said, "If you look over the course of a hundred years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings." This statement prompted outcry from several September 11th support and survivor groups.

The statement was made as part of a discussion about the long term future of the United States. Robertson went on to say, "I think we're going to control al Qaeda. I think we're going to get Osama bin Laden. We won in Afghanistan. We won in Iraq, and we can contain that. But if there's an erosion at home, you know, Thomas Jefferson warned about a tyranny of an oligarchy and if we surrender our democracy to the tyranny of an oligarchy, we've made a terrible mistake."

Education background

Robertson has claimed his IQ at various times as 159, 139 and 137. In a book Robertson wrote, he described himself as a "Yale-educated tax lawyer," though he had not passed the bar. Robertson claimed he was on a board of directors of a bank, when he was only actually on an advisory board. Robertson's claims of overseas graduate study only turned out to be a summer introductory course for Americans abroad.

Call for assassination of Hugo Chávez

On the day of August 22, 2005 broadcast of The 700 Club, Robertson said of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, "I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop." Robertson also said that Chávez was "going to make Venezuela a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent" and called him an "out-of-control dictator... a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil that could hurt us very badly." [5] Assassinations of heads of state have been against U.S. policy since an executive order against them was issued in 1976; in response, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that "our department doesn't do that kind of thing." Bernardo Álvarez, Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S., demanded a stronger condemnation from the White House and that the United States "respect our country and its president."

On the August 24 edition of The 700 Club, Robertson asserted that he hadn't actually called for Chávez's assassination, but that there were other ways of "taking him out", such as having special forces carry out a kidnapping. Robertson flatly denied using the word "assassinate" [6] despite video tape evidence that he did. [7] Later that day, he issued a written statement in which he said, "Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him." However, he continued to justify his original stance on the potential threat Chávez posed to U.S. interests. [8]

On Sunday, August 28, Chávez called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the matter: "My government is going to take legal action in the United States," he said in a televised speech. "If the U.S. government does not take the necessary steps, we will denounce the U.S. government at the United Nations and the Organization of American States."

Books by Pat Robertson

  • The New Millennium
  • Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions
  • The Secret Kingdom (1982)
  • America's Dates with Destiny
  • The Plan
  • Beyond Reason: How Miracles can Change your Life
  • Turning Tide: The Fall of Liberalism and the Rise of Common Sense
  • Shout it from the Housetops an autobiography
  • The End of the Age
  • The New World Order (1991)
  • Bring It On
  • The Ten Offenses
  • Courting Disaster

Honors given to Pat Robertson

  • 1975 The Distinguished Merit Citation from The National Conference of Christians and Jews.
  • 1976 Faith and Freedom Award in the field of broadcasting.
  • 1978 Department of Justice Award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 25th FBI Vesper Service.
  • 1979 National Conference of Christians and Jews - Distinguished Merit Citation.
  • 1982 Humanitarian of the Year by Food for the Hungry.
  • 1984 Man of the Year Award from the Women's National Republican Club.
  • 1984 Citation from the National Organization for the Advancement of Hispanics.
  • 1985 National Association of United Methodist Evangelists.
  • 1988 Man of the Year by Students for America.
  • 1989 Christian Broadcaster of the Year by the National Religious Broadcasters.
  • 1992 One of America's 100 Cultural Elite by Newsweek Magazine.
  • 1994 Omega Fellowship Award by Food for the Hungry for Operation Blessing's fight against worldwide hunger.
  • 1994 Defender of Israel Award from the Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign for those who have made major contributions in strengthening U.S.-Israel relations.
  • 1994 John Connor Humanitarian Service Award from Operation Smile International.
  • 2000 Cross of Nails award for his vision, inspiration, and humanitarian work with The Flying Hospital.
  • 2002 State of Israel Friendship Award from the Zionist Organization of America.

See also

External links

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