Robertson runs amok

Pat Robertson

Crazy is as crazy talks

Pat Robertson styles himself a "broadcaster, statesman, author, humanitarian, businessman and Christian" (patrobertson.com). This past Monday, however, Robertson used his bully pulpit on The 700 Club to call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, elected leader of a democratic country:

"I donít know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks weíre trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. Itís a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I donít think any oil shipments will stop.... We donít need another 200-billion-dollar war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. Itís a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
—The 700 Club, Monday 22-Aug-05

No one should be surprised at a statement like that. After all, this is the man who:

  • Claimed liberal judges are "probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings"
  • Said "I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election in 2004"
  • Warned that "gay day" events at Disney World in Orlando would "bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor"
  • Tried to organize a "prayer offensive" to make "additional vacancies occur within the Supreme Court"
  • Takes credit for being able to divert hurricanes

In short, the man is a pathetic crackpot who cloaks his hucksterism in a mantel of religion.

But over on CNN, Wolf Blitzer was in his "situation room" treating Robertson's outrageous statement as something of earth-shattering importance, lamenting that he was unable to get Robertson on air to "explain what he meant." Wolf! It's perfectly clear what he meant; he could not have used plainer words.

Wolf was not alone, of course, in creating a media blitz. All the cable channels were doing it. Robertson has a right to say whatever he wants to say. But so-called news outlets have a responsibility to treat the story the same way they would treat the irrational ranting of any other crazy person with a messianic complex.

And now that I'm started, there are two other things about this that really get my back up:

First, couldn't the Bush administration come up with something a bit more forceful than a tepid statement that to assassinate Chavez is "not US policy"? How about denouncing Robertson? They certainly reacted more vigorously against Newsweek after the magazine published an item about the Koran having been flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo. But no, Bush is in thrall to the Christian right-wing, and as we have seen, W's highest value is loyalty to his friends.

Second, where are the religious leaders? Why aren't they out there denouncing Robertson's "fatwah" as unchristian and stupid besides? Why did it take five days of delicate negotiations for Ted Haggard, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Evangelicals, to figure out that someone should say "sorry" to Chavez (Apology offered for Robertson, MercuryNews.com, 08/27/2005)

The editorial cartoonists have had a field day, and rightly so (see sidebar for slideshow).