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James Zogby

James Zogby

Posted: January 19, 2010 10:09 AM

Another Robertson Outrage: Time for Accountability

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As outrageous as televangelist, Pat Robertson's comments about Haiti might be, they were shrugged off by many as just more nonsense ranting from an old religious fanatic. Robertson has a practice of using his bizarre theology to explain world events. It was, he said, debauchery that brought the terror of 9/11 to New York or the devastation of Katrina to New Orleans. And it was the decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza (dividing God's gift to the Jewish people) that caused then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be struck down by a stroke.

As a student of religion I have long followed the ranting of Robertson. His peculiar brand of theology once seen as heretical by most Christians, has within the past two decades developed a strong following becoming a political force, especially within the Republican Party. Robertson's teaches that the current era is an exact replay of the Old Testament, and that the events that led up to the birth and death of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem are being mirrored in events today that will lead to the return of Jesus and the final battle that will lead to the destruction of the world. In fact over the years, most every war in the Middle East was accompanied by a Robertson TV show in which the televangelist gleefully prophesied that the "end was at hand".

What is troubling to me is not only how Robertson masks hateful remarks -- passing them off as "absolute" religious truth -- or the political power that his television program and movement have given him. Rather, it is the double standard that is applied to this man's outrages. If an African-American preacher or a Muslim-American Imam had made comments of the sort made by Robertson, leaders on either side of the political divide would be demanding the he be denounced, and if he had made contributions to political campaigns, recipients would be pressed to return the money.

But for years this approach has not been used with Robertson. Instead, he has been revered by some and dismissed as a "quack" by others. This really should end. Research shows that in the last decade Robertson has given over $550,000 to the Republican Party and candidates in Virginia (including over $100,000 to newly elected Governor Bob McDonnell). He has given another $50,000 to national GOP candidates. Shouldn't those politicians who have been recipients of Robertson's largess be pressed to denounce his remarks and return the amounts they received from him (or maybe asked to send an equal amount to Haitian relief)?

At the end of the day, Robertson should be free to say or believe whatever he wants, however vile his views may be. That is not the issue. Rather it is that his political influence and power should be exposed and challenged, and those who accept his support should be held accountable.