10 Craziest Things Pat Robertson Has Said
It’s tempting to dismiss Pat Robertson as an unimportant distraction, a living relic whose various kooky opinions might have mattered in the past, but don’t matter any longer. That would be a mistake. While many other Christian right leaders have crowded the field in recent years, Robertson still has wide-reaching influence through his popular televangelism program “The 700 Club.” The show not only airs on Robertson’s own Christian Broadcasting Network, but also the supposedly mainstream ABC Family Channel.
Nor has Robertson really faded from the world of right-wing activism. The university he founded, Regent, continues to crank out hard-right politicians and bureaucrats, including Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia. The Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice, which is meant to be a Christian right counterpoint to the ACLU, continues to strike huge blows to human rights in the courts, with a specific eye to dismantling religious freedom and forcing fundamentalist Christian views on the rest of the country.
While all this goes on, Pat Robertson continues to be as loony as ever, using his position as the host of “The 700 Club” to spout all sorts of silly, bizarre and horrific ideas to his rapt audience, who believes the man has a special relationship with God. His profile in the mainstream media may have faded in recent years, but his influence over the Christian right--and therefore the Republican Party--doesn’t seem to have dimmed much at all.
With that in mind, here are 10 of his most recent alarming and disturbing statements.
1) Men with “rebellious” wives should live where wife-beating is legal. When a caller complained that his wife insults him and once raised a hand to him, Robertson lamented the end of legal wife-beating. “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done,” he whined. After characterizing the wife as someone who “does not understand authority,” he “jokingly” recommended that the husband move to Saudi Arabia, so that he can legally batter her.
2) You should cast demons out of secondhand clothes you buy, lest their previous owner’s evil infect you. After a “700 Club” viewer asked if her mother was right to believe that clothes bought at a resale shop might have demons hiding in them, Robertson recommended praying over them as a precautionary measure. “Hey, it ain’t going to hurt anything to rebuke any spirits that happened to have attached themselves to those clothes,” he said, adding that witches may have cursed the secondhand clothes. While the effectiveness of physical washing of clothes can be determined by visual and olfactory assessment, it’s unclear how one can tell if you’ve prayed the demons out of your clothes. Robertson was mum on how to make this determination.
3) God punishes people for having too much education. When a viewer asked Robertson why there are more “miracles” in Africa than in the U.S.--mind you, no statistics were offered to support this contention--Robertson blamed the supposed overeducation of Americans. “People overseas didn't go to Ivy League schools,” he chuckled, unaware that 20% of Harvard’s students come from outside the U.S. He went on to blame “skepticism and science” for God’s miracle reticence, saying, “We are so sophisticated, we think we've got everything figured out. We know about evolution, we know about Darwin, we know about all these things that says God isn't real, we know about all this stuff.”
4) Women just discovered porn, and quite possibly sex. Robertson thought it advisable to embarrass one of his female co-hosts by asking her about Fifty Shades of Gray. “You’re a sweet Christian girl. Do you see anything in porn that attracts you at all?” he asked, as if there was a chance in the world she would say yes no matter how she actually felt about the situation. After she gave the obligatory denial, Robertson expressed his utter bewilderment at this new interest the female gender has in erotic materials. “The thing that shocks me. We always thought this was a male thing,” he said. “But now it looks like 30% of women are involved in pornography.” He expressed particular surprise that the author of Fifty Shades does not look like a “glamour queen,” as if the only thing that could possibly be more surprising than a woman showing interest in sex is an ordinary-looking woman showing interest in sex.
5) Beware “scamsters in religious garb.” In a segment on an insurance scam targeting Christians, Robertson warned his viewers about con men who exploit people’s need to believe. “Beware of these scamsters, especially scamsters in religious garb quoting the Bible. I mean, run from them,” he said. Of course, viewers could follow his advice simply by flipping off the TV and cease writing checks to televangelists, but for some reason, Robertson seemed confident that his audience wouldn’t figure that out.
6) The government is gearing up to round up Americans for unspecified reasons. Robertson paid forward a favorite conspiracy theory of the black helicopter-fearing right wing, that the government is gearing up for some imminent raid on Americans. “Long trains full of armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor, what are they for, the army going into battle against the enemy? They're used by Homeland Security against us.”
Robertson did not acknowledge that the paranoid right has been making this claim for over two decades now, which should cause even the most fevered mind to wonder why the government is giving the god-fearing patriots they supposedly intend to round up so much time to build arsenals. The fabricated plot to attack Americans will take longer than it took to build the federal highway system at this rate.
7) Abortion is a lesbian conspiracy. Robertson, like most anti-choicers, wishes to believe that women who get abortions were somehow tricked or conned into the decision. Subsequently, he’s a fan of any other explanation for pro-choice motives other than a general support for reproductive rights. He stumbled on a unique one two years ago, arguing that lesbians have a “deficiency” of not having babies, and therefore, “If these married women don’t have children, if they abort their babies, that puts them on a level playing field."
Robertson’s belief that random, unplanned childbirth is some great boon to women has been thoroughly debunked by social science showing that unwanted childbearing is strongly associated with poverty and stress. Reproductive rights level the playing field; not, as Robertson claims, by dragging women down, but by helping women.
8) Atheists are trying to steal Christmas to make you miserable. In the real world, the people who work night and day to steal the happiness of others are the Christian right, and they really have a stinkeye for anyone who dares enjoy sex. Unsurprisingly, Robertson projects his own miserly beliefs onto his opposition, accusing atheists of trying to end Christmas because they are meanies who don’t want you to have fun. “Atheists don’t like our happiness, they don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable,” he assured his viewers. “They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable.”
In reality, no atheist group has ever demanded that Christians abandon trees, decorating, singing carols, or enjoying the holiday. Many atheists, in fact, celebrate the holidays themselves. In contrast, the Christian right takes direct action to ruin other people’s happiness, usually by trying to prevent their marriages or make it harder to have a happy, healthy sex life.
9) The earthquake punished Haitians for overthrowing slavery. Robertson blamed the Haiti earthquake on the Haitians who dared to revolt successfully against slavery in the late 18th and early 19th century. The quote, in full:
....something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so the Devil said, "OK, it's a deal." And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island is Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. Uh, they need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God and out of this tragedy, I'm optimistic something good may come.
His implication, that God is punishing the nation of Haiti for rejecting slavery, couldn’t be more clear.
10) Divorce is wrong, unless your wife gets sick. Robertson routinely reminds his viewers--such as the one he recommended move to Saudi Arabia--that divorce is against the scriptures. But he did make one exception, for a man whose wife’s senility is making him lonely. “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again.” He added, trying to sound less awful, “But to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her.”
Robertson framed it as an attempt to avoid the sin of adultery, but it wasn’t persuasive. He has a long history of considering marriage an institution that exists so women can serve men. Within this framework, once a woman becomes unable to perform her wifely duties, booting her and getting a new one just makes sense. Telling men to make sure to provide for their abandoned wives, in this context, does little to soften the blow.
This is the worldview Robertson bundles up and sells as religion to his followers night and day: Racist, misogynist, anti-science, and paranoid.