Can We Get A Witness?: TV Preacher Should Take The Stand In Liberian Dictator’s Trial

Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow have told us what they know about former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Shouldn’t televangelist Pat Robertson be forced to do the same?

Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and a top leader of the Religious Right, may have some important information to reveal about the brutal dictator now on trial for war crimes. The two have had enough business dealings to merit some scrutiny.

In May 1999, the TV preacher reached a deal with Taylor that allowed a Robertson-owned company, Freedom Gold Ltd, to mine for gold in the Bukon Jedeh region of Liberia.

Over the years, Colbert I. King, a writer with the Washington Post, penned several columns blasting Robertson’s partnership with Taylor. Robertson's Liberian deal called for 10 percent of the profits of Freedom Gold to go to Liberia, not including royalties and rental fees the Taylor regime would earn if the mines became productive.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, insisted that the money was going to the country, not Taylor personally, but King remained unpersuaded, noting that Liberia has been described by critics as "Charles Taylor Inc."

Under Taylor's regime, Liberia was racked by civil war, the nation was desperately poor and the country came close to anarchy. Thousands were killed and tortured by Taylor's troops, police and security forces, and the ruthless dictator was accused of backing rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone, spawning more death and destruction there.

Robertson is famous for his nationally televised screeds about America’s lack of morality, but his own conduct in the Liberia affair was far from laudatory.

“Clearly, Robertson’s greed knows no bounds,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, AU’s executive director, said in June 1999.  “This gold-mining deal with a vicious tyrant is shocking even by his standards.

“If there’s profit to be made, it seems Robertson doesn't care who he has to deal with,” Lynn added. "Despite all the rhetoric and grandstanding, this deal shows Robertson is more interested in money than morality.”

Robertson has claimed his involvement with Taylor was minimal, stating that he has never even met the man. Yet as King pointed out in one of his columns, the TV preacher never met Taylor because he had been warned by State Department officials not to travel to Liberia. However, at one point, Robertson had planned to bring Taylor’s wife to Norfolk, Va., for a visit – a junket that was cancelled after Taylor’s vice president was murdered.

According to Voice of America, Taylor was so confident in his relationship with Robertson that he once claimed he could count on getting the U.S. government’s support through the influential religious broadcaster.

And Robertson did prove his loyalty. In 2003, Robertson repeatedly criticized the Bush administration over its handling of the crisis in Liberia, using his “700 Club” broadcast to charge that the U.S. government was seeking to destabilize the nation and oust Taylor.

“This country [Liberia] has had a close relationship with the United States over the years, but of late, the last, oh, four, five, six years, the United States State Department has tried as hard as it can to destabilize Liberia and to bring about the very outcome we're seeing now,” Robertson announced on his June 26, 2003 program. “They had no endgame, they have no plan of what to do, they only wanted to destroy the sitting president and his government, and as a result, the place is being plunged into chaos.”

Robertson hasn’t been called to testify in Taylor’s trial, but many activist groups rightfully think he should be. After all, Naomi and Mia did their duty, shouldn’t Pat do his?