TV preacher Pat Robertson's recent callous comments about Haiti have attracted quite a bit of attention.
Once again, Robertson has stuck his foot firmly into his mouth. Americans United and many other groups have issued statements denouncing him. Progressive commentators like Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann have blasted him. I expect the editorial cartoonists will have a field day.
White House officials have also reacted. My favorite was Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who dryly observed, "At times of great crisis, there are always people who say really stupid things."
You need to hear Robertson's full remarks to really grasp how offensive they are. Prior to his now-famous comment about Haiti's pact with the devil, Robertson interviewed Bill Horan, president of a Robertson-owned relief outfit called Operation Blessing.
During the interview, Robertson opined that the earthquake may be a "blessing in disguise" because it will allow for "massive rebuilding" in the country. Even Horan seems to have trouble with this, calling it a "pretty optimistic attitude."
Yes, I'd say the deaths of tens of thousands of people is a poor start to an urban renewal program.
We all say things we regret from time to time. Robertson's problem is that he says shockingly offensive things every few months – and never regrets them.
Remember his 1992 claim that feminism causes women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians"?
How about his assertion in 1998 that flying rainbow flags in Orlando would lead to that city being hit with "terrorist bombs...earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor"?
You might recall Robertson's 2003 desire to drop a nuclear bomb on the U.S. State Department or his assertion in 2005 that Supreme Court rulings upholding church-state separation and individual freedom are a greater threat than "the terrorists which our great nation has defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq."
And of course there's Robertson's notorious reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He shifted the blame from murderous terrorists to the Supreme Court: "We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said we're going to legislate you out of the schools.... We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And, then we say, 'Why does this happen?' Well, why it's happening is that God Almighty is lifting his protection from us."
In 1996, I wrote a book about Robertson titled The Most Dangerous Man in America: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition in which I tried to chronicle some of his most outrageous statements. For a few years after the book came out, I tried to keep tabs on what Robertson was saying, figuring I might issue a supplement some day.
The task soon proved impossible. Robertson says so much insane stuff that I would have needed a staff of researchers to keep up with it.
This latest gaffe should spell the end of Robertson's long, sorry career. But, amazingly, he remains on the guest list for the inauguration of Robert McDonnell, who will be sworn in as Virginia's new governor this weekend.
Some politicians may not have the sense to repudiate Robertson, but the widespread revulsion over his latest comments shows that the American public has.
It's time to retire, Pat.
P.S. When I wrote The Most Dangerous Man in America, the Christian Coalition was going great guns. The group controlled the Republican Party in a majority of states and enjoyed strong influence on Capitol Hill. That's all behind us now. I no longer believe Robertson is the most dangerous man in America. These days, he's just the most pathetic.