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August 25, 2005
Column #1,252

   Pat Robertson Should Be Fired

It is time for Pat Robertson, 75, to be fired as host of "The 700 Club."

Consider what he said Monday about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the left-wing strongman of a nation with the largest oil reserves outside of the Middle East. Chavez has been an outspoken critic of the United States which he believes is trying to topple his government.

Robertson noted that Chavez has accused America of backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials call that ridiculous.

Robertson then added, "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It is a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Robertson labeled him a "terrific danger" to the United States who was using his nation's oil wealth as a "launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network is author of a book on the Ten Commandments.  How could he possibly rationalize his public call for assassinating the head of a nation - with those simple words, "Thou shalt not kill?"

In Hebrew, the word for "kill" in the Commandment means "no taking of human life outside the process of law," says Robert Shenck, President of the National Clergy Council. That definition allows for capital punishment, killing in a war or in self defense - but not tyrannicide by Christians except in extreme situations. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian theologian, did try to kill Hitler. But Hugo Chavez is no Hitler.

Schenck, a conservative and a frequent guest of "The 700 Club," labeled Robertson's comments "reckless" and asked him "to immediately apologize."

On Wednesday's show, Robertson inexplicably asserted, "Wait a minute. I didn't say `assassination.' I said our Special Forces should `take him out,' and take him out can be a number of things, including kidnapping." Cable TV ran his Monday calls for assassination next to his absurd denial. Belatedly, Robertson issued a written apology.

Richard Cizik, Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals, charged Robertson "is mistaken on a number of counts – theologically, Biblically and politically...He brings disrepute to Christian believers and to the Gospel. Missionaries are expressing fearfulness.

"On a very practical, political level, the assassination of a foreign leader is both unwise and counterproductive.  Examine the history of American efforts do such things in the Dominican Republic, the Congo, Cuba, Vietnam and Chile. The consequences are often worse than what was prevailing. Pinochet in Chile was a worse dictator than Allende."

Indeed, the U.S. made eight attempts on Castro's life. This history led to Senate hearings which prompted the President Ford to sign a law prohibiting assassinations of foreign leaders. Asked about Robertson, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld replied, "Certainly it's against the law. Our department does not do that type of thing."

I've regarded Robertson as irresponsible for two decades.  In 1986 I asked him why he was running for President. He replied, "Because America needs a Christian in the White House."

I responded, "Jack Kemp, another presidential contender, is a Christian."

Robertson charged, "Yes, but his daughter has had an abortion."  That was a lie, and even if  true, did not disqualify Kemp.

I grew suspicious and wondered who was financing his campaign. The tax returns of all non-profit organizations are open to public scrutiny. I studied Christian Broadcasting Network's returns, where I saw $8.5 million of donations from small donors was contributed to Operation Blessing to help the poor.

However, Operation Blessing diverted that $8.5 million to The Freedom Council, Robertson's personal, political campaign which paid 100 staffers running his race for the White House.  

This was flatly illegal.

My columns on these facts tarnished his "Mr. Christian" image and were published in six Michigan papers just before a crucial primary there where polls showed him ahead of George Bush I. Robertson lost to Bush, and never regained traction. In fact, CBN lost its tax exempt status until Robertson paid a stiff fine.

It is time for this deceitful, exhausting volcano to move off the public stage. He'll never do so on his own.

The ABC Family Channel which airs CBN might have other ideas.

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