Right-Wing Reverend a Dangerous Demagogue
This essay appeared in the Fort Myers News Press December 8, 1996
--Richard Hale

Do you remember the Wizard of OZ? The Wizard had a huge voice and was reputed to be an all powerful giant. He turned out to be a little runt with a large megaphone.

That is the reality of the Pat Robertson who appears from the pages of "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Pat Robertson and the rise of the Christian Coalition" by Robert Boston. The author reviewed hundreds of hours of videotape of Robertson's TV show "700 Club," TV interviews, Robertson"s writings, etc. A few highlights:

Robertson claims he saw combat in Korea. Former comrades say he was a courier, never closer to the front lines than three miles. After Korea, Robertson got a law degree from Yale, but being unable to pass the bar, he became a seminarian. The Southern Baptists ordained him, then refused to give him a church, saying his views were too cult-like.

Robertson claims God talks to him directly and guides all his actions. God told him to buy his first TV station with donated money and that investment has made him a multi-millionaire. God is obviously a good businessman. However, Robertson also said God told him Armaggedon would come during the 1980s, and he would be president in 1988. Might have been the same thing!

God told him to write "The New World Order," a rehash of some of the looniest, conspiratorialist, ultra-right-wing writers in the business: black helicopters; the Satanic foursome: the ACLU, the Trilateral Commission, the Supreme Court and the Federal Reserve; secret bases for U.N. troops in the heartland; the U.N. takeover of the U.S. government, etc. (That always bemuses since the U.N. is the organizational equivalent of Dan Quayle, unable to walk and chew gum at the same time.) If Robertson truly believes God told him all those things, it must have been a very bad connection.

Have you noticed how all the televangelists are promoting the "end-times" idea and asking for money so they can tell you how to prepare for it? Do they plan on taking the money with them? P. T. Barnum was a prophet!

The religious sect of which Robertson is the most prominent member has and always will have complete freedom to practice its faith as seen fit. It is thus an outright lie when Robertson complains that he and his people are being "persecuted" and compare this alleged "persecution" to the Holocaust.

In Robertson-speak, "persecution" means IRS and Federal Election Commision investigations of laundering tax-free funds for his presidential campaign, or for ultra-right-wing causes not entitled to tax exemptions. It can also mean any opposition to his theocratic goals or a refusal by the government to actively subsidize his brand of dogma. Robertson dares to compare the penalties for his own misdeeds to the murder of six million Jews! That is intolerable arrogance.

Even the most ill-informed must be aware of Mobutu Sese Seko, the "president" of Zaire. His 30 years of misrule and looting of his country is legendary, even in a continent infamous for tin-pot dictators. Robertson spent 10 years as Mobutu's principal apologist in this country, traveling many times to Kinshasha as the dictator's guest. He claims he was checking up on charity work there. In fact, Robertson had sunk millions into Zaire diamond mines and was looking out for his investment. He finally pulled out in 1995.

I suppose I should turn the other cheek when Robertson calls my church the Antichrist or my faith "peripheral." However, after more than 30 years in the front lines of both hot and cold wars from Africa to Vietnam, I know a would-be despot when I see one. His gullible followers are like th modern version of the three monkeys: See No Reality, Hear No Reality, Speak No Reality.

Now, before Robertson's outraged supporters take pen in hand to defend their clay-footed hero, let me ask you a simple question: Have you read the book?

January 30, 1997