Pat Robertson’s incendiary call for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez certainly has backfired — and ignited a firestorm of criticism that is engulfing the Republican televangelist from Virginia Beach.
Mr. Robertson has in three days called for the murder of president Chavez; claimed he didn’t; and then admitted that he did and kind of apologized. The back-pedaling is covered in Thursday’s New York Times. Will the story die there, on the fourth day? Not likely.
We have yet to hear from any major Christian right or Republican leader — with two significant exceptions. Robertson, a former Baptist minister who resigned his ministry in the 1980s to run for the GOP nomination for president, was denounced by two top leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that Robertson “brought shame to the cause of Christ…. Our witness to the Gospel is inevitably and deeply harmed when a recognized Christian leader casually recommends the assassination of a world leader.”
And Bobby Welsh, president of the Southern Baptist Convention said: “The Southern Baptist Convention does not support or endorse public statements concerning assassinations of persons, even if they are despicable despots of foreign countries, and neither do I.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post editorialized:
“…some of Mr. Robertson’s fellow travelers have not been able to locate their tongues over this latest Robertson-inspired international disturbance. The Family Research Council and Traditional Values Coalition spare no moments in rushing forth to denounce irresponsibility on the part of those they dislike. Not so with Mr. Robertson, who only called for the United States to murder a foreign head of state. Even the Bush administration can’t bring itself to censure a fellow conservative who publicly calls for his country to break the law. ‘Inappropriate,’ the State Department managed to say. The White House, embarrassed by Mr. Robertson yet again but too afraid to mix it up with his narrow but loyal base of support, simply averts its gaze.”
Mr. Robertson may think that his apology for making a bloodthirsty call for the murder of president Chavez will end the matter. If he does, I think he is wrong. Not only does his written statement appear to be more damage control than an act of contrition, but Pat Robertson is one of the best known religious and political figures in the United States. He is far better known than any mainline protestant or Catholic leader; far better known than many top elected officials and members of the president’s cabinet; far better known than any other leader of the Christian Right, with the possible exception of James Dobson. As of this evening, the Robertson imbroglio is one of the top news stories in the world.
But for all the media buzz and moral outrage from many quarters around the world — we have yet to hear from any of the leaders of the Republican Party or the Christian Right. There is a reason for that. Pat Robertson epitomizes the corrupt relationship between the Christian Right and the Republican Party.
The silence you hear is the corruption talking.