The Stunning Demagoguery of Pat Robertson

On ABC's This Week on Sunday, Pat Robertson put on a virtuoso display of irrational claims, hypocritical flip flops and demagoguery worthy of his exalted position as one of the world's foremost leaders of the credulous and stupid. Some of what he said was astonishing even to someone who has followed his career full of manipulative nonsense. For instance, this exchange between the host, George Stephanapolous, and Robertson about Justice Ginsburg:

GS: "You said also that you believe Democrats appoint judges who don't share our Christian values and will dismantle Christian culture. So do you believe that Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg, who were appointed by President Clinton, are trying to dismantle Christian culture?"

Robertson: "Justice Ginsburg served as general counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, that was founded, as you probably know, by about three members of the Communist Internationale. Their leader, uh, Baldwin, said he wanted to be a communist and wanted to make this a worker's state."

GS: "So she's a communist?"

Robertson: "He was! He said, it's in my book, I mean he said it, he made a declaration, he wanted to make America a worker's state, breed communists."

GS: "But I was asking about Justice Ginsberg and you now seem to be trying to equate her with these communists."

Robertson: "Well, she was the general counsel for this organization, whose purpose right now is to rid religion from the public square, that's their announced, we've had Nadine Strossner (sic) down here to our university in a debate. She's a very pleasant lady but that's what she said was her avowed goal, to take all religion from the public square. That's their initiative. And Justice Ginsberg served as their general counsel.

How many logical fallacies can you pack into 30 seconds? I bet you can't break Robertson's record. In one brief exchange we have guilt by association, poisoning the well and a few flat out lies. Where does one even begin to counter such nonsense? Well to begin with, he is wrong about Roger Baldwin, the founder of the ACLU. Yes, Baldwin was a Popular Front socialist in his younger days. But there's a lot that Robertson left out that is rather important in making this ridiculous charge. Like the fact that in the 1930s, after being appalled by the actions of the Soviet Union, Baldwin disavowed communism as a great threat to liberty and began a series of purge trials to rid the ACLU of all communists (he led the trial of founding board member Elizabeth Gurley Flynn himself). He also revised the ACLU charter to forbid anyone who was a member of the communist party or any other totalitarian organization from being a member. He also left out the fact that Baldwin later wrote a book, The New Slavery in which he condemned the brutal policies of communist regimes in the Far East. And he left that out that none other than Douglas MacArthur, hardly a communist sympathizer, took Baldwin with him to Japan to oversee the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of a free society there. So this "the ACLU is all a bunch of commies" line is not only decades out of date, it's just plain bullshit. And only a third rate demagogue like Robertson, counting on the ignorance and credulity of his followers, would continue to trot it out.

Secondly, the notion that the ACLU is trying to "dismantle Christian culture" is just plain nonsense. The ACLU strongly believes and has often defended the rights of Christians to worship freely. I have listed dozens of examples of this here before. What they oppose is government endorsement of religion and that is the common thread in their litigation. Now, maybe you think sometimes they go too far in their zeal to get rid of anything that might give even a hint of an endorsement. Frankly I think that sometimes, as with their silly and pointless threatening of a suit against LA County to take a tiny cross off their seal (while leaving a Roman goddess on the seal, ironically). But if the "public square" means public parks, for instance, where churches often put up holiday displays, the ACLU has strenuously argued that if you're going to open such a forum to Christian churches, you also have to open it to other religions. That's hardly unreasonable, is it? If the public square means allowing bible clubs and churches to use public facilities like schools and military bases on an equal footing with non-religious organizations, then the ACLU has often defended that principle, as in the Lamb's Chapel case. It is only where they believe there is a de facto endorsement of religion that they object, and even if they are sometimes a bit oversensitive in that regard, it's still a lie to caricature their position in this way. But then Pat Robertson obviously doesn't have a problem with lying. Witness this amazing exchange:

GS: "Reverend Robertson, the God you describe is taking an active direct role in our lives. One of the earlier clips we showed, you had him saying "I am removing justices from the Supreme Court." And I'm just wondering, why is a God who is so involved in our daily lives, so directly involved, allows something like a tsunami to kill several hundred thousand people in Asia."

Robertson: "Um...I don't think he reverses the laws of nature, uh, the reasons for that tsunami was the shifting of tectonic plates in the Indian Ocean. I don't think he changes the magma in volcanoes and I don't think he changes the wind currents that bring about hurricanes. Uh, so I don't attribute that to God or his lack or otherwise. But in terms of human affairs, I do think he answers prayer. And I think there have been literally millions of people praying for a change in the Supreme Court. The people of faith in this country feel they're a tyranny, uh, and they see their liberties taken away from them, and they have been beseeching God, fasting and praying for years. So I think he hears and answers their prayers."

Wow. Now let's hit the rewind button back to September 17, 2003 when Robertson prayed on the 700 Club for God to change the wind currents and move a hurricane away from Virginia Beach:

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson today prayed on his Christian Broadcasting Network, based here, that Hurricane Isabel would turn from the coast. He asked God to put a "wall of protection'' around Virginia Beach and the East Coast.

"In the name of Jesus, we reach out our hand in faith and we command that storm to cease its forward motion to the north and to turn and to go out into the sea,'' Robertson prayed on ``The 700 Club'' program.

And this was not the first time he had done so. In 1985, he claimed to have used prayer to turn away Hurricane Gloria (which of course continued up the coast and slammed into Long Island, causing more than a billion dollars in damage) and in 1995 he claimed to have prayed away Hurricane Felix (which instead turned north and killed 8 people when it slammed into New Jersey). And remember that in the past, Robertson has claimed innumerable times that God sends natural disasters as punishment for sin. In responding to Disney World's "gay day" in 1998, Robertson warned:

"We're not in any way, shape or form hating anybody," said Robertson. "This is not a message of hate; this is a message of redemption. But if [pause] a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor, it isn't necessarily something we ought to open our arms to.

"And I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes," Robertson continued, "and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you."

As usual, Robertson speaks out of both sides of his mouth. And as usual, his followers are too ignorant and deluded to notice the obvious stupidity of it all.


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Further reason why I reject christianity. Robertson gets to drink ice tea in heaven while Gandhi is burning in hell. That's just not right.

If you ask me, Robertson is nothing more than a con-artist. (Interesting how he says "Um" and "Uh" a lot in your examples.) At least a fantatic like Fred Phelps will keep their ideals no matter how unpopular they get. For example, Robertson and Falwell use to be against the Civil Rights Movement and called Nelson Mandella a commie, but you'd never get them to admit it.

"The Stunning Demagoguery of Pat Robertson." Seriously, were you REALLY stunned? Shouldn't it have been "The Completely Expected Demagoguery of Pat Robertson"?

By GeneralZod (not verified) on 03 May 2005 #permalink


You're right about Robertson, but you're missing the central point. What's astonishing is not his oxymoronic lying or his naked derangement. What's astonishing is that mainstream media outlets and reputable journalists insist on conversing with him as if he were sane, as if his opinion were valid merely because it is an opinion.

He is not sane. His opinion is not valid, and guys like Stephanapolous should know better.



Just think how bad those hurricanes would have been if the good reverend hadn't interceded on our behalf



If you ask me, Robertson is nothing more than a con-artist.

That's a real insult to con artists, if you ask me. Robertson may be squeezing oodles and oodles of money out of people, but it's largely due to the fact that many of them are as fanatical as he is, which is why the screwiness of his statements doesn't get noticed.

(Interesting how he says "Um" and "Uh" a lot in your examples.)

Those are just the first signs of senility, hopefully. Because if he isn't going senile, he really is that crazy. And that's not a good sign coming from somebody who controls that much in cash and resources.

By Chris Krolczyk (not verified) on 03 May 2005 #permalink

"He is not sane. His opinion is not valid, and guys like Stephanapolous should know better."

Those guys LIKE Robertson - it's easy to use him to tar all Christians (the vast majority of whom disowned him years ago) as raving psychos.

And Falwell is even worse.