Following the call by Christian Coalition of America founder and 700 Club host Pat Robertson for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, newspaper editorial pages across the country denounced his remarks, describing them as “shocking,” “utterly irresponsible,” and not “representative of people of faith.” Media Matters for America has compiled excerpts from several major newspapers' editorials below.
Chicago Tribune, 8/24/05:
Robertson's remarks should be taken for what they are: the ranting of a TV preacher who relies on controversy to keep the coffers full. His words aren't representative of people of faith -- except, perhaps, those who continue to ship money to Robertson's “700 Club.”
And remember that Robertson's moral indignation is selective. In 2003 -- a busy year for him -- he slammed the Bush administration's calls for Liberian President Charles Taylor to resign. A UN-backed tribunal had indicted Taylor for war crimes in Sierra Leone.
You see, some of Robertson's financial investments happened to be tied up in Liberia. Ah, morality is in the details.
Los Angeles Times, 8/24/05:
A paranoid is never happier than when he discovers that he really does have enemies. So Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez may be just the moment of vindication the Venezuelan president has been waiting for.
In Robertson, Chavez may have found the perfect adversary. Bush, to his credit, would never descend to Chavez's level of discourse. But Chavez can plausibly argue that Robertson's worldview is similar to the president's, citing Bush's closeness to the evangelical movement. Chavez can also point out that Robertson has campaigned for the president and is an influential member (and former candidate for the presidential nomination) of the same political party as Bush.
And then there is the Bush administration's actual record in Venezuela, which is hardly exemplary. In April 2002, the United States embarrassed itself by not denouncing an attempted military coup against Chavez until he had regained power. Later revelations that Bush administration officials had been in contact with members of the Venezuelan opposition months before the attempted coup only fueled the Chavez machine.
The Miami Herald, 8/24/05 [registration required]:
Televangelist Pat Robertson handed President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela a huge and politically useful gift this week. In a regular program of the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, Mr. Robertson fed one of the wilder fantasies of the Andean demagogue by declaring that Mr. Chávez deserves to be killed. This amazing and utterly irresponsible statement should be retracted at once. The State Department called it ''inappropriate,'' but surely it deserves stronger condemnation than that.
Was Mr. Robertson consciously imitating John Gotti? Or was he merely stealing a page from the Iranian mullahs who once issued a fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie? Either way, this gangster rhetoric has no place in a public forum, particularly when it comes from someone purporting to exemplify religious virtue.
Mr. Robertson's views do not reflect U.S. policy at any level, but they no doubt will be seized by Mr. Chávez to show that he isn't as crazy as he sounds. You're not paranoid if they really are out to get you.
The Federal Communications Commission should find this wretched episode of interest, as well. If Janet Jackson's ''wardrobe malfunction'' merits a $550,000 fine, what about an open appeal to commit murder?
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/24/05:
Pat Robertson, the religious broadcaster who has his own pulpit on the Christian Broadcast Network's “The 700 Club,” seems not to believe in democracy -- at least if it throws up someone he doesn't like such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In so doing, he unwittingly treats Mr. Bush's theory on democracy as the pious nonsense it is.
Mr. Robertson has said other stupid things in the course of his career, but this is especially shocking even by his standards. When a Christian evangelist departs from a gospel of love and forgiveness to advocate murder, his example provides a clarifying moment for anyone who is paying attention.
One thing it clarifies is the hypocritical nature of some of those who belong to the religious right. (“By their fruits, ye shall know them”). In fairness, we won't say that Mr. Robertson, 75, represents everyone in that constituency but he does speak for millions and he is a founder of the Christian Coalition of America. He is no fringe figure -- indeed, he once ran for president, which makes his assassination suggestion all the more destructive to America's reputation overseas.
As a group, people of his ilk scorn the idea that there is -- or should be -- a separation of church and state. The 700 Club recognizes no such distinction as daily it goes about its business of using religion to propagate a right-wing political agenda. His reckless statement is a direct result of this unholy entanglement, something he might have known had he remembered another piece of Scripture: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
The Sacramento Bee, 8/24/05 [registration required]:
Self-styled elder statesman Pat Robertson says the United States should “take out” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop him from turning his country into “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism” and, in the bargain, avoid another high-cost war. Huh?
Leaving aside that promoting assassination is a sinful thing for a professed Christian to do, televangelist Robertson's idea is the dumbest he's ever come up with - unless it is his 1992 claim that feminism encourages women to “kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
The State Department, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Christian evangelicals, among others, have disavowed Robertson's televised remarks. Surely, President Bush would risk little political capital by following suit.
Robertson is free to say any stupid thing he wishes, as are other Americans to denounce him for it. It's a free country, and a strong one, which is why Chavez is likelier to bring himself down if he pushes too far. If that happens, it should be done by the Venezuelan people.
St. Petersburg Times, 8/24/05:
A religious extremist has called for the assassination of a foreign leader. This time, however, it is not some Islamic ayatollah issuing a fatwa to murder some infidel. It's our own Pat Robertson, a Christian broadcaster who has done the math and concluded it would be cheaper if the United States just murdered Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to keep his country from becoming “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”
Before calling for Chavez's assassination, Robertson apparently never bothered to ask himself this question: What would Jesus do?
Winston-Salem Journal, 8/24/05:
It appears that the Rev. Pat Robertson has lost his mind.
The televangelist from Virginia has violated all norms of religious and civil propriety in calling for the murder of Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.
As for Robertson, the Federal Communications Commission should revoke his license to broadcast. Issuing death threats is a crime. If Robertson can't be hauled into court for this, then he should at least be forced to surrender his right to the public's airwaves.
Robertson has long been controversial, but in recent years he has gone over the edge. This should be the last straw.
His license should be revoked.
Murder is not a family value.