Pat Robertson, broadcaster who helped make religion central to Republican politics, dies at 93

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pat robertson , a religious broadcaster who turned a tiny Virginia station into the global Christian Broadcasting Network, tried to run for president and helped make religion central to Republican Party politics in the United States through his Christian Coalition, has died. He was 93.

Robertson's death on Thursday was confirmed in an email by his broadcast network. No cause was given.

Robertson's ventures also included Regent University, an evangelical Christian school in Virginia Beach; the American Center for Law and Justice, which advocates for the First Amendment rights of religious people; and Operation Blessing, an international humanitarian organization.

For more than half a century, Robertson was a familiar presence in American living rooms, known for his television show "700 Club," and in later years, his televised pronouncements of God's judgment, blaming natural disasters for everything from homosexuality to teaching. of evolution

Money poured in when he solicited donations, his influence skyrocketed and he attracted a huge following when he jumped directly into politics by seeking the Republican Party's 1988 presidential nomination.

Robertson pioneered the now common strategy from courting Iowa's network of evangelical Christian churches and finished second in the Iowa caucuses, ahead of Vice President George HW Bush.

His coup was to insist that three million supporters across the United States sign petitions before deciding to run, Robertson biographer Jeffrey K. Hadden said. Tactics gave him an army.

"He asked people to commit to work for him, pray for him and give him money," Hadden, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, told The Associated Press in 1988. . ″Political historians can see it as one of the most ingenious things a candidate has ever done.″

Robertson then endorsed Bush, who won the presidency. The search for Iowa evangelicals is now a ritual for Republican hopefuls, including those currently seeking the White House in 2024.

Robertson founded the Chesapeake Christian Coalition in 1989 and said it would promote his campaign's ideals. The coalition became a major political force in the 1990s, mobilizing conservative voters through grassroots activities.

At the time of his resignation as coalition president in 2001, Robertson said he wanted to focus on ministerial work, his impact on both religion and politics in the US "enormous," according to John C. Green. , emeritus professor of political science. at the University of Akron.

Many followed the path that Robertson blazed in religious transmission, Green told the AP in 2021 . In American politics, Robertson helped "cement the alliance between conservative Christians and the Republican Party."

Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson was born on March 22, 1930, in Lexington, Virginia, to Absalom Willis Robertson and Gladys Churchill Robertson. His father served for 36 years as a United States Representative and United States Senator from Virginia.

After graduating from Washington and Lee University, he served as an adjutant to the 1st Marine Division in Korea.

He received a law degree from Yale University Law School, but failed the bar exam and decided not to pursue a law career.

Robertson met his wife, Adelia “Dede” Elmer, at Yale in 1952. He was a Southern Baptist, she was a Catholic, and earned a master's degree in nursing. Eighteen months later, they ran away to be married off by a justice of the peace, knowing that no family would approve.

Robertson was interested in politics until he found religion, Dede Robertson told the AP in 1987. . He surprised her by pouring her liquor, tearing a bare print from the wall, and declaring that she had found the Lord.

Robertson received a master of divinity from New York Theological Seminary in 1959, then drove south with his family to buy a bankrupt UHF television station in Portsmouth, Virginia. He said he only had $70 in his pocket, but he soon found investors and CBN went airborne on October 1, 1961. Established as a tax-exempt non-profit religious organization, CBN raised hundreds of millions, revealing $321 million in “ministry support” in 2022 alone.

One of Robertson's innovations was using the secular talk show format on the network's flagship show, the “700 Club,” which grew out of a telethon when Robertson asked 700 viewers for $10 monthly contributions. It was more suitable for television than traditional revival meetings or church services, and it garnered a large audience.

“Here is a well-educated person having sophisticated conversations with a wide variety of guests on a wide variety of topics,” said Green, a professor of political science at the University of Akron. “It was religiously inflected to be sure. But it was an approach that took on everyday concerns.”

His guests eventually included several US presidents: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump.

At times, his on-air pronouncements drew criticism.

He claimed that the terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans on September 11, 2001 were caused by God, angered by federal courts, pornography, abortion rights, and the separation of church and state. Speaking again about 9/11 on his television show a year later, Robertson described Islam as a violent religion that wants to "dominate" and "destroy," prompting President George W. Bush to distance himself and say that Islam it is a peaceful and respectful religion. .

asked for the murder of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2005, although he later apologized.

Later that year, he warned the residents of a rural Pennsylvania town not to be surprised if disaster struck because they voted out school board members who favored teaching "intelligent design" over evolution. And in 1998, she said Orlando, Florida, should watch out for hurricanes after allowing the annual Gay Days event.

In 2014, he angered Kenyans when he warned that towels in Kenya could transmit AIDS. CBN issued a correction, saying Robertson "spoke bad about the possibility of contracting AIDS through towels."

Robertson could also be hit or miss: In 2010, he called for an end to mandatory prison sentences for marijuana possession convictions. Two years later, he told the "700 Club" that marijuana should be legalized and treated like alcohol because the government's war on drugs had failed.

Robertson condemned Democrats caught up in sex scandals, saying, for example, that President Bill Clinton turned the White House into a playground for sexual freedom. But he helped solidify evangelical support for Donald Trump, dismissing the candidate's sexually predatory comments about women as an attempt to "to look like a male"

After Trump took office, Robertson interviewed the president at the White House. And CBN welcomed Trump advisers like Kellyanne Conway as guests.

But after President Trump lost to Joe Biden in 2020, Robertson said Trump was living in an "alternate reality" and should "move on," the media reported.

Robertson's son, Gordon, succeeded him in December 2007 as CEO of CBN, which is now based in Virginia Beach. Robertson remained president of the network and continued to appear on the "700 Club."

Robertson resigned as host of the show after half a century in 2021, with his son Gordon taking over the weekday show.

Robertson was also the founder and president of International Family Entertainment Inc., parent of the basic cable television network The Family Channel. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought IFE in 1997.

Regent University, where classes began in Virginia Beach in 1978, now has more than 30,000 students, CBN said in a statement.

Robertson wrote 15 books, including "The Turning Tide" and "The New World Order."

His wife Dede, who was a founding member of CBN's board of directors, died last year at the age of 94 . The couple had four children, 14 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren, CBN said in a statement.

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