For those enjoying the spectacle of Rev. Pat Robertson digging himself in deeper over the Chavez-assassination-threat fiasco -- he's now claiming that by "assassinate" he merely meant we should "kidnap" the Venezeulan leader -- you might enjoy this short history of Robertson's rise as a leading televangelist and close friend of conservative lawmakers.
This wasn't the first sign that the Virginia native isn't playing with a full deck. For example, there's this choice excerpt from Salvation for Sale, a 1986 tell-all by Gerard Straub, a former producer of Robertson's show The 700 Club. Apparently, in 1979 the network started making detailed preparations to televise the Second Coming of Christ, which they figured was due at any moment, and interesting conversations ensued:
The greatest show on earth was in our hands. I wondered where we would put the cameras. Jerusalem was the obvious place. We even discussed how Jesus' radiance might be too bright for the cameras and how we would have to make adjustments for that problem. Can you imagine telling Jesus, "Hey, Lord, please tone down your luminosity; we having a problem with contrast. You're causing the picture to flare."
It also wasn't Robertson's first foray into advocating political violence. Robertson first got up close and personal with political power in the 1980s, when he embraced Ronald Reagan (who embraced back), especially Reagan's plan to violently topple the democratically-elected government of Nicaragua by funding the contra rebels. By one accounting, Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network became "one of the top sources of private funding for the contras," who in turn named one of their units the Pat Robertson Brigade.
This interest in violently overthrowing his enemies carried into 2003, when in disgust at the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas outlawing archaic anti-sodomy laws, Robertson issued this statement of Christian love:
One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition. Would it not be possible for God to put it in the minds of these three judges that the time has come to retire?
When CNN inquired as to the Christian-ness of publicly praying for Supreme Court justices to drop dead, Robertson squirmed:
CNN: But Rev. Robertson, do you understand why some people are offended, even though you're saying you're not telling your followers to pray for ill health for these three justices, that they could actually interpret it that way.
ROBERTSON: Well they can interpret it any way they want to. I'm talking to God, and it's up to Him to make a decision and if some of these folks don't like what I'm praying for and want to pray the other way -- have at it! Let the Lord decide.
There are more goodies -- like the time when he thought about running for President and padded his resume by claiming to be a former "combat Marine." It was later disclosed that he was actually a Senator's son who got transferred to a cushy desk job during the Korean War. As one of his former Marine compatriots wrote, "He was in charge of making sure that the officers' booze ration was handed out and re-supplied."
The political right -- including the current administration -- may be silently backing away from the unhinged booze-pourer now, but it won't be easy. As they say, they go way back.