Relating what he called a "true story," the Rev. Pat Robertson asserted on his TV show, The 700 Club, that Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake because its founding fathers made a pact with the devil. "They said," the elderly televangelist continued, "'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' And the devil said, 'Okay, it's a deal' ... Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another." Were Robertson's "hateful" comments strategically inflammatory—or just the ramblings of a religious man who also does a lot of good? (Watch the controversial clip from Robertson's show below.)
Robertson's just pushing his own sad agenda: "Robertson can't let human suffering pass" without insinuating that "God did it deliberately," says John Cook in Gawker, because Robertson "hates gay people, black people, Catholics, or whatever other poor dying sap he can find to cruelly mock and use to his own political and fundraising advantage." Remember, the reverend blamed the 9/11 fatalities on pagans, abortionists, gays, and the ACLU—and sagely concluded that God unleashed Hurricane Katrina to punish the people of the Gulf Coast for performing abortions.
"Thousands dying because Haitian slaves 'swore a pact with the devil' for their freedom"
Robertson isn't the only one who sees disasters as God's will: The remarks were "unfortunate," says Mike Potemra in National Review, but this is hardly the first time an earthquake has been characterized as religious payback. A passage in the Koran speaks of an earthquake that punishes people who refused to "worship God alone." But even if you take the Koran at face value, how do you explain all the "sinful nations" that have not been "punished in any conspicuous way"?
"Why Pat Robertson is wrong"
Robertson gives Christianity a bad name: The reverend "should retire from public life," says Cynthia Tucker in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Blaming this horrible tragedy on some "pact with the devil" allegedly made in the 1700s is just the latest in Robertson's long string of "foolish utterances" that have done "immense harm to the image of Christianity." The Christian right should "prevail upon him to give the 700 Club to a younger and saner host."
"Pat Robertson harms image of Christians"
Don't lose sight of Robertson's humanitarian side: The mainstream media "will now obsess over Pat Robertson's 'devil' comment," tweeted conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, as quoted in New York Magazine, "but [the media] will pay no attention to his organization's remarkable relief work worldwide," such as its quick response to Hurricane Katrina (the reverend's abortion remarks notwithstanding). "Before you condemn Pat Robertson's existence for silly comments, you should put his work on behalf of the world's poor into the equation."
"Do Pat Robertson’s Good Deeds Outweigh His Seemingly Hateful Words?"
UPDATE: The White House has condemned Robertson's "stunning" remarks. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, says: "It never ceases to amaze that in times of amazing human suffering, somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid. But it, like clockwork, happens with some regularity.''
SEE THE WEEK'S LATEST COVERAGE OF THE HAITI CRISIS:
• Haiti disaster: The essential facts
• Can Bill Clinton save Haiti?
• Earthquake: Saving Haiti
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