Television preacher M.G. “Pat” Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in 1961, primarily as an instrument of Pentecostal preaching and evangelism. Over the years, the ministry took on a distinct right-wing political cast and became a vehicle for the propagation of Robertson’s often-extreme views.
In 1988, Robertson ran unsuccessfully for president in the Republican primaries. He gathered millions of signatures from supporters during that campaign and later used them as the basis for an explicitly political group, the Christian Coalition. The Coalition did well during the 1990s but began to experience financial difficulties and leadership problems as the decade wound down. In 2001, Robertson withdrew from the organization completely. (It still limps along, under the guidance of Roberta Combs, based in South Carolina, with a budget of just over $1.4 million.)
Some today deride Robertson’s influence among conservative Christians, but no other Religious Right leader has the media and academic platform he has. During the 2008 presidential primary season, Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani made personal appearances at Robertson’s Regent University and courted his support.
CBN’s major project is production of the “700 Club,” Robertson’s talk/news program. The show, estimated to have about 800,000 viewers daily, is Robertson’s primary vehicle for spreading his political views, which include vociferous opposition to church-state separation, reproductive choice and gay rights. Like the Fox News Channel, CBN gives right-wing members of Congress and authors friendly interviews and publicity.
Robertson frequently uses the program to espouse extremism. Over the years he has ranted that America should be a Christian nation, compared gay people to Nazis, blamed court decisions for the 9/11 attacks and asserted that God punishes communities that displease him with hurricanes, tornados and possibly even meteors. One of Robertson’s most infamous observations is that Episcopalians, Methodists and Presbyterians reflect “the spirit of the Antichrist.”
Aside from Regent (a graduate-level university), Robertson’s empire includes the American Center for Law and Justice, a Religious Right legal group, and Operation Blessing, a charity that has been racked by scandal.
The aging Robertson has been increasingly shifting day-to-day responsibilities to his son, Gordon, who often appears with him on the “700 Club.” It has been reported that CBN has an endowment of at least $1 billion, meaning the ministry should be able to continue long after Robertson has retired.
Robertson Quote: “America wasn’t built on Hinduism. America wasn’t built on Islam. America wasn’t built on Buddhism. America and our democratic institutions were built on the Christian faith. There is no question about it.” (“700 Club,” July 30, 2007)
“We have had a distortion imposed on us over the past few years by left-wingers who have fastened themselves into the court system and we have had a lie foisted on us that there is something embedded in the Constitution called separation of church and state.”
(2002 “Road to Victory” conference)