Marion Gordon Robertson
March 22, 1930
Lexington, Virginia, U.S.
|Education||Washington and Lee University (BA)|
Yale University (JD)
New York Theological Seminary (MDiv)
|Occupation||Chancellor of Regent University, Chairman of CBN, Evangelist|
|Known for||Christian talk show host and minister, author of political, spiritual and social books|
|The Secret Kingdom|
|Television||The 700 Club (1966–present)|
Adelia Elmer (m. 1954)
|Children||4, including Gordon|
|Parent(s)||Absalom Willis Robertson|
Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson (born March 22, 1930) is an American media mogul, televangelist, political commentator, former Republican presidential candidate, and former Southern Baptist minister. Robertson advocates a conservative Christian ideology and is known for his past activities in Republican party politics. He is associated with the Charismatic Movement within Protestant evangelicalism. He serves as chancellor and CEO of Regent University and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). He appears daily on The 700 Club, CBN’s flagship television program.
On Robertson's own account, he was not a serious Christian until he underwent personal difficulty. He graduated near the top of his class at Yale Law School in 1955, but failed the New York bar exam. Failing the bar cost Robertson opportunities at post-graduate employment, and in the ensuing months of what he later described as disappointment, embarrassment, and unemployment, he became a born-again Christian and began a career as a minister.
Spanning over five decades, Robertson has had a career as the founder of several major organizations and corporations as well as a university: The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the International Family Entertainment Inc. (ABC Family Channel), Regent University, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), the Founders Inn and Conference Center, the Christian Coalition, an L-1011 Flying Hospital, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, and CBN Asia. He is a best-selling author and the host of The 700 Club, a Christian News and TV program broadcast live weekdays on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) via satellite from CBN studios, as well as on channels throughout the United States, and on CBN network affiliates worldwide.
The son of U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson, Robertson was a Southern Baptist and was active as an ordained minister with that denomination for many years, but holds to a charismatic theology not traditionally common among Southern Baptists. He unsuccessfully campaigned to become the Republican Party's nominee in the 1988 presidential election. As a result of his seeking political office, he no longer serves in an official role for any church. His personal influence and media and financial resources make him a recognized, influential, and controversial public voice for conservative Christianity in the United States.
Marion Gordon Robertson was born on March 22, 1930, in Lexington, Virginia, into a prominent political family, the youngest of two sons. His parents were Absalom Willis Robertson (1887–1971), a conservative Democratic Senator, and his wife Gladys Churchill (née Willis; 1897–1968), was a housewife and a musician. He met Adelia "Dede" Elmer (born December 3, 1927 in Columbus, Ohio), a fashion model and beauty queen in the Miss Ohio State contest, who was studying for her masters in Nursing at Yale University. She was also a nursing student at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. They were married on August 26, 1954. His family includes four children, among them Gordon P. Robertson and Tim Robertson and, as of mid-2016, 14 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.
At a young age, Robertson was nicknamed Pat by his six-year-old brother, Willis Robertson, Jr., who enjoyed patting him on the cheeks when he was a baby while saying "pat, pat, pat". As he got older, Robertson thought about which first name he would like people to use. He considered "Marion" to be effeminate, and "M. Gordon" to be affected, so he opted for his childhood nickname "Pat". His strong awareness for the importance of names in the creation of a public image showed itself again during his presidential run when he threatened to sue NBC news for calling him a "television evangelist", which later became "televangelist", at a time when Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker were objects of scandal.
When he was eleven, Robertson was enrolled in the preparatory McDonogh School outside Baltimore, Maryland. From 1940 until 1946 he attended The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he graduated with honors. He gained admission to Washington and Lee University, where he received a B.A. in History, graduating magna cum laude. He joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Robertson has said, "Although I worked hard at my studies, my real major centered around lovely young ladies who attended the nearby girls schools."
Robertson has described his military service as follows: "We did long, grueling marches to toughen the men, plus refresher training in firearms and bayonet combat." In the same year, he transferred to Korea, "I ended up at the headquarters command of the First Marine Division," says Robertson. "The Division was in combat in the hot and dusty, then bitterly cold portion of North Korea just above the 38th Parallel later identified as the 'Punchbowl' and 'Heartbreak Ridge.' For that service in the Korean War, the Marine Corps awarded me three battle stars for 'action against the enemy.'"
Parts of Robertson's description of his service were later proven to be false. Former Republican Congressman Paul "Pete" McCloskey, Jr., who served with Robertson in Korea, wrote a public letter that said that Robertson was actually spared combat duty when his powerful father, a U.S. Senator, intervened on his behalf, and that Robertson spent most of his time in an office in Japan. According to McCloskey, his time in the service was not in combat, but as the "liquor officer" responsible for keeping the officers' clubs supplied with alcohol. Robertson filed a $35 million libel suit against McCloskey in 1986. He dropped the case in 1988, before it came to trial and paid McCloskey's court costs. According to a newspaper report from 1986, Robertson confirmed elements of McCloskey's allegations and said that he never saw front-line duty.
Robertson was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1952 upon his return to the United States. He then went on to receive a law degree from Yale Law School in 1955, near the top of his class. However, he failed his first and only attempt at the New York bar exam. Shortly thereafter he underwent a religious conversion, and decided against pursuing a career in law. Instead, Robertson attended The Biblical Seminary in New York, where he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1959.
In 1956 Robertson met Dutch missionary Cornelius Vanderbreggen, who impressed Robertson both by his lifestyle and his message. Vanderbreggen quoted Proverbs (3:5, 6), "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths", which Robertson considers to be the "guiding principle" of his life. He was ordained as a minister of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1961.
In 1960, Robertson established the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He started it by buying a small UHF station in nearby Portsmouth. Later in 1977 he purchased a local Leased access cable TV channel in the Hampton Roads area and called it CBN. Originally he went door-to-door in Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, and other surrounding areas asking Christians to buy cable boxes so that they could receive his new channel. He also canvassed local churches in the Virginia Beach area to do the same, and solicited donations through public speaking engagements at local churches and on CBN. One of his friends, John Giminez, the pastor of Rock Church Virginia Beach, was influential in helping Robertson establish CBN with donations, as well as offering the services of volunteers from his church.
CBN is now seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages. He founded the CBN Cable Network, which was renamed the CBN Family Channel in 1988 and later simply the Family Channel. When the Family Channel became too profitable for Robertson to keep it under the CBN umbrella without endangering CBN's non-profit status, he formed International Family Entertainment Inc. in 1990 with the Family Channel as its main subsidiary. Robertson sold the Family Channel to the News Corporation in 1997, which renamed it Fox Family. A condition of the sale was that the station would continue airing Robertson's television program, The 700 Club, twice a day in perpetuity, regardless of any changes of ownership. The channel is now owned by Disney and run as Freeform. On December 3, 2007, Robertson resigned as chief executive of CBN; he was succeeded by his son, Gordon.
Robertson founded CBN University in 1977 on CBN's Virginia Beach campus. It was renamed Regent University in 1989. Robertson serves as its chancellor. He is also founder and president of the American Center for Law & Justice, a major public interest law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. and associated with Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that defends Constitutional freedoms and conservative Christian ideals. Occasional critics have characterized Robertson as an advocate of dominionism; the idea that Christians have a right to rule.
In 1994, he was an endorser of the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together.
In September 1986, Robertson announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Robertson said he would pursue the nomination only if three million people signed up to volunteer for his campaign by September 1987. Three million responded, and by the time Robertson announced he would be running in September 1987, he also had raised millions of dollars for his campaign fund. He surrendered his ministerial credentials and turned leadership of CBN over to his son, Tim. His campaign, however, against incumbent Vice President George H. W. Bush, was seen as a long shot.
Robertson ran on a standard conservative platform. Among his policies, he wanted to ban pornography, reform the education system, and eliminate departments such as the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. He also supported a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.
Robertson's campaign got off to a strong second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, ahead of Bush. He did poorly in the subsequent New Hampshire primary, however, and was unable to be competitive once the multiple-state primaries began. Robertson ended his campaign before the primaries were finished. His best finish was in Washington, winning the majority of caucus delegates. He later spoke at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans and told his remaining supporters to cast their votes for Bush, who ended up winning the nomination and the election. He then returned to CBN and has remained there as a religious broadcaster.
Robertson's book The New World Order (1991) became a New York Times best seller, among his several works. Episcopalian professor of theology Ephraim Radner's critical review:
In his published writings, especially his 1991 book The New World Order, Pat Robertson has propagated theories about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Michael Land raised the issue in February in The New York Times Book Review, and in April Jacob Heilbrun, writing in The New York Review of Books, cited chapter and verse of Robertson's borrowings from well-known anti-Semitic works.
Robertson is the founder and chairman of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Inc., and founder of International Family Entertainment Inc., Regent University, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, American Center for Law and Justice, The Flying Hospital, Inc. and several other organizations and broadcast entities. Robertson was the founder and co-chairman of International Family Entertainment Inc. (IFE).
Formed in 1990, IFE produced and distributed family entertainment and information programming worldwide. IFE's principal business was The Family Channel, a satellite delivered cable-television network with 63 million U.S. subscribers. IFE, a publicly held company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was sold in 1997 to Fox Kids Worldwide, Inc. for $1.9 billion, whereupon it was renamed Fox Family Channel. Disney acquired FFC in 2001 and its name was changed again, to ABC Family. The network was renamed to Freeform on January 12, 2016, though Robertson's sale of the channel continues to require Freeform to carry four hours of CBN/700 Club programming per weekday, along with CBN's yearly telethon.
Robertson is a global businessman with media holdings in Asia, the United Kingdom, and Africa. He struck a deal with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based General Nutrition Center to produce and market a weight-loss shake he created and promoted on The 700 Club.
In 1999, Robertson entered into a joint venture with the Bank of Scotland to provide financial services in the United States. However, the move was met with criticism in the UK due to Robertson's views on homosexuality. Robertson commented that "In Europe, the big word is tolerance. You tolerate everything. Homosexuals are riding high in the media ... And in Scotland, you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are." Shortly afterward, the Bank of Scotland canceled the venture.
Robertson's extensive business interests have earned him a net worth estimated between $200 million and $1 billion.
In 1994, in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide, Robertson solicited donations for his charity organization Operation Blessing International to provide medical supplies to refugees in neighboring Zaire (present-day Congo), where Robertson had allegedly negotiated a diamond-mining contract with Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. According to two Operation Blessing pilots who reported the incident to the state of Virginia for investigation, rather than delivering relief supplies to refugees, the organization's planes were primarily used to haul diamond-mining equipment to Robertson's mines in Zaire.
According to a June 2, 1999, article in The Virginian-Pilot, Robertson had extensive business dealings with Liberian president Charles Taylor, with whom Robertson negotiated a multimillion-dollar contract for gold mining operations in Liberia. In response to Taylor's alleged crimes against humanity, the United States Congress passed a bill In November 2003 that offered two million dollars for his capture. Robertson accused President George W. Bush of "undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country." At the time Taylor was harboring Al Qaeda operatives who were funding their operations through the illegal diamond trade. On February 4, 2010, at his war crimes trial in the Hague, Taylor testified that Robertson was his main political ally in the U.S., and that he had volunteered to make Liberia's case before U.S. administration officials in exchange for concessions to Robertson's Freedom Gold, Ltd., to which Taylor gave a contract to mine gold in southeast Liberia. In 2010, a spokesman for Robertson said that the company's arrangements—in which the Liberian government got a 10 percent equity interest in the company and Liberians could purchase at least 15 percent of the shares after the exploration period—were similar to many American companies doing business in Africa at the time.
Beginning in the latter part of the 1990s, Rev. Pat Robertson raced thoroughbred horses under the nom de course, Tega Farm. His gelding named Tappat won the 1999 Walter Haight Handicap at Laurel Park and the 2000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap at Penn National Race Course. Following this success, Robertson paid $520,000 for a colt he named Mr. Pat. Trained by John Kimmel, Mr. Pat was not a successful runner. He was nominated for, but did not run in, the 2000 Kentucky Derby.
On February 2, 2018, Robertson suffered an embolic stroke at his home in Virginia Beach around 12 noon local time. A member of his family noticed his symptoms and alerted emergency medical personnel. He was then taken to the nearest stroke center where he was administered the clot-busting drug tPA. Robertson was responsive, awake, and moving all of his limbs about eighty minutes after his stroke began. He was discharged two days later and recovered at home. Following this incident, Robertson and his family thanked the paramedics and medical staff for their "extraordinary care and rapid response." They also urged people to learn about stroke, its symptoms and treatments.
On February 12, 2018, Robertson returned to his normal duties as host of his television show The 700 Club just ten days after his stroke. He later released this statement: "I am grateful for the expressions of love and concern that have come toward me from all around the world, and I am thankful that I have received what amounted to a miraculous healing instead of what could have been a crippling illness. I am delighted to be back on the air to fulfill my life calling."
On June 5, 2019, Robertson returned to host The 700 Club after a few days off after breaking three ribs after falling into a chair. He described the experience as very painful but said "Us old guys are tough and we try to stay in there and keep on going." He then thanked viewers for their prayers.
Robertson is a past president of the Council for National Policy. In 1982, he served on the Victims of Crime Task Force for President Reagan. In Virginia, he served on the Board of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and on the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors. After his unsuccessful presidential campaign, Robertson started the Christian Coalition, a 1.7-million-member Christian right organization that campaigned mostly for conservative candidates. Billy McCormack, a Southern Baptist pastor in Shreveport, Louisiana, served as one of the four directors of the coalition as well as its vice president. The coalition was sued by the Federal Election Commission "for coordinating its activities with Republican candidates for office in 1990, 1992 and 1994 and failing to report its expenditures". Robertson was a fundraiser for the Nicaraguan Contras. In March 1986, he told Israeli Foreign Affairs that South Africa was a major contributor to the Reagan administration's efforts to help the anti-Sandinista forces.
In 1994, the Coalition was fined for "improperly [aiding] then Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Oliver North, who was then the Republican Senate nominee in Virginia." Robertson left the Coalition in 2001.
On November 7, 2007, Robertson announced that he was endorsing Rudy Giuliani to be the Republican nominee in the 2008 Presidential election. Some social conservatives criticized Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani, a pro-choice candidate who supported gay rights.
While usually associated with the political right, Pat Robertson has endorsed environmental causes. He appeared in a commercial with Al Sharpton, joking about this, and urging people to join the We Can Solve It campaign against global warming.
In January 2009, on a broadcast of The 700 Club, Robertson stated that he is "adamantly opposed" to the division of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians. He also stated that Armageddon is "not going to be fought at Megiddo" but will be the "battle of Jerusalem," when "the forces of all nations come together and try to take Jerusalem away from the Jews. Jews are not going to give up Jerusalem—they shouldn't—and the rest of the world is going to insist they give it up." Robertson added that Jerusalem is a "spiritual symbol that must not be given away" because "Jesus Christ the Messiah will come down to the part of Jerusalem that the Arabs want," and that's "not good."
Robertson has repeatedly called for the legalization of cannabis, saying that it should be treated in a manner analogous to the regulation of alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Robertson has said, "I just think it's shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hard-core criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy." But he has turned against the legalization of cannabis in 2014.
As a commentator and minister, Robertson frequently generates controversy. Some of his remarks have been the subject of national and international media attention prompting responses from politicians.
Robertson's service as a minister has included the belief in the healing power of God. He has cautioned believers that some Protestant denominations may harbor the spirit of the Antichrist; prayed to deflect hurricanes; denounced Hinduism as "demonic" and Islam as "Satanic". Robertson has denounced left-wing views of feminism, activism regarding homosexuality, abortion, and liberal college professors. Critics claim Robertson had business dealings in Africa with former presidents Charles Taylor of Liberia and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire who both had been internationally denounced for claims of human rights violations. Robertson was criticized internationally for his call for Hugo Chávez's assassination and criticized in the United States and Israel for his remarks concerning Ariel Sharon's ill-health as an act of God.
Robertson made American national news in October 2003 for interviews with author Joel Mowbray about his book Dangerous Diplomacy, a book critical of the State Department. Robertson's commentary implied that if a small nuclear device were to be found at the department, such a thing might wake up America's leaders to actually realize a potential threat; however, government officials expressed disdain at the thought of such a scenario.
Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, 4/9/91
During the week of September 11, 2001, Robertson discussed the terror attacks with Jerry Falwell, who said that "the ACLU has to take a lot of blame for this" in addition to "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians [who have] helped [the terror attacks of September 11th] happen." Robertson replied, "I totally concur". Both evangelists were seriously criticized by President George W. Bush for their comments, for which Falwell later issued an apology.
Less than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina killed 1,836 people, Robertson implied on the September 12, 2005 broadcast of The 700 Club that the storm was God's punishment in response to America's abortion policy. He suggested that the September 11 attacks and the disaster in New Orleans "could ... be connected in some way".
On November 9, 2009, Robertson said that Islam is "a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination". He went on to elaborate that "you're dealing with not a religion, you're dealing with a political system, and I think we should treat it as such, and treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party, members of some fascist group".
Robertson's response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake also drew condemnation. Robertson claimed that Haiti's founders had sworn a "pact to the Devil" in order to liberate themselves from the French slave owners and indirectly attributed the earthquake to the consequences of the Haitian people being "cursed" for doing so. CBN later issued a statement saying that Robertson's comments "were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Dutty Boukman at Bois Caïman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French". Various figures in mainline and evangelical Christianity have on occasion disavowed some of Robertson's remarks.
In March 2015 Robertson compared Buddhism to a disease on his Christian Broadcasting Network 700 Club show. American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a conservative Christian watchdog group Robertson founded to promote Christian prayer in public schools, is calling for a multi-pronged attack on mindfulness programs because "they appear to be similar to Buddhist religious practices. Proponents of secular mindfulness say mindfulness is not a Buddhist practice; it is a contemplative practice used in religious traditions around the world by many different names."
Several times near New Year, Robertson has announced that God told him several truths or events that would happen in the following year. "I have a relatively good track record", he said. "Sometimes I miss."
In late 1976, Robertson predicted that the end of the world was coming in October or November 1982. In a May 1980 broadcast of The 700 Club he stated, "I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world."
In September 2011, Robertson and several others who incorrectly predicted various dates for the end of world were jointly awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for "teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations".
In January 2004, Robertson said that God told him President Bush will be re-elected in a "blowout" in the election later that year. "I think George Bush is going to win in a walk", Robertson told viewers of his The 700 Club program. "I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election in 2004. It's shaping up that way." Bush did in fact win re-election, but not in a landslide. Kerry lost the electoral college vote by 14%, an outcome that did not signal a significant shift in the direction of politics.
In May 2006, Robertson declared that storms and possibly a tsunami would hit America's coastline sometime in 2006. Robertson supposedly received this revelation from God during an annual personal prayer retreat in January. The claim was repeated four times on The 700 Club.
On May 8, 2006, Robertson said, "If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms." On May 17, 2006, he elaborated, "There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."
On the January 2, 2007 broadcast of The 700 Club, Robertson said that God spoke to him and told him that "mass killings" were to come during 2007, due to a terrorist attack on the United States. He added, "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that." When a terrorist attack failed to happen in 2007, Robertson said, in January 2008, "All I can think is that somehow the people of God prayed and God in his mercy spared us."
On the January 2, 2008 episode of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson predicted that 2008 would be a year of worldwide violence. He also predicted that a recession would occur in the United States that would be followed by a stock market crash by 2010. However, there was a decrease in overall deaths for the period, and the American economy had already entered a recession in 2007, with increased household debt and the collapse of financial institutions.
In October 2008, Robertson posted a press release on the Georgian conflict speculating that the conflict is a Russian ploy to enter the Middle East, and that instability caused by a predicted pre-emptive strike by Israel on Iran would result in Syria's and Iran's launching nuclear strikes on other targets. He also said that if the United States were to oppose Russia's expansion, nuclear strikes on American soil are also pending. "We will suffer grave economic damage, but will not engage in military action to stop the conflict. However, we may not be spared nuclear strikes against coastal cities. In conclusion, it is my opinion that we have between 75 and 120 days before the Middle East starts spinning out of control."
On the January 1, 2009 broadcast of The 700 Club, Robertson said, "If I'm hearing [God] right, gold will go to about $1900 an ounce and oil to $300 a barrel." He also suggested that Americans would broadly accept socialism. Despite these predictions, he also said that economically "things are getting ready to turn around."
On January 4, 2012, Robertson reported that God had spoken to him and he "thinks He showed me the next president" but would not name who it is. He did give an indication that it would not be President Obama since Robertson said God told him Obama's views were at "odds with the majority", but left some room for interpretation had the 2012 election expanded beyond a two-person race. Closer to the election, however, he expressly stated that God had told him that Mitt Romney would win and would be a two-term President. Obama was reelected for a second term.
He confirmed the bare bones of McCloskey's letter — that he had been pulled off the Breckenridge in Japan and was later assigned to division headquarters in Korea — but said he was aghast at his fellow Marine's charges ... He never saw front-line duty, but he came under frequent artillery fire and earned three battle stars, he said.
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