The Legacy of Pat Robertson

Televangelist Pat Robertson has died, leaving behind a complicated legacy.

The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the TV network Robertson founded in 1960, broke the news this morning.

Robertson also helped found the international disaster relief agency Operation Blessing, Regent University and the American Center for Law and Justice.

According to the Associated Press, “One of Robertson’s innovations was to use 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 monthly $10 contributions.” His talk show format “His guests eventually included several U.S. presidents — Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.”

The 700 Club helped mainstream the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement in America.

As host of the 700 Club, Robertson gave so-called words of knowledge and spoke prophecies that went unfulfilled. Robertson told his viewers, “I guarantee you by the fall of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world.”

For 2007, Robertson prophesied, “There will be some very serious terrorist attacks.” Robertson, elaborated, “The Lord didn’t say nuclear, but I do believe it’ll be something like that – that’ll be a mass killing, possibly millions of people, major cities injured.”

Robertson promoted political positions and politicians associated with the Religious Right, culminating in his founding the Christian Coalition in 1987 and 1988 political campaign.

Non-profit funds were misused to advance Roberton’s political ambitions.

The New York Times reported, “During 1985 and 1986, the network gave $250,000 a month or more to the tax-exempt Freedom Council to mobilize Christian voters behind Mr. Robertson’s candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1988. By some estimates, as much as $8.5 million was funneled to the Freedom Council in this fashion.”

Trinity Foundation Competed with CBN Several Decades Before Investigating CBN

In the early 1970s, Trinity Foundation’s founder Ole Anthony represented a group applying for a TV broadcast license to launch a Christian TV station in Dallas, but the FCC granted the license to Robertson’s organization.

Later Anthony concluded that failure to obtain the broadcast license was a blessing from God. Anthony realized that if he started a Christian TV station, he would have probably compromised by providing prosperity gospel preachers with airtime.

In the early 1990s, Robertson created International Family Entertainment Inc., a new parent company for the Family Channel. Robertson purchased shares of stock in the company and earned large profits when Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation acquired International Family Entertainment.

Anthony blasted Robertson for profiteering off the sale of a cable channel initially built with donations.

In 2007, Trinity Foundation provided a report to the United States Senate which summarized claims of financial abuses committed by CBN.

The report noted the sale of The Family Channel and its parent company:

“Though much of those $100’s of millions went to CBN, some published reports say the deal brought him and his family close to 90 million dollars in personal gain.”

Filmmakers David Turner and Lara Zizic turned to Trinity Foundation for assistance while filming the 2013 documentary Mission Congo about Robertson using Operation Blessing resources to assist his diamond mining operation in Zaire, Africa.

Trinity Foundation’s most recent investigation into Robertson’s operations resulted in a report to the IRS, revealing the Law and Justice Institute was sending large payments to Advocacy Services, Inc., a company for which Robertson served as president.

Robertson’s complex life provides a simple lesson: The mixing of religion, business and politics easily leads to moral compromise.