Televangelist Pat Robertson suggests Sharon's stroke is act of God in response to Gaza withdrawal

Friday, January 6, 2006

Pat Robertson (right, front) and the rest of The 700 Club hosts.
Image: CBN.

Christian televangelist Pat Robertson has come under fire for recent comments he made, suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was "divine retribution" for pulling Israelis out of the Gaza Strip. Robertson made the comments on his show, The 700 Club, which is produced by Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.

"God considers this land [Israel] to be His. When you read the Bible, He said 'This is my land.' For any Prime Minister of Israel who decides he will carve it up and give it away, God said, 'No, this is Mine,'" said Robertson. "I would say woe to any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of America."

Robertson tempered his comments, adding that Sharon is "a very tender-hearted man and a good friend" and that he has prayed alongside the former prime minister. A spokesperson for Robertson said he "expresses his deep sadness over Ariel Sharon’s life threatening stroke and concern for Israel’s future security."

Reverend Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State didn't agree with Robertson's comment.

"[A religious leader] should not be making callous political points while a man is struggling for his life," said Lynn. "Pat Robertson has a political agenda for the entire world, and he seems to think God is ready to take out any world leader who stands in the way of that agenda."

The White House immediately distanced itself from Robertson's comments.

"Those comments are wholly inappropriate and offensive and really don't have a place in this or any other debate," said Deputy Press Secretary Trent Duffy during a media gaggle aboard Air Force One.

Angell Watts, a spokesperson for Robertson, who is an ordained minister and bible teacher, said that "Robertson is simply reminding his viewers what the Bible has to say about efforts made to divide the land of Israel."

This isn't the first time Robertson has created rifts among conservatives. In late 2005, he called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Since this incident, ABC Family, which airs The 700 Club because of a contractual clause, due to the fact the network was part of Robertson's media empire at one time; has began airing a disclaimer before, during and after the program stating, "The views and opinions expressed by The 700 Club and CBN do not reflect the views of ABC Family." He also has made charged comments regarding the residents of Dover, Pennsylvania after a proposal to teach intelligent design in public schools was defeated.

Robertson says he is a Southern Baptist. He is also a former nominee for the Republican party presidential candidate in 1988.