Reports of Robertson's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated
Pundits and bloggers are reflexively pursuing the pseudo-story of Robertson's demise the way dogs pursue a soaring and bouncing tennis ball - baying and bounding after that ball as if it were a real critter. They fail to reflect on who threw the ball, or wonder what game is being played. One thing is certain: reports of Robertson's demise are greatly exaggerated. And it's time to stop falling for the religious right's game of misdirection where Robertson is concerned.
So does the NRB come to praise Robertson or to bury him? They're not exactly sure. But maybe they'd like to give him a public burial and a private resurrection. On one hand, they don't want to offend a major benefactor: Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network donated $161,300 to NRB last year. So they presented the show with a nationally prestigious award. And if that's not strong evidence of NRB's agreement with Robertson's theology, then consider that successful candidates for the board included Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit group founded by Robertson, and Michael D. Little, president of Christian Broadcasting Network, which Robertson also founded, and which is the home of his "700 Club."
On the other hand, they'd like to avoid the glare of the critical spotlight that follows Robertson because of controversial comments he made last year on "The 700 Club." The NRB supports Robertson's message, but want to avoid the negative publicity that comes with it. Maybe that's why NRB press releases from Fort Worth listed several awards, but failed to mention this particular one.
After all, how would it look for the NRB to be highlighted in the mainstream media for giving "The 700 Club" an award as the best Christian talk show of the year? But as usual, the mainstream media was too busy chasing the story of Robertson's so-called demise to report on the fact that the NRB was in fact praising him, not burying him. (A tip of the hat to Crooks and Liars for picking up on this award, which Robertson's press people have been too bashful to comment on.)
And another tip of the hat to Media Matters for America for reminding us all that this is the show - and this is the year - in which Robertson uttered some of his most outrageous comments. For example:
* Robertson told a national television audience on January 5 that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was a punishment from God for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
In addition to honoring Robertson's controversial show with an award, the NRB even invited Robertson to deliver an address at the closing banquet of its convention on February 21. But then they reconsidered, and NRB officials urged Robertson to decline the invitation, for fear of inviting negative media attention on the gathering of about 500 attendees, including nearly 200 Christian broadcast professionals and another 300 vendors.
The Virginian-Pilot reported on March 2 that near the end of the convention, NRB President Frank Wright delivered this lukewarm assessment: "I would say that there was broad dismay with some of Pat's comments and a feeling they were not helpful to Christian broadcasters in general, but by no means was there any broad effort in our association to disassociate ourselves with him."
'A Grape Picker from California'
To find out what's really going on with the NRB and Robertson, check out "The Panda in Winter," Marvin Olasky's spicy cover story in the February 18 issue of World Magazine. The piece paints Robertson as an aging and embattled but still potent king, whose "trademark geniality" and "crinkling eyes" belied the fact that he still "flashed his claws at times" during a February interview in his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) office.
For example, Robertson defended the usefulness of his comments on Hugo Chávez by again pointing a finger at the Venezuelan president while also dissing labor leader Cesar Chávez, founder of the United Farm Workers: "Take Hugo Chávez. People thought in America that he was a grape picker from California. They'd never heard of Hugo Chávez.... The nation has now been alerted to this man."
For the record, Robertson's summation of César Chávez as "a grape picker from California" is about as dismissive and offensive as summing up Rosa Parks as a black lady on a bus. Someone might want to tell that to Robertson, since CBN is making a major effort to target Latino audiences. For example, CBN's Spanish language programming is aired in more than 25 Latin American countries. And in May 2005, CBN announced that Club 700 Hoy, a Spanish language version of its flagship program, The 700 Club, is now airing in 30 major markets in the U.S. on a Hispanic network, Azteca America.
Perhaps the person to inform Robertson on such delicate matters of public perception should be Baxter Ennis, a public relations executive from Regent University, which Robertson founded. World noted that Ennis was actually sitting in on the Robertson interview, and "seeming alarmed."
Now what could possibly alarm a p.r. flack about a man who claims to have direct contact with both God and Satan? As it turns out, most of the concern is with Robertson's ad libs.
Robertson said on ABC's Good Morning America on February 2, 2006, that he ad-libs his comments after watching news segments. "I'm passionate about things, and it is not politically correct," he told GMA. No, calling for the assassination of a world leader is most certainly not politically correct. Heck, assassination is not even legal, even in the Red States.
Robertson told World, "I didn't use to review the news. Now prior to the air we go over the news stories....I now have a former news producer from Good Morning America. I'm going to have an earpiece in my ear...he's going to be whispering in my ear...he's going to be in the control room, as the news comes up [he'll say], `why don't you say this, why don't you suggest this, let's discuss this.'"
Of course, any such control room instructions would likely be prefaced by: "Good morning, Pat. No, this is not God. Or Satan. This is your producer. You can tell because I'm the one waving at you from the control booth. In this next segment, why don't you say, `Turn the other cheek' and 'Blessed are the peacemakers'?" Yes, Pat, I realize that may sound satanic, but those are actual words of Jesus. Uh-huh. Of Nazareth."
A man who sums up César Chávez as "a grape picker from California," who needs a former ABC news producer whispering in his ear not to call for Special Forces to take out a world leader is not a man the NRB wants to hear delivering closing remarks at its national convention. Not that they wouldn't love it. But they don't think their neighbors would understand. As Heath Ledger says to Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, "If this thing we've got gets hold of us at the wrong place, at the wrong time..."
When World asked Robertson about why he turned down the invitation to speak at the NRB convention's closing banquet on February 21, he said it was his own decision. "They told me whatever I'd like to do would be fine."
Robertson demurred when he was asked whether some NRB board members suggested he not speak. "I'm on the board, for heaven's sake. I'm on the board. I'm going to vote to disinvite myself?"
Well, Robertson is no longer on the NRB board. And at least one NRB board member intimately familiar with the details told World on condition of anonymity that some board members were appalled that Robertson would speechify at their convention. NRB chair Ronald Harris and president Frank Wright reportedly met with Robertson, and found him "gracious" in declining the opportunity to deliver an address.
Before the convention, the NRB put out a face-saving cover story: they announced that Robertson "asked to be excused" from speaking at the banquet due to "scheduling complexities."
Please. Robertson "asked to be excused" from keynoting an NRB banquet in the same sense that a starving man asks to be excused from warm blueberry cobbler with icecream: May I please be excused from any fruit pie a la mode? My schedule's all jammed up with tummy grumblings.
Well, that's sweet. And that in itself is enough reason for NRB to heap accolades and a nationally prestigious award on Robertson's fear-mongering, hate-filled, scapegoating, and bloodthirsty "700 Club" as the very best television talk show of the past year.
After all, it is not as if Robertson's loudest critics are not working for organizations that push his message as hard as they can. Among the most vociferous of these critics are SBC leaders, such as Southern Baptist Seminary Dean Al Mohler, who said in the wake of Robertson's call for political violence against the president of Venezuela, "He has brought embarrassment upon us all."
And Richard Land, President of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said:
"I am both stunned an appalled that Pat Robertson would claim to know the mind of God concerning whether particular tragic events, such as former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995or Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke, were the judgments of God. Pat Robertson should know better."
Yes, Robertson should know better, and he does know better - but he doesn't care, and he doesn't have to care, because he's too powerful to be held truly accountable by the NRB or the SBC. And the media should know better than to take SBC leaders' criticisms of Robertson at face value. Because the SBC should know better than to criticize Robertson for his on-air "ad libs" and then turn right around and sign a partnership deal with Sirius Satellite Radio to beam "The 700 Club" with Pat Robertson worldwide six days a week.
Jesus said we should not criticize the speck of sawdust in another's eye before removing the beam from our own eye.
Likewise, before the NRB or the SBC criticize Robertson, they should consider how their own organizations are helping Robertson beam his message of hate and violence across the globe. If the NRB and the SBC are truly embarrassed by Robertson's rhetoric, then why don't they stop beaming his message and release him from their warm embrace?
Reports of Robertson's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)
Reports of Robertson's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)