I’ve blogged a number of times about televangelist Marion “Pat” Robertson. Most of the time I’ve discussed his idiotic crankish notions. But the reality of the man is that he’s far worse than just some hyperreligious wingnut spewing foolish, irrational ideas, or for being a pitch man for diet shakes. And he’s worse than an advocate for a Christofascist America in which non-Christians have no place and in which even Christians who happen not to be evangelical Protestants would be treated like second-class citizens.
No, the reality of the man is that he’s a greedy, lying manipulator who’s been deeply involved in crooked and malevolent African regimes, and taken advantage of donors, solely in order to amass money, and that he’s lied about his “ministry” on that continent for decades.
This is something I’ve known for a while, and so have lots of others. But as the (UK) Guardian reports, a new documentary offers an exposé into his machinations and lies, to a new audience:
One of the stranger sights of the refugee crisis that followed the 1994 Rwandan genocide was of stretcher-bearers rushing the dying to medical tents, with men running alongside reciting Bible verses to the withering patients.
The bulk of the thousands of doctors and nurses struggling to save lives – as about 40,000 people died of cholera – were volunteers for the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The Bible readers were hired by the American televangelist and former religious right presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, and his aid organisation, Operation Blessing International.
But on Robertson’s US television station, the Christian Broadcasting Network, that reality was reversed, as he raised millions of dollars from loyal followers by claiming Operation Blessing was at the forefront of the international response to the biggest refugee crisis of the decade. It’s a claim he continues to make, even though an official investigation into Robertson’s operation in Virginia accused him of “fraudulent and deceptive” claims when he was running an almost non-existent aid operation.
Robertson’s so-called “ministry” was little more than a front for his diamond-mining operation and for bogus farming projects:
Mission Congo, by David Turner and Lara Zizic, opens at the Toronto film festival on Friday. It describes how claims about the scale of aid to Rwandan refugees were among a number of exaggerated or false assertions about the activities of Operation Blessing which pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in donations, much of it through Robertson’s televangelism. They include characterising a failed large-scale farming project as a huge success, and claims about providing schools and other infrastructure.
But some of the most damaging criticism of Robertson comes from former aid workers at Operation Blessing, who describe how mercy flights to save refugees were diverted hundreds of miles from the crisis to deliver equipment to a diamond mining concession run by the televangelist.
Throughout the Rwandan refugee crisis, when more than 1 million people fled into neighbouring Zaire and started dying en masse of cholera, Robertson told his viewers that Operation Blessing was at the forefront of saving lives.
Among the lies Robertson engineered was donation-appeal video footage of doctors he’d claimed his Operation Blessing had brought there … but in fact they were with MSF (aka Doctors Without Borders) and didn’t work for his ministry at all. Schools and farms he’d claimed Operation Blessing built and are still thriving, had failed.
Now, as I said before, most of this is really old news, as the Guardian explains:
Robertson’s activities in Congo were initially exposed by a Virginia newspaper, the Virginian Pilot, in the 1990s. The investigation by Bill Sizemore prompted the attorney general in Virginia, where Operation Blessing is registered, to order a probe by the state’s office of consumer affairs.
Its report concluded that Robertson made “fraudulent and deceptive” statements with claims to be ferrying doctors and medical aid to Goma when he was delivering diamond-mining equipment. It accused Operation Blessing of “misrepresenting” what its flights were doing, and of saying that the airstrip at Kamonia was part of the aid operation when it was “for the benefit of ADC’s mining operation”.
Not surprisingly, Robertson’s friends in the Virginia government chose not to prosecute him for fraud. As I’ve said so many times before … when one of their own comes under fire, other Christians circle the wagons to protect them, even when they’ve done wrong, because after all, they’re fellow Christians, right?
Update: There’s been a little news about this story, since I posted this a few hours ago. Right Wing Watch reports Marion “Pat” Robertson’s network, CBN, is threatening to sue the documentary’s makers over it. Wow. Looks like they’ve touched a nerve!
Hat tip: Rational Wiki.
Photo credit: Random Factor, via Flickr.Tags: adc, african development company, christian, Christianity, christians, congo, david turner, diamond mines, diamond mining, diamonds, greed, kamonia, lara zizic, liar for jesus, liars for jesus, lying liar for jesus, lying liars for jesus, marion pat robertson, médecins sans frontières, mission congo, msf, operation blessing, pat robertson, rwanda, zaire
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