Pat Robertson threatens documentary team over film that says his Africa charity is a fraud [UPDATED]
UPDATE, December 13: The Guardian has now retracted its story about Mission Congo, and offered this statement…
“Operation Blessing – An Apology: In an article entitled ‘Mission Congo: how Pat Robertson raised millions on the back of a non-existent aid project’ we claimed that Pat Robertson ran an almost non-existent aid effort in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Operation Blessing actually sent six medical relief teams to Zaire, between July and December 1994, and arranged for 66,000lb of medicines and supplies to arrive in Goma on an aircraft it chartered from Amsterdam. In addition, the article referred to a report by the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) without making clear that there was a further report by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) which found no evidence of wrongdoing by Operation Blessing or Pat Robertson and no evidence of intent to defraud. Operation Blessing has asked us to make clear that the report was signed off by four individuals at the AGO, none of whom received any donation from Pat Robertson or Operation Blessing. The article claimed a school and farm set up by Operation Blessing in Dumi had failed. We have been informed that the school is thriving and the farm remains operational to this day. We are happy to clarify the position and apologise to Operation Blessing. We have agreed to make a contribution to Operation Blessing to be used in its relief efforts for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines.”
Christian televangelist Pat Robertson is threatening legal action against a Canadian documentary team over their film alleging that Robertson used a bogus charity as a supply line for his diamond mining business in Africa. Right Wing Watch reported Friday that Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network are threatening to sue Lara Zizic and David Turner, whose film “Mission Congo” is set to premiere this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival.
“Mission Congo,” according to the Guardian, details how Robertson reportedly used aid money donated to his foreign ministry program Operation Blessing International to provide mining equipment and other services to his diamond-mining operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Robertson also used images of doctors and tents provided by the international medical aid group Médecins sans Frontières (MSF aka “Doctors Without Borders”) to promote Operation Blessing, saying that his group had provided the tents and the doctors and that donor money from his Christian empire was the main source of aid to the war-torn region.
Operation Blessing, says the film, still pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, money that Robertson is using to enrich himself and his family. The film contains damning testimony from former Operation Blessing workers, who say that humanitarian mission flights were routinely diverted hundreds of miles off course to deliver mining equipment and other supplies to Robertson’s diamond mining operation in Kamonia.
Jessie Potts, the operations manager for Robertson in Goma, Congo in 1994, told the filmmakers that when Operation Blessing did provide medicines to the thousands of refugees who had streamed from Rwanda into Zaire, it wasn’t the right kind. Medics needed drugs to fight the cholera epidemic which was spreading like a killer wildfire through the refugee population.
“We got a lot of Tylenol” instead, he said. “Too much. I never did understand that. We got enough Tylenol to supply all of Zaire. God, I never saw as much in my life.”
Then, late in 1994, said Potts, the medical supply flights stopped coming altogether. A former pilot told the documentary team that he was told to stop hauling medicine and start hauling mining supplies.
“They began asking me: can we haul a thousand-pound dredge over? I didn’t know what the dredging deal was about,” said pilot Robert Hinkle. “Mission after mission was always just getting eight-inch dredgers, six-inch dredgers…and food supplies, quads, jeeps, out to the diamond dredging operation outside of Kamonia.”
A dredger is a piece of equipment used to remove diamonds from riverbeds. The flights were ordered and paid for by the African Development Company, a Robertson-owned firm based in Bermuda.
The documentary controversy comes fresh on the heels of a recent gross misstep by Robertson, who said in a broadcast of his “700 Club” program that gay men infected with AIDS wore “special rings” that cut people and infect them with HIV. CBN scrubbed the video from its website within hours of the show’s broadcast and has aggressively lobbied YouTube and Daily Motion to remove the video on the grounds of supposed copyright infringement.