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.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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