He's done it again.
Pat Robertson, the televangelist who anchors the 700 Club, has found a way to blame a massive disaster on its many victims.
Speaking Wednesday about the earthquake in Haiti that the country's president estimates has taken the lives of "hundreds of thousands," Robertson implied that the quake, and the general suffering of the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, was the result of a "pact with the devil" that Haitian rebels made in the 18th century.
Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal.
And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle on the one side is Haiti the other is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we meed to pray for them a great turning to god and out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come.
Robertson was apparently referring to a disputed historical event referred to as Bois Caiman. In 1791, the story goes, a group of anti-colonialists held a Voodoo ceremony at Bois Caiman, an event that Haitian historians describe as marking the start of the Haitian Revolution against French colonial rule. But many historians dispute its importance to the revolution, and some argue the event never took place.
Robertson appears to be making a hobby of issuing controversial pronouncements in the wake of tragedy. In 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Robertson, along with fellow evangelist Jerry Falwell, said the attacks were God's punishment on America for becoming a more secular society.
"I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America ... I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen," said Robertson, who later apologized for the remark.
The idea that God punishes misbehavior with disaster has been a common one for Robertson. In 1998, as he criticized a privately-sponsored "Gay Days" event at Disney World, he said acceptance of homosexuality would lead to hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorist bombs and "possibly a meteor."
In 2005, Robertson told CNN that a recent spate of natural disasters, including the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, were a sign that we "might be" witnessing the Biblically-prophetized "End Times."
UPDATE: Michael B. Keegan, president of the liberal group People For the American Way, has issued a statement criticizing Robertson's comments on Haiti.
“Pat Robertson’s comments about the victims of this earthquake are reprehensible," Keegan said in a statement emailed to media. "Unfortunately, they fit right in with his history of mean spirited attacks accusing his opponents of causing natural disasters and terrorism. To blame the victims of this disaster for what they’ve been through is appalling. Regrettably, Pat Robertson can’t be written off as an eccentric aberration of the right-wing — he’s still a leading figure in the conservative movement. ... At a time when our attention should be focused on helping the victims of this disaster, Robertson’s comments are beyond the pale."
The following video was broadcast on Christian Broadcasting Networks' The 700 Club, Wed. Jan. 13, 2009, and uploaded to the Web by MediaMatters.