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On Robertson

Is it OK to spread misinformation about a crazy man? Seriously. The AP writes:

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they “voted God out of your city” by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

Emphasis added. However, the only quotes from Robertson I found were:

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city,” Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club.”


“God is tolerant and loving, but we can’t keep sticking our finger in his eye forever,” Robertson said. “If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.”

Typical crazy stuff from Robertson. Now, from the quotes, it doesn’t look like he said disaster may strike there. More like him saying if it does, you’re screwed.

I could be wrong, of course, as I merely searched Google news for Pat Robertson. If there’s a source that quotes him directly saying God will strike the city, let me know.

Update: And, no, this is not a defense of Robertson (who I think is insane and his comments are ludicrous) but a criticism of the AP. Some people get those things confused.

32 Responses to “On Robertson”

  1. Standard Mischief Says:

    They’re still in the “we define reality” mode. Need to fire some damn reporters if they were really making shit up.

  2. tgirsch Says:

    I think it’s a distinction without a difference. Sounds like a veiled threat to me (in particular given Robertson’s past history with “finger in God’s eye” type remarks [yes, it was Falwell, but it was on Robertson’s show and Robertson verbally agreed]), but what do I know?

  3. SayUncle Says:

    I can buy the veiled threat notion. I’d buy it more with a transcript.

  4. Tam Says:

    Oh, stop it. I’m having way too much fun making fun of the old clown.

  5. Manish Says:

    wow, your hatred of the AP knows no bounds.

    Granted, it appears that Robertson might not have actually said ďvoted God out of your city”, but its clear that he said that Dover will bear God’s wrath…whether it would be by God creating a disaster (which the AP said), or by a disaster being created anyways and then God not helping after the fact. Lest we forget, that disasters are created by God (in Robertson’s world) to begin with.

    Clearly, in both the AP version and what you dug up, Robertson is saying that Dover will feel the wrath of God.

  6. SayUncle Says:

    I don’t hate the AP, just horseshit. And I think what he’s saying is ‘if something bad happens, it’s your fault for making God mad and he won’t help you.’ Or, as nelson from the simpsons says ‘haha.’ Why not report that he said just that (which is equally crazy)?

  7. SayUncle Says:

    And I have to say, manish, i find your response odd. You’re usually good at calling BS on all sides. That the AP may have made it up doesn’t make roberts less insane.

  8. Barry Says:

    I remember Bart and Lisa waving there arms around and kicking their legs out, and saying, “I’m going to keep doing this and walk toward you – if you don’t get out of the way, it’s not my fault..”

  9. markm Says:

    Whether Robertson said his God will punish people for following the real-world evidence with a hurricane or just that his God won’t help them if they happen to be hit by a hurricane, His God is one I wouldn’t worship.

    However, we all know Robertson is nuts. The more important story is that apparently the AP made up a a quotation that’s not even in the neighborhood of the real wording. It’s too far different for an accidental mis-quote, or even for a transcription error plus malicious out-of-context quoting. Did Robertson make two different sets of comments about this at different times, or has the AP decided that if a sufficiently insane Robertson statement doesn’t exist, they’ll have to create it?

  10. Manish Says:

    SU…I agree that the AP didn’t provide an accurate transcript of what Robertson said for whatever reason, however, claiming that they are spreading misinformation is unjustified. The gist of what the AP reported is what Robertson said. And admittedly, I’m feeling a little snarky today.

  11. Manish Says:

    and yes, I do call BS on both sides, but this doesn’t rise up to that level. I would look at this as being an honest mistake by a reporter who figured that Robertson was up to his usual bag of tricks. In the end Robertson conveyed the message that God would be upset at Dover and do bad things (either by commission or omission) to Dover and the AP story basically said the same thing.

  12. Ravenwood Says:

    “The Lord is veangeful. [falls to his knees] Oh Spiteful One, Show me who to smite, and he shall be smoten!” — Homer Simpson, “Homer the Heretic” episode.

  13. Nylarthotep Says:

    I fail to see any reason for AP to start the article with an interpretation of Robertson’s comments. Especially when the interpretation is questionable. If they think he meant that, they aren’t reporting, they are editorializing. Why bother when his statements are enough to show him for the nut that he is?

    You could just as easily see his comments as stating that if disaster occurs, expect no succor from God. Not an unreasonable thought from a religious fanatic. I can’t see his statement as conjecturing that disaster could come due to thier vote.

    Admitedly, Thinking that Robertson was foretelling disaster is something that you’d expect from Robertson. But that’s still not what he said.

  14. Standard Mischief Says:

    Wait, doesn’t anyone remember the CBS memo?

    Am I the only one who read about how the media swallowed hook, line, and sinker, all the BS eddy compass was spewing?

    The press lie. They think they can still get away with it. Call ’em on their BS. (I’m not saying this was definably a lie, yet.)

    “Er, no. The facts they put in front of us were wrong, and they didn’t talk truth to power. They talked to goofs in power, like New Orleans’ Mayor Nagin and Police Chief Compass, and uncritically fell for every nutso yarn they were peddled. The media swallowed more bilge than if they’d been lying down with their mouths open as the levee collapsed. Ten thousand dead! Widespread rape and murder! A 7-year-old gang-raped and then throat-slashed! It was great stuff — and none of it happened. No gang-raped 7-year-olds. None.”

    I blogged about it here:

    Doonesbury says we are on the “tall end of the Media’s fascination with blogging”. Perhaps they wish we would go away.

    “Isn’t blogging basically for angry, semi-employed losers who are too untalented or too lazy to get real jobs in journalism?”

  15. tgirsch Says:

    Nothing to see here, people. There are two things at issue here: first, whether the section in quotes was verbatim what Robertson said (since quotes indicate word-for-word), and it is; second, whether the summation given by the AP is an accurate paraphrasing of Robertson’s message, and while that’s a little bit more open to debate, given Roberton’s history and some fairly clear implications, it’s not totally out of line.

    If a mobster tells you something along the lines of “if a fire should engulf your store, don’t come crying to me,” you would know exactly what he meant by it. What Robertson said here was not substantially different.

  16. SayUncle Says:

    Per your link, it is out of line. He said:

    ‘And donít wonder why he hasnít helped you when problems begin, if they begin. And Iím not saying they will. But if they do, just remember you just voted God out of your city. And if thatís the case, then donít ask for his help Ďcause he might not be there’

    Which is not saying disaster will strike there.

  17. Manish Says:

    SU…what do you see as the substantive difference between saying that God will cause a natural disaster and God will not help you when one strikes? And please explain how this difference rises to the level of accusing the AP of “spreading misinformation”. And please answer with regards to the fact that Robertson believes that everything that happens (including natural disasters) is God’s will.

  18. SayUncle Says:

    what do you see as the substantive difference between saying that God will cause a natural disaster and God will not help you when one strikes?

    You’re kidding, right? One implies a will to harm. The other apathy or withdrawal.

    And they’re spreading misinformation by saying he said something he did not say.

  19. Manish Says:

    You clearly decided to ignore my bit about Robertson believing that everything that happens is God’s will. If you ignore that little bit, than yes, you can somewhat claim that the AP “mislead” their readers.

    And theyíre spreading misinformation by saying he said something he did not say.

    If I say “Pat Robertson is a Christian Conservative” and I”m quoted as saying “Pat Robertson is a member of the religious right”, that is NOT spreading misinformation, though it IS misquoting me. My feelings on Robertson are clear between actual and what I was quoted as.

  20. SayUncle Says:

    Robertson’s beliefs are irrelevant to my point. The AP says Robertson warned that disaster may strike. He did not do that. He said if it does, don’t call God.

  21. Publicola Says:

    Let’s try this approach. Let’s say for some reason SU has pissed me off & I believe in Karma & predetination (which I don’t – this is for the sake of argument). I could tell him that I was going to hope that some guy walked along & kicked his ass. That could be viewed to be a threat given my hypothetical beliefs. A willful longing for some harm to come to him coupled with my belief that such things will happen to those that deserve it.

    But let’s say even though I was pissed I wasn’t that hateful (or stupid). Suppose I said that if some guys came along & kicked his ass I wouldn’t lift a finger to help. If you said that was threatening him you’d be way off.

    Robertson probably does have a Calvanstic view of thing (a belief in pre-destination) but alo it’s plausible that he doe not think God is impatient & quick to fly off the handle. After all the in the Bible thre’s quite a few tales of God being really really patient with people who have ticked him off. So it’s inaccurate to assume that because he believes in pre-destination ( to some unknown extent) that him saying God will not help in the event of a disaster is a threat.

    Another example – one I’ve probably actually said before at some point (though I can’t recall if I merely spoke it or wrote it). Let’s say some cops have been enforcing some unconstituional gun law, like the cops in Denver arresting folks for open carry (despite the state & federal constitutions). Would you think it a threat if I said that I wouldn’t lift a finger to help any such cop even if they were getting their ass kicked by a whole slew of gangbangers? Nope. You might question whether my statement was wise but you can’t say it’s a threat (well unless you’re the cop in question & suffering from way too much paranoia). Even if I was a Calvanist & thought that God visited his wrath quickly & immedietely on evil doers it’d be a stretch to say it was a threat.

    Given that & what Robertson actually said those who claim he was threatening the city are jumping to inaccurate conclusions. Stating that they shouldn’t be surprised if God doesn’t help them is not a threat. A warning perhaps. Definitely a pre-I told ya so, but not a threat. & his views about pre-destination (i.e. everything being God’s will) do not change the nature of what he actually said.

    & as a side note, I do believe the Calvanist view is not that God creates all disasters & bad things but rather He allows them to happen (typically by not stopping them despite His ability to do so). That is a very big theological difference.

  22. Manish Says:

    publicola..there is only one problem with your argument and that is that Robertson is claiming that God (i.e. someone/thing that he has no power over, that we don’t know if he/she/it exists or what it/he/she’s motivations are) won’t intervene because he/she/it is upset about something this town did. He is saying that the town will feel the wrath of God. The specifics of how this is accomplished is somewhat irrelevant. If he were actually talking about a police force or whatever (i.e. actual people) then I would agree with you.

    SU..I think that we have different definitions of what “misinformation” is. In my mind, misquoting is getting some fact wrong like someone says “X” when they actually said “Y”, though there is little difference in the meaning. On the other hand, misinformation is where the facts are reported wrong (and/or skewed) which leads to people getting an incorrect perception of the event.

    Whether its reported as Robertson said that God wouldn’t help out in a disaster or whether its reported as God would create a disaster, the perception one gets is the same. Depending on your point of view, you would conclude that either:
    A)Robertson is arguing that God is upset at this town and will act unfavorably towards the town as a result.
    B)Pat Robertson is a kook who thinks he knows what God’s will is
    C)The town will suffer God’s wrath because it rejected intelligent design (which of course has no religious grounding)

  23. d Says:

    That being said, it seems like even Robertson thinks he actually said that (after all, he doesn’t believe in random events). But AP is not correct in my mind.

  24. SayUncle Says:


    And that’s why Al Gore gets away with the inventing the internet thing. Yes, gore said something untrue. But the press misquoted him so it was easy to blow off.

  25. Publicola Says:

    You’re confusing active retalitation with pasive retaliation.

    Wrath of God is not passive. It’s very active. That’s when God actually causes things to happen in order to destroy or at least scare the hell out of you. It’s like taking a 2×4 to someone’s head.

    What Robertson said was God would withhold His assistance. That’s passive. It requires no activity, no action on the part of God. That’d be like me not stopping someone from taking a 2×4 upside someone’s head IF someone decided to do that.

    Those specifics do matter. In the first instance – the Wrath of God scenario – it’s clearly a threat of impending doom. In the latter it’s merely a shunning in time of crisis that may or may not come.

    As to the nature of God, His existence & all that – for the purpose of this discussion it doesn’t matter what you & I think. It only matter what Robertson thinks. & if I know him like I think I do he probably feels that God let’s the world cruise along on it’s own except in instances where He feels the need to directly intervene to sustain His plan. It may be a little or it may be a lot, but it certainly contains the possibility of a random disaster happening to a town unless He intervenes. See Robertson probably believes that God is an actual person. Not like you & I, but a person of a higher plane if you will. He probably feels that humans get their nature in part from God, so looking at things form his perspecive it is probably not his intent to threaten a town by implication. More like an I told you so before the fact.

    Now if he believed that God controlled every single thing & structured every action good or bad then you’d be closer to being right (though I’d still think you’d be off a little). But unless you know something I don’t about his particular beliefs or the beliefs of folks similar to him then I’d have to say that he was not implying a threat.

  26. Manish Says:

    SU..this is what actually happened with regards to the Al Gore internet thing.

    Publicola..o.k. this is getting ridiculous. Robertson is trying to express the view that God is unhappy with Dover..trying to split hairs that it makes some difference as to whether he said that God would actively cause a disaster or passively not help in the event of one is just getting silly. Your argument is that the AP relayed that Robertson “God really, really hates Dover” when what he said was “God hates Dover”

  27. Publicola Says:

    No Manish. My argument is that Robertson did not threaten Dover, he merely said they were possibly cut off from assistance in the event of a disaster. Yep; Roberston thinks God is unhappy with Dover. The AP painted it as Robertson saying God would smite Dover. What Robertson said was if Dover got smote (I really love that word – rolls off the tongue – smote – try it – smote – see?) He probably wouldn’t help them recover. That difference isn’t splitting hairs – it’s the whole friggin point! lol This is really a whole lot different than a mob boss saying it’d be a shame if you stopped paying cause he couldn’t protect your store against fire anymore. This is more like an insurance company agent saying since you didn’t pay your bill you won’t be covered in the event of fire.

  28. SayUncle Says:

    No, manish, it’s not. Al Gore claimed to have ‘took the initiative in creating’ but was misquoted as inventing it. It as stupid to misquote him and stupid of him to claim he created it.

  29. The Strata-Sphere Says:

    RINO Sightings 11/14/05

    I have jumped into the breach to host this week’s RINO sightings, but due to personal commitments I will not be able ’set the stage’ like I did last time! This should make Don Suber immensely happy!
    So, why don’t we simp…

  30. The Strata-Sphere » Blog Archive » RINO Sightings 11/14/05 Says:

    […] Say Uncle I think surprises himself as a RINO runs to the defense of Pat Robertson. […]

  31. tgirsch Says:

    Just to pick a technical nit here, Roberts was not misquoted here. Every quote given in the story is accurate. It’s where the story paraphrases Robertson that the potential conflict is introduced. And while I will concede that the paraphrase is perhaps not the best one, the inaccuracy there is quite trivial, especially given Robertson’s history.

    But now that some time has passed, it would be telling to know whether Robertson objects to the summation of his statements given by the AP. If he hasn’t complained, then he either isn’t aware of the story (seems unlikely) or doesn’t dispute the AP’s characterization of his statement.

  32. tgirsch Says:

    It’s also worth noting that the Reuters summary was pretty similar to the AP one.

    Had either story said “will strike” instead of “may strike,” then I’d join you in objecting to their wording. But as given, I don’t think either wording substantially differs from what Robertson said.

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