Pat Robertson, Controversial Figure of the Religious Right, Passes Away at 93

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    Pat Robertson
    FILE - Rev. Pat Robertson poses a question to a Republican presidential candidate during a forum at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., Oct. 23, 2015. Robertson, a religious broadcaster who turned a tiny Virginia station into the global Christian Broadcasting Network, tried a run for president and helped make religion central to Republican Party politics in America through his Christian Coalition, has died. He was 93. Robertson's death Thursday, June 8, 2023 was announced by his broadcasting network. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

    Pat Robertson, a prominent figure in conservative Christianity and a leader of the religious right, died on June 8 at the age of 93. Robertson was widely recognized as the face of The 700 Club, a long-running talk show that provided guidance on domestic politics and international affairs to conservative Christians. However, his legacy is marred by controversial statements, particularly his anti-gay remarks. Beyond his television career, Robertson played a pivotal role in the Christian broadcasting industry, founded the Christian Coalition, and briefly pursued a political career of his own.

    Robertson’s early years were rooted in white evangelical Christianity. In 1960, he established the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which grew into a global network through telethons and captivating programs. Inspired by his success, Robertson founded Regent University, formerly known as Christian in college, in Virginia Beach in the late 1970s. Seeking to expand his influence, he made a bid for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination as a socially and fiscally conservative candidate. Although his presidential campaign was unsuccessful, it significantly elevated his profile among politically engaged white evangelicals.

    The following year, Robertson founded the Christian Coalition with the aim of mobilizing conservative Christian voters. He skillfully built up the political influence of the Christian right and effectively rallied voters around issues he deeply cared about. Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, praised Robertson’s transformative impact on the Republican Party and American politics as a whole.

    While the Moral Majority, founded by Jerry Falwell in the 1970s, was dissolving, Robertson’s Christian Coalition succeeded in consolidating the voting power of the Christian right. Through his charisma and divisive leadership, Robertson commanded a substantial following. Terry Heaton, a former TV producer for Robertson, emphasized his brilliance during that era, as Robertson effectively guided people into Republican Party politics, using his status as a televangelist-politician.

    Robertson’s influence extended to the White House, where he interviewed presidents like Ronald Reagan. In later years, he became a supporter of Donald Trump, a stance that drew criticism from within the evangelical community. Reverend Rob Schenck, who worked alongside Robertson for many years before distancing himself from the conservative movement, believed that Robertson’s strong alignment with conservative politics had damaged the culture. Schenck particularly highlighted Robertson’s support for Trump, which he found contradictory to Christian values.

    Throughout his career, Robertson hosted The 700 Club, where he often made controversial comments that were perceived as anti-gay and racially insensitive. Despite the criticism, his son Gordon Robertson defended him, attributing negative perceptions to politically motivated biases and failing to acknowledge his father’s significant achievements.

    Pat Robertson’s passing marks the end of an era for conservative Christianity and the religious right. While he was a pivotal figure in shaping American politics and the Republican Party, his legacy is undeniably controversial. Robertson’s influence and contributions are intertwined with his provocative statements and the divisions they created.