Pat Robertson life and biography

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Pat Robertson biography

Date of birth : 1930-03-22
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Lexington, Virginia, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-09-08
Credited as : Mogul and tv broadcaster, evangelist and businessman, ex-Baptist minister

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Pat Robertson, also known as Marion Gordon Robertson born March 22, 1930 in Lexington, Virginia, United States is an American mogul, television broadcaster, evangelist, ex-Baptist minister and business man who espouses American Christian Right political views.


In September 1987, Hurricane Gloria was muscling her way across the South Atlantic seaboard, headed toward a disastrous rendezvous with Virginia Beach, Virginia. Among the homes and businesses that lined its path was the headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). A cable television channel born some 25 years earlier as a small religious station accessible to only a few thousand homes, CBN was reborn in the 1970s via satellite as a family entertainment channel that by 1988 reached some 37 million homes. CBN's chairman and chief executive officer was Pat Robertson, a controversial televangelist who founded CBN in 1960 after buying a UHF station for about $70. But in 1987 Robertson stepped down from his high-tech pulpit to declare his candidacy for president of the United States.

Whether that job would be a step up for a man who during his career conducted faith-healing sessions, had spoken to the Lord in tongues, and who describes himself as a prophet of God is debatable. But just before he stepped down to launch his presidential campaign, Robertson tried one more mystical feat. He commanded the storm, in Jesus's name, to go someplace else. It's unclear why, but Gloria complied, veering north to expend her remaining energy on Long Island. "I felt," Robertson said in People magazine, "that if I couldn't move a hurricane, I could hardly move a nation. I know it's strange thing for anybody to say, and there's hardly anybody else who would feel the same way, but it was very important to the faith of many people."

Robertson himself is very important to the faith of many people. In 1988 he tried to marshal the fervent feelings of born-again Christians into a grass-roots juggernaut that would catapult him into the White House. It didn't quite work out that way. After an early strong start, Robertson's bid faltered and eventually succumbed to then-Vice President George Bush's presidential campaign. But in another sense, Robertson accomplished what he had set out do: draw attention to the religious right's point of view and veer the country away from what Robertson supporters saw as the nation's anti-family, anti-life, pro-Russia leanings.

During the 1988 campaign, the evangelicals tried for the first time to do what they charged liberals had done for years: use the authority of the state to force their values on others. Women's rights, civil rights, busing, sex education, legalized abortion, the teaching of evolution, and the prohibition of prayer in public schools were all seen as leftist causes that had been interwoven into the fabric of the government. According to evangelicals, those values did not reflect mainstream American thinking. They were, instead, values ingrained in government officials, which did not reflect the consensus of the electorate. Now they would have their own candidate who, once victorious, would restore traditional morals to America.

"The people who have come into {our} institutions are primarily termites," Robertson was quoted in New York magazine. "They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, or our own traditions that we have....The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation." "Pat is going to strike a chord out there," direct-mail maven Richard Viguerie told People on the eve of the 1988 primary. "He is going to bring a moral perspective to our problems. People are going to say, 'I can send a message that I want some religious principles applied to government.'"

Politics is a long-time family friend of the Robertsons. Two ancestors--William Henry Harrison and his great-grandson, Benjamin--were Presidents. Robertson's father, A. Willis Robertson, was a congressman and later a U.S. senator from Virginia. His mother, by contrast, was the daughter of a fundamentalist minister unaccustomed to pondering worldly matters. "Senator," as Pat Robertson was called as a boy, graduated from McCallie School, an exclusive institution in Chattanooga, and graduated with honors from Washington and Lee University. He studied economics in London, was a lieutenant in the Army during the Korean war, wrote speeches for his father, and then enrolled in Yale Law School.

The year after he graduated, Robertson accepted a job with W.R. Grace & Co. and became Staten Island Chairman of the Adlai Stevenson for President Committee. He married the former Adelia Elmer, a graduate nursing student he met while at Yale, but he was not a happy man. "I was so burdened with the futility of life," Robertson told People, "that at one point I had actually contemplated suicide." After studying religious literature his mother sent him, Robertson was finally converted by a missionary family friend. He became a charismatic, believing in miracles, speaking in tongues, healing, and prophesying. After finishing a masters program at the New York Theological Seminary, Robertson sold all his family goods and joined a spartan church in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant ghetto.

In 1959 he believed the Lord had still other plans for him: to buy a defunct television station in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the next ten years, Robertson used his station to effect a number of firsts. He was the first evangelist to found his own television station; the first to use satellites to deliver his signal; the first to seek commercial sponsors; and the first to use toll-free numbers, enabling his viewers to interact with the station free. To make CBN more palatable to a non-evangelical audience, he filled the channel with reruns from the 1950s, offering family fare such as "The Rifleman," "Dobie Gillis," and "Dennis the Menace." By the late 1980s, Robertson's empire had grown to include the nation's fifth-largest cable network, CBN University, CBN Law School, and Operation Blessing, a charitable organization.

Robertson is but one of a number of evangelicals in 1988 who sought elective office. A 35-year-old fundamentalist minister almost unseated Oregon Senator Bob Packwood in a primary election there. Two evangelicals won congressional primaries in Indiana. Other evangelical-inspired races occurred within the Republican parties of Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota and Florida. None, of course, has received the attention devoted to Pat Robertson.

His is a mix of Southern political conservatism and old-time religion. He favors trimming the defense budget by $30 billion by 1991, instituting a 10 percent budget cut across most government agencies, selling off such businesses as Amtrak and the Postal Service, and eliminating the Small Business Administration and Education Department. He has called husbands the "high priests" of the family unit. He told a New Hampshire audience that "if we believe that Jesus is God, then every time He spoke" it is "a principle as valid as the law of gravity or the law of thermodynamics"; and on his "700 Club" religious talk show, he tried to heal an AIDS patient.

Robertson also favors blurring the separation between church and state. Because America is comprised of religious people, he says, government "should favor religion." "After all, the Declaration of Independence says all men were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," Robertson told Atlantic magazine. "Just image how it would sound, 'All men are endowed by the primordial slime with certain unalienable rights.' That just doesn't have the same ring of truth to it." To Robertson, the 1988 election was not only a political gambit. It was a challenge ordained by God. "He believes," David Weddle, professor of religious history at Cornell College in Iowa, told U.S. News & World Report, "that he is God's representative to meet a particular crisis during a certain time."

Although by mid-1988 his presidential crusade had begun to falter, Robertson's campaign may have long-term political effects. As many as 40 million Americans consider themselves evangelical Christians. "You're talking about 10 million to 20 million votes," President Reagan's former political assistant, Ed Rollins, told New York magazine. "The evangelical vote could be for the Republican party what the Catholic vote was for the Democrats in the forties, fifties and sixties."

But the numbers don't stop there. Evangelicals are estimated to make up only about 15 percent of the Republican Party. Democrats account for twice as many evangelicals as do Republicans. They are a large, highly motivated, and highly organized group. "They are well organized at the local level, loosely connected to other cells and to the movement's independent leaders, highly motivated and intent on spreading their message," writes David Harrell in a biography of Robertson entitled Pat Robertson: A Personal, Political and Religious Portrait. "Charismatics {are} masters of grass-roots organization. No group in American history has been better situated to permeate the nation's political system than charismatics."

Despite those underpinnings, Robertson has positioned himself away from his origins. He bristles at being referred to as a televangelist, and balks at suggestions that his campaign is divinely inspired. "Don't call me a television evangelist," Robertson told New York magazine. "I run a network, I'm a businessman, an economist, a lawyer. Calling someone a television evangelist is a convenient way to dismiss somebody, to lump him into two categories--(a) a fundamentalist, which means you don't know anything, and (b) an evangelical, which means there is something wrong with you."

And Robertson has certainly achieved credibility as a businessman. In 1997, for example, he sold International Family Entertainment Inc., an offshoot of the nonprofit Christian Broadcasting Network, for $1.82 billion to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Kids Worldwide Inc. And although a telebanking deal with the Bank Of Scotland soured in 1999 when Robertson made some ill-advised comments on the political clout of homosexuals in Scotland, Robertson still had plenty of other irons in the fire. He was chairman of the Chinese portal startup, Zhaodaola China Internet Co, which he was hoping would have 15 million page hits by the end of that year. He was also chairman of Freedom Gold Ltd., which held mining rights in Liberia. In 1999, he had 16 geologists probing Liberia for gold, and was making plans to invest up to $15 million on exploration there. Meanwhile, Robertson's oil company, Cenco Refining Co., was planning to refurbish a 63-year-old refinery near Los Angeles in hopes of earning about $60 million a year. State environmental statutes ended up derailing the plan and in 2002, Robertson called it quits on the venture.

In 2001, Robertson was forced in 2001 to cut jobs (the first time since 1966) at CBN headquarters in Virginia Beach, VA, in an effort to reduce operating expenses, which at the time stood at about $100 million each year. But CBN had recently opened studios in Kiev, Ukraine; Manila, Philippines; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Hyderabad, India, and Robertson was hoping that they would take over some of the network's production chores. In December 2001, Robertson resigned as board member and president of the Christian Coalition, a group he helped found in 1989 with the hopes of influencing politicians to create a more Christian-oriented government. He cited a desire to focus on his ministry as the reason.

More recently, Robertson generated international controversy with comments about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In August of 2005, Robertson apologized for suggesting the United States assassinate Chavez, a heavy critic of U.S. foreign policy. Early in 2006, he said the stroke that left Sharon incapacitated was "divine intervention" for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Robertson later that year lost his bid for re-election to the National Religious Broadcasters' board of directors, after some evangelists criticized him for those comments.


Full name, Marion Gordon Robertson; born March 22, 1930, in Lexington, Va.; son of Absalom Willis (a U.S. senator) and Gladys (Churchill) Robertson; married Adelia Elmer (a professor of nursing), 1954; children: Timothy, Elizabeth, Gordon, Ann. Education: Washington and Lee University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1950; Yale University, J.D., 1955; New York Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1959. Military/Wartime Service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1950-52; became first lieutenant. Memberships: U.S. Marine Corps, 1950-52; became first lieutenant.


Commendation from California State Senate, 1977; distinguished merit citation from National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1979; Knesset Medallion from Israel Pilgrimage Committee; Faith and Freedom Award from Religious Heritage of America; named international clergyman of the year by Religion in Media, 1981; named man of the year by International Committee for Goodwill, 1981; Bronze Halo from Southern California Motion Picture Council, 1982; commendation from Kentucky State House of Representatives, 1982; humanitarian award from Food for the Hungry, 1982; George Washington Honor Medal from Freedoms Foundation, 1982; Man of the Year Award, Students for America, 1988; Christian Broadcaster of the Year, National Religious Broadcasters, 1989; Defender of Israel Award, Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign, 1994; Cross of Nails award, 2000; The State of Israel Friendship Award, Chicago chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, 2002.


W.R. Grace Co., New York City, management trainee, 1954-55; Curry Sound Corp. (electronic components business), New York City, partner, 1955-56; ordained Southern Baptist minister, 1961; Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Inc., Virginia Beach, Va., founder and president, beginning 1960, host of "The 700 Club" television ministry, beginning 1968; Republican candidate for presidency of the United States, 1987-88. Founder and chancellor of CBN University, beginning 1977; founder and president of First Colonial Corp., beginning 1975, Continental Satellite Corp., beginning 1977, and CBN Continental Broadcasting Network, Inc., beginning 1979. Founder of the Freedom Council, 1981, and the Christian Coalition, 1989. Member of board of directors, United Virginia Bank, beginning 1977; member of President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, 1982. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1950-52; became first lieutenant.

* Writings

* Shout It from the Housetops: The Story of the Founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (with Jamie Buckingham), Logos International, 1972.
* My Prayer for You, Revell, 1977.
* The Secret Kingdom: A Promise of Hope and Freedom in a World of Turmoil (with Bob Slosser), Thomas Nelson, 1982, expanded edition, 1987.
* Beyond Reason: How Miracles Can Change Your Life (with William Proctor), Morrow, 1984.
* Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions, Thomas Nelson, 1984.
* America's Date with Destiny, Thomas Nelson, 1986.
* The Plan, Thomas Nelson, 1989.
* The New Millennium: 10 Trends That Will Impact You and Your Family by the Year 2000, Word, 1990.
* The New World Order, Word, 1991.
* The Turning Tide, Word, 1993.
* The End of the Age: A Novel, Word, 1995.
* The Autobiography of Pat Robertson: Shout it From the Housetops, Bridge Publishing, 1995.
* Shout It from the Housetops (autobiography), Logos International, 1972, revised edition, Bridge Publishers (South Plainfield, NJ), 1995.
* Bring It On, W Publishing Group, 2003.
* The Ten Offenses, Integrity Publishers, 2004.
* Courting Disaster, Integrity Publishers, 2004.
* Also author of The Secret Kingdom Leader's Guide, 1983. Author of Pat Robertson's Perspective, a monthly newsletter, 1977-82.

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