Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson calls for assassination of Venezuela's president

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson (right, front) and the rest of The 700 Club hosts.
Image: CBN.

Pat Robertson, an American televangelist, former presidential candidate, and founder of the Christian Coalition of America, has called for the assassination of Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez.

On his popular talk show, The 700 Club broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said on Monday that Chávez had destroyed the Venezuelan economy and made his country a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent". Ninety-eight percent of all Venezuelans are Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Relating to the latest allegations from Chávez that the U.S. is planning to assassinate him, which the U.S. government denies, Robertson said: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."

He added that he did not believe Venezuela would stop exporting oil if that were to happen as Chávez suggested. He again called Chávez a "terrific danger" to the U.S. with the potential to hurt the country "very bad[ly]" and concluded: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

A spokeswoman for Robertson, Angell Watts, said to the Associated Press that he would not give interviews on Tuesday and had no statement elaborating on his remarks. However, he later issued an apology.

In response, Venezuela's Vice President José Vicente Rangel accused Robertson of making terrorist threats: "It's the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. to continue talking about the war against terrorism when at the same time you have someone making obvious terrorist declarations in the heart of the country."

The U.S. State Department called the remarks "inappropriate" and insisted that they do not reflect official policy and that the U.S. is not now, nor ever was, planning to take "hostile actions" against Venezuela.

Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, reacted to Robertson's remarks: "It's absolutely chilling to hear a religious leader call for the murder of any political leader, no matter how much he disagrees with such a leader's policies or practices."

In an effort to distance themselves from Robertson's statements, many evangelical Christians have publicly condemned his speech. "This kind of statement, by this well known American Christian leader, is in complete contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ who evangelical Christians believe and seek to demonstrate," said Geoff Tunnicliffe, International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance. "Robertson does not speak for evangelical Christians. We believe in justice and the protection of human rights of all people, including the life of President Chavez."

Robertson is considered to have staunch conservative views. His unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1988 led to allegations of partisanship. According to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, Robertson met with President George W. Bush in November 2002 to discuss the Invasion of Iraq. He considers himself to be a supporter of Bush. Today he remains a controversial public figure.

Hugo Chávez has led oil-rich Venezuela into an anti-US, pro-Cuba policy, and called for seizing assets of wealthy families in an attempt to convert his nation from capitalism to socialism. He has also worked against regional trade pacts led by the US. These actions have alarmed some in the US, such as Robertson, as well as many in his own country. His policies are against the interests of powerful families in Venezuela, so he may be a target of local assassins.

A similar call from a religious leader for assassination came from the now deceased Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran in 1989 against British ex-Muslim writer Salman Rushdie over the content of his book, The Satanic Verses. Iran also offered a multi-million dollar reward to anyone who carries out the killing.

Related news

US televangelist Pat Robertson apologizes for assassination remark, August 25, 2005

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