In late 2017, Pat Robertson addressed the escalating allegations of sexual assault made against wealthy and powerful men. Robertson was concerned. RightWingWatch reported his comments as follows:
Robertson began by recounting how a woman who worked for his Christian Broadcasting Network had told him that when she had previously worked in Hollywood, female staff were expected to provide sexual favors for stars and network executives.
“That was standard stuff,” Robertson said. “Now it’s looked on as shocking but, folks, it’s been happening a long time and nobody said anything about it. Now they’re finally wising up, but I just hate to see some of these men’s careers—I mean, guys like Charlie Rose, these are terrific people and I hate to see it happen.”
“These guys don’t have a trial, either,” he added. “They don’t have the rules of evidence to force these accusers to come forward with the preponderance of evidence is what you get in a trial. You don’t have that now, so these people’s careers are being ruined and we just hope and pray that these women are telling the truth.”
Robertson argues that this was standard stuff and everyone was doing it, that he hates to see it ruin men’s careers, and that it’s a shame these men don’t get a trial where there are specific rules of evidence. This feels a bit like admitting that they did it—because everyone was doing it—and that it shouldn’t ruin their careers—because everyone was doing it—and then turning around and claiming that there’s no evidence that they did it, so there.
It leaves me feeling like I have whiplash.
What about Charlie Rose, whom Robertson mentioned? This past fall, eight women accused Charlie Rose of harassing them with “nudity, groping, and lewd calls.” But he’s a “terrific” person! Never mind that his apology effectively acknowledged that the allegations against him have merit—Robertson likes him and that’s all that matters.
What of the lack of trial that Robertson referenced? In many cases allegations aren’t tried in court of law because they can’t be—the statute of limitations has passed. Attempts to reform statute of limitations laws tend to be opposed by conservatives. Robertson, I should mention, is aware of the existence of these laws—in 1987, as he faced allegations of various improprieties, the Chicago Tribune reported on his comments as follows:
Roberston said on Thursday he has admitted on several occasions that he had sown his share of wild oats in his youth, quoting the late Sen. Sam Ervin that “most of my sins have either been forgiven by the good Lord or have outlived the statute of limitations.”
Earlier in 2017, Robertson objected to allegations of sexual assault levied against individuals working at Fox. As RightWingWatch reported then:
Televangelist and Religious Right leader Pat Robertson asserted on his “700 Club” program today that a recent string of sexual harassment allegations involving Fox News personalities are “totally bogus” and the result of some nefarious conspiracy to destroy the network.
Robertson was reacting to reports that Fox News host Eric Bolling has been suspended amid an investigation into allegations that he had sent lewd photos to several female colleagues…
As Robertson sees it, some unnamed people have probably been sending “salacious material” to women and framing Fox News hosts in order to decimate the network’s primetime lineup.
“Easy to do? Absolutely,” Robertson insisted. “Is it being done? Probably. And the latest attack is against a guy named Eric Bolling, who I think is a straight arrow. He was on this program, he’s a dedicated Catholic, goes to mass every day, a very nice man. They’ve pulled him off the air because somebody sent some pictures ostensibly over his name.”
Let’s look at Robertson’s evidence of Bolling’s innocence—he’s a “dedicated” Catholic, he goes to mass, and he seems to Robertson like “a very nice man.” Therefore the allegations must be false. That really is the logic at play here! He does Christian things and seems nice—therefore he cannot possibly have done anything wrong.
Did Robertson examine the evidence? No. Is Robertson an expert in investigating digital crime (i.e. whether this could have come from someone else)? No. No, he is not. He just happens to like Bolling and concludes that he can’t have done it. That sounds very much like his defense of Charlie Rose—“I mean, guys like Charlie Rose, these are terrific people and I hate to see [their careers being ruined].” It’s the “they seem like good people to me, so those women must be lying” defense.
So much for being all concerned about evidence.
I realize that Robertson is old, and that dissecting his comments may seem like picking on him. I get it. The trouble is that the Pat Robertsons writ large are currently in control of our government, and that makes the things he says a little harder to just brush off.
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