I try not to nut-pick; meaning I try not to pick out a few fringe figures and try to portray them as representative of the entire population. But it gets harder all the time to avoid it. In my recent post on anti-abortion activist Janet Morana, I mentioned that she’s the head of Priests for Life. How serious is that?
Well, PfL shows up on Guidestar as having a $9 million budget in 2011. In comparison, as non-profit advocate groups go that put it between the Reason Foundation ($8 Mill) and the Manhattan Institute ($11 mill). That seems serious enough. In contrast, the authority they cite, Dr. Philip Ney, seems to run a political group that is little more than his own ego. He’s got medical qualifications, but nothing about his titles suggests that he knows much about survivor’s guilt. Fringe.
But what do you do with someone like Pat Robertson? Robertson is the creepy old guy on The 700 Club, which has over 1 million viewers – not huge, but not bad. He is also the founder of the Christian Broadcast Network, Regent University, ABC Family Channel, the American Center for Law & Justice, the Christian Coalition of America … and so on. His reach is impossible to quantify, but it seems extensive.
And yet he’s capable of making statements like this one an a recent 700 club episode, when he suggested that gays in San Francisco are intentionally infecting people with AIDS:
[EDIT: CBN has been taking down these videos left and right. I can't promise this one will last long.]
You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger. Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.
This was embarrassing enough that this quote was removed from the online version posted by CBN. Robertson went on the issue a non-apology where he restates his accusation:
In my own experience, our organization sponsored a meeting years ago in San Francisco where trained security officers warned me about shaking hands because, in those days, certain AIDS-infected activists were deliberately trying to infect people like me by virtue of rings which would cut fingers and transfer blood.
I regret that my remarks had been misunderstood, but this often happens because people do not listen to the context of remarks which are being said. In no wise were my remarks meant as an indictment of the homosexual community or, for that fact, to those infected with this dreadful disease.
What do you do with a guy like this? Clearly he’s completely credulous, yet he’s the leader of a media empire. Is it fair to hold him up as an example of conservative Christianity?
[EDIT: As always, Goblinbooks has some spot-on satire: A Message From The Terrified People Sitting Next To Pat Robertson.
You know what a Communications degree from Regent University gets you? Fifty thousand dollars of debt and the ability to do TV work anywhere in Virginia Beach, VA. Which means you’re fucked. This place is the media equivalent of one of those company mining towns where they pay you in scrip. When Pat sits down next to us and starts babbling about the demons… trust us, that is the least humiliating part of our day. But we’re powerless. Pat owns us. He owns our souls.