Christian televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson stirred controversy by making insensitive remarks the day after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12.
‘Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French ‘hellip; and they got together and swore a pact to the devil,’ Robertson said on ‘The 700 Club,’ his daily broadcast on ABC Family.
Robertson said Haiti’s misfortunes may be divine retribution for the alleged indiscretions made by the country’s founding fathers. He is referring to a myth that Haitian voodoo priests pledged their new country to the devil for 200 years in exchange for independence from France in 1804.
‘They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story,’ Robertson said. ‘And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.’
What Robertson fails to realize’is that if Haitians allegedly signed a 200-year pact with the devil, it would have run out in 2004. He’s wrong for suggesting that earthquake victims deserve’suffering. The death toll could be as high as 150,000 people now.
Robertson also doesn’t realize that geologists have explained that Haiti sits on a fault line between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, which leaves it susceptible to earthquakes.
This reckless insensitivity and baseless superstition should keep Robertson off mainstream television. His show should be boycotted and removed from ABC Family, and he should not be invited as a guest contributor on talk shows.
Haitians didn’t die because of some imagined pact. Despite this evidence, Robertson has offered his erroneous explanation to exploit this disaster and push religion.
‘It’s so absurd it’s almost funny,’ history professor Andrew Apter said to Salon magazine. ‘This notion of a pact with the devil is basically an echo of an old colonial response to the successes of the 1790s Haitian revolution.’
This isn’t the first time Robertson has cited tragedy with divine wrath. With fellow televangelist Jerry Falwell, he suggested God allowed 9/11 because America allowed secularists, pagans, abortionists,’homosexuals and feminists. He also insinuated that Hurricane Katrina was linked to legalized abortion.
He tried to advance his ideology that same year by threatening the town of Dover, Pa., for voting out school board members who wanted to teach creationism in’public schools.
‘If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city,’ he said.
The White House had a fitting response to Robertson’s recent remarks, which provoked outrage from Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S.
‘At times of great crisis, there are always people who say really stupid things,’ said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Robertson’s fans should take all his comments – stupid or not – as a testament to his character and evaluate whether they want to be associated with him. In the realm of American broadcasting, Robertson is irrelevant. Balance is necessary in the national discourse, but there is no counterweight to his madness.
Neil Manimala is a junior majoring in biomedical sciences.