Pat Robertson Is a Nut

January 15, 2010

Illustration by Doug Hart

Before I belabor the obvious, let me first say that the hearts, sympathies and best wishes of secular America go out to the good people of Haiti as they struggle through this difficult time. We sincerely hope the emergency workers and medical teams can stem the tide of suffering soon. (Go here to help.)

Now, if you haven’t already seen this, watch it now before I proceed. Pat Robertson’s foot-in-mouth disease .

My question is, at what point do Pat Robertson’s handlers duct-tape him to a chair and let someone else run the Cirque du 700 Club? The guy is clearly a few bricks shy of a load.

Oh, that’s right… there are lots of people out there who actually believe Pat’s little parable about the Devil and the CCHFPNDS (the Council of Colonial Haitians Formed for the Purpose of Negotiating Deals with Satan.) Disappointing, isn’t it?

I’ll Take Haitian History for $400, Alex…

Ok, first let’s start with the easy stuff. Haiti officially became independent from France in 1804, over 4 years before the birth of Napoleon III and over 48 years before N3 took office. So Pat, not only were the Haitians not under his heel, he didn’t even have a heel yet. So right off the bat, Pat’s little history lesson is way off.

A Blessing In (a very good) Disguise

When Pat asked if all the destruction might be a blessing in disguise, I wished for a moment that his house would fall down just to see if he’d feel blessed after such an event. That probably won’t happen, so I’ll spell it out.

Pat, having buildings crush and maim thousands and thousands of human beings is never a blessing. Countries can be rebuilt and improved before suffering massive loss of life. If I can figure that out, God should be able to.

Vengeance is Mine Sayeth…

By the way, at least 9 out of 10 Haitians call themselves Christian these days, and none of them participated in Pat’s alleged “pact with the devil” 200 years ago. Why would God punish so many of his own believers in 2010? That’s a hell of a way to make a point.

Normal Bob Smith

Now let’s talk a bit about this pact with the devil Pat spoke of. It’s not so unbelievable if you just close your eyes…

Imagine if you will a group of Haitians (whom Pat simply refers to as “they”) who somehow became the consensus representatives of all the islanders who wanted the French gone. They might have been chosen for their shrewd negotiating skills, their connections to populations throughout the island, or by height. We don’t know, but apparently Pat thinks they had the power to speak and act on behalf of the entire native population.

With the imprimatur of the whole island, this group then met somewhere – possibly a known hangout of the devil – and… what… stood around with toothpicks in their mouths trying to look tough until the Prince of Darkness happened to hoof by?

Why not.

Satan's not such a bad guy if he helps us with the French...

Deal or… Deal

Alright, so Big Red eventually shows up in a dark alley packing heat and whispers out of the side of his mouth to one of the Representatives of Rebellion:

Satan: “Say chum, you look like someone who can use a little help getting some frogs to swim back to their lily pad.”

RoR: “What if we are?”

Satan: “I might be able to help. But it’ll cost ya, see.”

RoR: “We don’t have very much money, sir. How much are we talking about – for complete independence I mean?”

Satan: “You get half the island, savvy, but your neighbors will always live better than you. When you rebels die, I’ll torment all your immortal souls for eternity, then I’ll plague the island with hurricanes, poverty, disease, political instability and corruption for the next 2 centuries, then level the place in 2010 with a devastating earthquake. But you’ll all be dead and in hell by then, so don’t worry about it.”

RoR: “It’s a Deal!”

…And most of the French died of yellow fever and the Haitians all lived happily ever after…

True story? Really, Pat?

Well… not really.

And this is the man who had the ear of presidents?


#1 SimonSays on Friday January 15, 2010 at 1:29pm

The Haitian ambassador responded pretty well to the Pat Robertson comments:

#2 Kathy Orlinsky on Saturday January 16, 2010 at 9:11am

Thanks for the clip, SimonSays.

I liked Maddow’s comment at the end.  Is there a petition or statmente we can send to the Haitian ambassador condemning PR’s remarks?

#3 Kritikos on Saturday January 16, 2010 at 9:55am

Robertson’s “true story” actually has a certain basis in non-crazy history. In a vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman on August 14, 1791, the priest Dutty Boukman supposedly prophesied that the slaves of Saint-Domingue would rise up and overthrow their white masters—as they proceeded to do (to the extent of rising up; the overthrow took another two years) a week later. I say “supposedly” because there seems to be some controversy about whether the event actually occurred. But in any case, it was a rite of a pagan religion (though one with many Christian elements), and for Pat Robertson, no doubt, that spells “Satan.”

#4 SimonSays on Saturday January 16, 2010 at 10:59am

Kritikos: I do not share your need to justify (even marginally) Pat Robertson’s condescending racism.

There were no doubt similar “prophecies” made before the American colonial rebellion. My guess is that in their case Robertson would have said that the colonists were doing the exact opposite, and would probably invoke the term “God’s work”. The difference is that the American revolution was led by rich white land-owners (garnering support from many less affluent sectors no doubt), rather than the black slave rebellion of Haiti.

#5 Kritikos on Saturday January 16, 2010 at 12:13pm

Don’t you DARE accuse me of “justifying” Pat Robertson’s remarks, Simonsays, you fucking pompous shit. I recounted the historical record and cited sources. If you have a dispute with me on historical grounds, offer your evidence. If you can’t tell the difference between stating facts of Haitian history—and if they are not facts (as I allowed that they might not be), they are certainly believed and propounded as such by Haitians; visit this Web site of the Haitian community of Miami if you don’t believe me—and justifying the rantings of a bigot. I gave him no justification. Fuck you, asshole.

#6 Max (Guest) on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 12:59pm

Pat Robertson wasn’t the only one to talk about a blessing in disguise.

#7 Max (Guest) on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 12:59pm

Pat Robertson wasn’t the only one to talk about a blessing in disguise.

The damage to Haiti is so devastating, so extensive that it offers a sense of hope in rebuilding, the experts said. Past disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, show that it is easier to put up new buildings than rebuild damaged ones, which is one reason why the wiped-clear Mississippi coast came back faster than New Orleans, Merritt said…
“Catastrophic disasters open a window of opportunity to fundamentally change how cities are rebuilt,” Olson said.

Q: Is there reason for any optimism about Haiti?

A: I’d like to be optimistic. There is the potential that something good could come from the tragedy, and that would establish the framework and the foundation for a new Haiti, for a more developed Haiti, for a Haiti that provides for its citizenry.

#8 Max (Guest) on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 1:08pm

SimonSays: I do not share your need to justify (even marginally) Said Ali al-Shihri’s terrorist acts.
There, how does that feel?

#9 SimonSays on Sunday January 17, 2010 at 1:52pm

Kritikos: OK fine you weren’t justifying. A little civility wouldn’t hurt on your part. I did not use obscenities and I would appreciate if you did the same.

That said, I did look at your link and did not find any reference in the article to the devil, so not sure what voodoo has to do with “dealings with the devil”. I am not an expert on voodoo or Haitian culture however.

I also stand by my personal assessment that Robertson’s comment has nothing to do with fact (which the author of this blog post also points out) and is monumentally overshadowed by his terrible bigotry.

Max: If you wish to continue a discussion that was started on a different blog post, you may do so on that blog post:

#10 Dheera_S on Monday January 18, 2010 at 1:17am

Perhaps you are living under rocks if you haven’t heard about Pat Robertsons remarks about Haitians. Pat Robertson is a moron.  There is no excuse, other than mental illness or being completely whacked out on drugs for Pat Robertson saying that the earthquake in Haiti was caused by Haitians making a pact with the devil when they were trying to liberate themselves from the French.  He furthermore stated they were being oppressed by Napoleon the Third – the joke being that he wasn’t born yet when Haiti gained independence.  This kind of lunacy should result in him getting so busted and broke he needs to get payday loans to broadcast another of his “sermons” of hate, but it probably won’t work out that way.

#11 Kritikos on Sunday January 24, 2010 at 1:21pm

Dheera, Pat Robertson may not know the difference between Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoleon III, but right-wing Evangelical Christians like him have been spreading the canard of a “pact with the devil” for years. I have analyzed their techniques in a piece on my blog titled “The Right-Wing Evangelical Libel against Haiti.”

Simonsays, even when given the chance to re-read you still seem to be unable to understand the meaning of plain words. Anyone but you reading my original comment (#3) can see that my point was simply that Robertson’s tale was derived from an actual event, or at least to an event accepted among Haitians as actual, namely a gathering of slaves at Bois Caïman at which a Voodoo rite was held. Instead of understanding this simple point, you took my comment as an opportunity for you to assume an air of moral superiority and to sniff that you “do not share [my] need to justify (even marginally) Pat Robertson’s condescending racism” (comment #4). In my reply (#5), in which I was so infuriated by your priggish condescension as to lose my sense of grammar (which I regret far more than my indulgence in obscenity), I cited a Web page to confirm that, as I had said in the first place, the story of a meeting at Bois Caïman, whether true or not, is commonly accepted among Haitians. (At this point, incidentally, having done further research since writing those comments, I would dismiss all doubts about the occurrence of the event.) Once again, this is plain enough, but you fail to understand it. Instead you reply (#9) that, having read the page, you “did not find any reference in the article to the devil, so not sure what voodoo has to do with ‘dealings with the devil.’” I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT THE REALITY OF A PACT WITH THE DEVIL. That was not and never was the issue.

#12 SimonSays on Sunday January 24, 2010 at 4:25pm

Kritikos: I guess the biggest point of contention is *why* the real event that took place in 1791 is described as a “pact with the devil”. Robertson’s comment is not a mere allusion to a historical fact. While Robertson may have been referring to a real historical event as you claim (I have no reason to deny you this), this is really a an insignificant point, at least from my point of view.

The reason I think this is insignificant is very simple. Millions of people do not look to Robertson as a historian, they look to him as a *moral leader*.

Because he is seen as a moral leader, what is of paramount importance when he speaks is the values and the ethical underpinning behind what Robertson says, even when describing a simple historical event… especially in the wake of disastrous natural catastrophe.

In this particular case, Robertson expresses a deeply racist and colonialist attitude toward the Haitian people and this is what concerns me most.

#13 Kritikos on Sunday January 24, 2010 at 6:57pm

SimonSays: You say that the historical basis of Robertson’s remarks about a Satanic pact “is really an insignificant point” for you because your primary concern is with “the values and the ethical underpinning behind what Robertson says, even when describing a simple historical event.” If that is so, then I do not understand why you tax me with failing to show (as I never tried or purported to show) any Satanic element in the event at Bois Caïman (comment #9).

Even if the Haitian rebels really had sworn an oath to Satan in 1791, and even if subsequent generations had renewed that pact, Robertson’s attribution of Haiti’s misfortunes to such a pact would still amount to his making the judgment that “they had it coming to them,” and thus would be just an outrageous an example of his perverted version of moral leadership. I agree with you that he has a record of saying similar things “even when describing a simple historical event,” such as the 9/11 attacks. (I exposed his record on this point in a blog post on Jan. 15: “Pat Robertson, Propagandist for Atheism?”; and I talked about the racist implications of his remarks in the post following that one.)

In the present instance, he goes beyond merely attributing an actual disaster to the actions of the victims and makes use of a fictitious version of history that is part of a campaign to advance the interests of Evangelical Christianity against Voodoo in Haiti. In order to appreciate how insidious this libel is, one must recognize that it is based on an actual event in Haitian history, or, if the historical reality of the event be challenged, at least an event that is cherished by Haitians as the starting point of their nation’s history as an independent nation.

I am not sure that there is any genuine issue between us. I suspect that I am saying, “Robertson did A and B,” while you are saying, “No, he did B and A.”

#14 Swim Spas (Guest) on Monday January 25, 2010 at 4:51am

Swim Spas
This kind of lunacy should result in him getting so busted and broke he needs to get payday loans to broadcast another of his sermons of hate, but it probably won’t work out that way.

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