On CNN and Fox, Robertson claimed he was "misquoted" about God punishing Sharon for "dividing God's land"

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

In appearances on CNN and Fox News, Pat Robertson claimed that comments he made about a stroke suffered by former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had been "misquoted" and "misrepresented" by media. But in his remarks about Sharon, Robertson emphasized that, according to the Bible, "God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' " He went on to say of Sharon, "[H]ere he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course."

In an appearance on the August 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, 700 Club host and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson claimed that he had been "misquoted" following former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's stroke in January 2006 and denied that he had suggested that Sharon's poor health represented "God's judgment" for his decision in 2005 to pull out of the Gaza Strip. Robertson said to host Wolf Blitzer, "If you read the tape, the transcript of what I actually said, I talked about my love of this man. ... I didn't say this was God's judgment on this man that I was very fond of." Instead, Robertson claimed he "was just pointing out what the Prophet Joel had to say about this being God's land and God looks at it very seriously." Robertson made similar statements on the August 9 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto.

But as People for the American Way (PFAW) noted, while Robertson did refer to Sharon as "delightful" and "likable" in his remarks, he also emphasized that, according to the Bible, "God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' " He went on to say of Sharon, "[H]ere he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course." While Robertson has repeatedly claimed that the press took him out of context, he nonetheless referred to his comments as "inappropriate and insensitive" in a formal apology to Sharon's son.

Robertson made his controversial remarks during the January 5 edition of The 700 Club, one day after Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke:

ROBERTSON: I have said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous period of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likable person. I am sad to see him in this condition. But I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible, he says, "This is my land." And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, "No. This is mine." And the same thing -- I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead. And now Ariel Sharon, who was again a very likable person, a delightful person to be with. I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or United States of America. God said, "This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone."

Media Matters for America, PFAW, and others quickly publicized the comments. News outlets such as the Associated Press reported on the story soon after, causing an international uproar and a string of shifting explanations from Robertson, as PFAW has documented:

  • First, Roberton's spokeswoman claimed on January 5 that PFAW had taken the evangelical leader's remarks "out of context" and circulated them "in an attempt to discredit him."
  • On the January 10 edition of The 700 Club, Robertson addressed the controversy and alleged that he had been accused of saying "[t]hings I didn't say" and described himself as the victim of "false information."
  • On January 11, however, Robertson apologized to Sharon's son after Israel announced that a $50 million joint venture with a group of evangelicals would proceed without Robertson's involvement. He wrote: "My zeal, my love of Israel and my concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief experienced because of your father's illness." He added, "I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel for saying what was clearly insensitive at the time."
  • On the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Robertson again conceded that his comments were "inappropriate" but again claimed that he had been misquoted by the media. "I didn't say all the things that the AP said I said," he asserted.

But when asked by CNN host Wolf Blitzer on August 9 about the comments, Robertson claimed that he had been "misquoted" and that he "didn't say this was God's judgment on this man I was very fond of." Blitzer failed to press Robertson on why -- if he had simply been "misquoted" -- he had called the comments "inappropriate and insensitive" in his letter to Sharon's son.

Robertson also appeared on the August 9 edition of Fox News' Your World, during which host Neil Cavuto also asked about the Sharon comments. Robertson responded: "I was misrepresented. The transcript of what I said is very clear. ... I, in no wise, was condemning him. I was merely pointing to the Prophet Joel who said this is God's land."

From the August 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: You remember you caused quite a stir a few months ago when the former prime minister of Israel Ariel Sharon had a stroke. He remains in a coma even as we speak right now. And you suggested, but correct me if I'm wrong, that perhaps God was punishing Sharon for giving up Gaza.

ROBERTSON: You know, I was misquoted on that, Wolf. It happens, and you don't have a chance to call it all back. If you read the tape, the transcript of what I actually said, I talked about my love of this man. I'd prayed with him, I met with him on a number of occasions. He had a luncheon here for me in my honor.

And I was just pointing out what the Prophet Joel had to say about this being God's land and God looks at it very seriously. And I said woe unto those who would under the pressure of the United States -- of the United Nations give up God's land. But I didn't say this was God's judgment on this man that I was very fond of. I was misquoted.

From the August 9 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: You've made some headlines, Reverend, a while back when you indicated that former prime minister Ariel Sharon's illness might have been divine retribution for his withdrawal from the Gaza -- I think you later claimed that the press misrepresented what you said. But maybe now, given what's happening, you can comment on that.

ROBERTSON: Well, I will be glad to comment. I was misrepresented. The transcript of what I said is very clear. Ariel Sharon was a good friend of mine. I've been with him on a number of occasions. I prayed with him in his office. And I, in no wise, was condemning him. I was merely pointing to the Prophet Joel who said this is God's land.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Religion
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, CNN
Person
Pat Robertson
Show/Publication
Your World w/ Neil Cavuto, The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Religion, Religious Broadcasting
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