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On the June 26 edition of CNN's American Morning, co-host John Roberts and Slate.com chief political correspondent John Dickerson previewed GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's speech that day at Regent University, a college founded and led by televangelist Pat Robertson. During the segment, Roberts and Dickerson agreed that Robertson's praise of Giuliani in 2005 represented a "good" and "great endorsement," respectively. Yet neither Roberts nor Dickerson mentioned Robertson's history of bigoted and controversial rhetoric, including calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying that Islam is a "bloody, brutal type of religion," and describing gays and lesbians as "self-absorbed hedonists ... that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America." In addition, a number of other media outlets reported on Giuliani's June 26 speech. While all the reports noted Robertson's role at Regent University, none mentioned his controversial past statements.
Despite Robertson's history, Roberts and Dickerson claimed on American Morning that praise from Robertson is a "good" and "great endorsement":
ROBERTS: Well, certainly, he's got a big problem with conservatives on the issues of gay rights, abortion. Just overall, here's what Pat Robertson said about Giuliani. This was back on May 1, 2005, speaking on ABC's This Week. He said, quote, "Rudy is a very good friend of mine. I think he'd make a good president. I like him a lot, although he doesn't share all of my particular points of view on social issues. He's a very dedicated Catholic and he's a great guy. McCain I would vote against under any circumstance."
Robertson hasn't officially thrown his support behind anybody yet, John, but that's some pretty good endorsement, wouldn't you think?
DICKERSON: That's a great endorsement for Giuliani if you compare it to the -- what other people in the religious community have said about him, which has been quite harsh. And so, from somebody who some voters may look to for guidance on this kind of thing, that's about as good as Giuliani's going to get.
Media Matters for America has documented several instances of Robertson's false claims and inflammatory rhetoric. For example:
- Most recently, while apparently referring to his prior remarks calling for the assassination of Chavez, Robertson said that "now we've begun to see the kind of person he is and more and more people are saying to me, 'I think you were right.' " Robertson also said that when he first made his call for Chavez's assassination, "[n]obody even knew who Hugo Chavez was. They thought he was some grape picker from out in California. And all of a sudden my comments put him on the front page."
- Robertson said that people who have received too much plastic surgery "got the eyes like they're Oriental" while holding his fingers up to the side of his face.
- Following a report on a summit between Pope Benedict XVI and Muslim envoys to address tensions over controversial remarks the pope made about Islam, Robertson stated, "It's amazing how the Muslims deal with history and the truth with violence. They don't understand what reasoned dialogue is."
- Robertson falsely claimed that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "believed in" polygamy, legalized prostitution, and lowering the age of consent to 12 years old.
- Robertson also once called gays and lesbians "self-absorbed narcissists who are willing to destroy any institution so long as they can have affirmation of their lifestyle." He attributed the legalization of no-fault divorce and abortion to gays and lesbians, adding, "[N]ow they want to destroy marriage."
In addition to American Morning, the June 26 editions of CNN's The Situation Room and Anderson Cooper 360, NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams, Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, and a June 26 Associated Press article all reported on Giuliani's speech at Regent and noted Robertson's affiliation with the university, but did not mention his history of controversial rhetoric.