Pat Robertson, the conservative religious broadcaster who helped to make Christianity a central element of right-wing politics in America, has died. He was 93.
News of Robertson’s death was announced Thursday by his Christian Broadcasting Network. “My dad was at home, surrounded by his family when he entered glory and met his Savior face to face, whom he loved and served with his whole heart, mind, and being,” CBN CEO Gordon Robertson wrote in a tribute. No cause of death was given.
The network was the home of Robertson’s 700 Club—one of many influential vehicles Robertson created to push his conservative Christian agenda across the country. He also founded several other major institutions and organizations that embodied his values, including the evangelical Regent University in Virginia Beach and the American Center for Law and Justice—a legal group that defends the rights of religious people.
Robertson was also known for his creation of the Christian Coalition, the advocacy organization that helped cement American evangelicals as an integral constituency of the Republican Party. He even launched an attempt to lead the party himself with his serious—but ultimately unsuccessful— campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988.
After losing out to George H.W. Bush, Robertson set up the Christian Coalition in 1989. Throughout the 1990s, the group became one of the most powerful conservative grassroots organizations in the U.S.
Robertson was born Marion Gordon “Pat” Robertson on March 22, 1930, in Lexington, Virginia, the son of Absalom Willis Robertson, a staunch opponent of civil rights who represented the state in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
After graduating from Washington and Lee University, Robertson served as assistant adjutant of the 1st Marine Division in Korea. When he returned to the U.S. he received a law degree from Yale University Law School but chose not to pursue a legal career after failing the bar exam.
He got his master’s in divinity from New York Theological Seminary in 1959. Soon after he bought a bankrupt UHF television station in Virginia that became CBN. After being created as a tax-exempt religious nonprofit, the station would go on to make hundreds of millions of dollars.
It was while broadcasting that Robertson made some of his most controversial statements. He claimed that the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks were caused by God as vengeance for American sinfulness relating to abortion and pornography. President George W. Bush also distanced himself after Robertson cited the attacks in his description of Islam as a dangerous religion that seeks to “destroy” and “dominate.”
Robertson also asserted that the 2010 Haiti earthquake was divine retribution for Haitian leaders having sworn “a pact to the devil” to help the country become independent from France in 1804. More recently, in 2014, he prompted fury in east Africa by claiming that towels in Kenya could transmit AIDS. CBN later claimed he “misspoke.”
In 2022, he came out of retirement to claim that Russian Vladimir Putin was being “compelled by God” to invade Ukraine as some kid of prelude to an “End Times” battle in Israel.
His wife, Dede Robertson, died last year at the age of 94. Together they had four children, 14 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren.