The hateful legacy of Pat Robertson, the televangelist who blamed 9/11 on gay people

Televangelist Pat Robertson stands surrounded by microphones

The death of American televangelist Pat Robertson at the age of 93 has prompted many to reflect on his long history of anti-LGBTQ+ hate.

Robertson, who made headlines for blaming 9/11 on gay people, and claimed that God would cure COVID-19 if America “confessed” for the sin of same-sex weddings, died in Virginia on Thursday (8 June). No cause of death has yet been released.

While some social media users claimed that people “shouldn’t speak ill of the dead”, many pointed out that Robertson’s legacy of disrespectful comments and unabashed homophobia should not be forgotten.

Referencing Robertson’s comments after a 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which he said was due to the country making a “pact with the devil”, writer Charlotte Clymer said: “I would like to point out that Pat Robertson went out of his way to inflict suffering on innocent people grieving the loss of their loved ones.

“I hope people will sit with that reflection.”

So who was Pat Robertson, and why has the LGBTQ+ community refused to shy away from discussing his hateful legacy in the wake of his death?

You may like to watch

Who was the televangelist?

Pat Robertson was a Southern Baptist minister, who founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and was one of the driving forces of a movement to increase the influence of religion in US politics with his organisation the Christian Coalition. 

For decades, Robertson hosted a CBN talk show, which combined religious news and political commentary, called The 700 Club. He continued to host the show until 2021, when he stepped down at the age of 91.

Robertson went for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, losing out to Kansas Senator Bob Dole and George H W Bush. The latter served as president from 1989 to 1993.

After running for president, Robertson started the Christian Coalition in 1989, which became a political force for mobilising Christian voters and encouraging them to become involved in politics.

According to John C Green, an emeritus political science professor at the University of Akron, Robertson helped “cement the alliance between conservative Christians and the Republican Party.”

Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

What did he say about the LGBTQ+ community?

Pat Robertson was known for his fierce opposition to the LGBTQ+ community, including same-sex marriage, making many controversial comments in the wake of the AIDs crisis and the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

Among other anti-LGBTQ+ statements, Robertson responded to former president Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage with the remark: “The union of two men doesn’t bring forth anything except disease, apparently, and suffering. And the same thing in the union of two women.”

In the aftermath of the deadly Pulse shooting in Orlando, Robertson made Islamophobic comments about the gunman, saying of LGBTQ+ people and Muslims: “The best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves.”

He also opposed the Equality Act, blamed 9/11 on gay people, and made bizarre claims that gay men wear secret rings that cut your fingers to transmit HIV when they shake hands.

Robertson later claimed that his comments on HIV had been “misunderstood”. 

Other controversies

Pat Robertson has been widely criticised for comments targeting abortion, Hinduism, Critical Race Theory, and even Christians who do not belong to the same denomination as him. 

In 1991, he attacked several Christian denominations, saying: “You say you’re supposed be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists … Nonsense, I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.”

He also denounced Hinduism, calling the religion “demonic”. 

Robinson is known for opposing feminism and abortion, writing in the early 1990s that: “Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”

The quote has made its way onto plenty of tongue-in-cheek merchandise over the years, including ironic t-shirts and pin badges.

Pat Robertson is survived by his two sons and two daughters, 14 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren. His wife, Dede Elmer, who he married in 1954, died in 2022.