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    Pat Robertson, television evangelist and leader of the religious right, died 93

    Thursday, June 8, 2023, June 08, 2023 EDT Last Updated 2023-06-09T12:34:39Z

    Pat Robertson has been a familiar figure on television for generations of conservative Christians,  guiding them through domestic politics and international affairs on his long-running talk show The 700 Club.  But the controversial televangelist was better known as an architect of the religious right who frequently made anti-gay comments, as a pioneer of the Christian television industry who brought many Republican politicians to their knees, and in short, as a full-fledged politician. consistent with the President's ambitions.

    In a statement Thursday, the Christian Broadcasting Network said Robertson died at his home on June 8 surrounded by his family. 

    Pat Robertson speaks at a forum at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2015.  Christian Broadcasting Network attempted to introduce itself as President and helped place religion at the heart of Republican Party politics in America through its Christian coalition.  Steve Helber/AP 


    From Pastor to Political Power 

    The son of a powerful US Senator, Robertson grew up involved in politics. But his roots were as an ordained pastor in the white evangelical Christian church.In 1960 he founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in Virginia and hosted telethon shows to pay the bills. The network and its programs would eventually spread around the world. CBN's success led to Robertson founding a Christian college, now known as Regent University, in Virginia Beach in the late 1970s. Ten years later, he set his sights even higher when he ran for the  Republican presidential nomination in 1988, also as  a social conservative than Steuer. 

     Although his campaign failed, it boosted Robertson's standing among politically active white evangelicals.The following year, Robertson founded the Christian Coalition with the aim of mobilizing these voters.  Ralph Reed,  former executive chairman of the Christian Coalition, said Robertson has been very good at building  the political power of the Christian right and mobilizing voters on causes close to their hearts. 

     "One cannot deny what one thinks of his policies - and I have been fortunate and honored to be at his side - which transformed the Republican Party and, in turn, American politics"; Said Reed. 

     At that moment, another group with a similar mission broke up. The Moral Majority was founded in the 1970s by another politically conservative Virginia cabinet minister, Jerry Falwell.His son Jerry Falwell Jr. is the former president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. In an interview with NPR in 2017, Falwell Jr. said that Robertson was instrumental in unifying the electoral power of the Christian right. 

     "They had a tremendous impact," he said."I think their main influence was to unite Christians and work together as a political force."

    A charismatic, divisive leader

    Frontman Robertson's charismatic and divisive  critics, such as Terry Heaton, also praised his ability to direct. Heaton was Robertson's television producer  in the 1980s, eventually rising to  executive producer on the 700 Club. 

    "People don't realize how brilliant Pat Robertson  was back then," Heaton said. 

    Heaton is the author of The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP, a book critical of the Christian Right. Heaton told NPR in 2017 that Robertson wrote the screenplay, followed by several other conservative media outlets."We introduced people to Republican Party politics because, frankly, Pat Robertson was a politician who was a TV evangelist," Heaton said. 

    Robertson's reach extended to the White House, where he interviewed Presidents, including Ronald Reagan. Decades later, Robertson, like many  figures on the Christian right,  became a supporter of Donald Trump. When Trump visited Regent University during the 2016 campaign, he called Robertson "a great gentleman." He added that "the work he has done is extraordinary". 

    The Rev. Rob Schenck worked with Robertson and other evangelical leaders for years before breaking ranks with many of them. She says Robertson has been a mentor, citing the community work  Robertson has done through an organization called Operation Blessing, which sends teams to help with emergencies like natural disasters and COVID. 

    Schenck also says he believes Robertson bears a great deal of responsibility for the politicization of his faith...and that its influence on  culture has been largely pernicious. 

    "Pat was really the driving force behind the very conservative politicization of American evangelicalism, which was very damaging to me," Schenck said. “Especially his support for Donald Trump. In fact, I first met Donald Trump in person outside of the media at Patò's 80th birthday party, when he was Patò's guest of honor for the celebration. And that  shocked me because I thought Donald Trump represented the complete opposite of what Christian was supposed to represent." 

     Over the next few years, Robertson continued to lead the 700 Club, where he continued to stir up controversy through comments that were often viewed as anti-gay and racially insensitive.  In an interview with NPR in 2017, his son Gordon Robertson said his father's criticism  was politically motivated and driven by left-leaning websites. 

      "This drum...""I think he really shaped the public's perception of him in a way that I honestly find unfair," said the young Robertson. "It doesn't take into account everything he's done." And by any standard, he's done amazing things.

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