Pat Robertson, a popular televangelist and founder of The Christian Broadcasting Network, died Thursday at age 93.
His death was announced by his broadcasting network. No cause was given.
A former Southern Baptist minister and son of a U.S. senator, Robertson founded CBN in 1960 as the first television network dedicated to Christian broadcasting in the U.S. CBN is one of the largest television ministries in the world, according to Robertson’s website, producing programming in 200 countries and 70 different languages.
“The 700 Club,” which CBN is perhaps best known for, started in 1966 and is one of the longest-running religious television shows. Robertson began hosting the show in 1972 and retired from the show in 2021 at the age of 91.
Robertson founded several other organizations and corporations, including International Family Entertainment Inc., Regent University, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corp., American Center for Law and Justice, and The Flying Hospital Inc.
The majority of his endeavors aimed to promote conservative Christian values in U.S. education, media and law. The ACLJ, Robertson’s website boasts, “focuses on pro-family, pro-liberty and pro-life cases nationwide.”
Robertson’s upbringing played a large role in his development as a conservative and a Christian. His father, Absalom Willis Robertson, was a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia in the years before the liberalizing trend that took place in that party during the middle 20th century.
“Our heroes were Confederate generals Robert E. Lee … and Stonewall Jackson,” Robertson wrote in an autobiographic article on his early life.
Robertson also pointed to a lineage of Christian leaders in his family as evidence of his inherited calling as a minister. “Although I may have had flowing in me the blood of statesmen, noblemen, and warriors, I had even stronger in me the blood of priests and men and women of God,” he wrote.
But Robertson didn’t initially set out to be a religious leader. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Washington and Lee University and served in the Marine Corps.
He went on to get a law degree from Yale Law School, where he met his wife, Dede Robertson. The two had four children, and Dede died in 2022.
Robertson didn’t pass the New York bar exam, and he later decided to pursue ministry.
“For the first time in my life I felt satisfied, knowing I was in the will of God,” Robertson wrote of his first year at The Biblical Seminary in New York.
Robertson was ordained a Southern Baptist minister in 1960 ― a title he shed in 1987 when he announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. A statement from his Virginia campaign headquarters at the time said Robertson was stepping away from ministry to appease concerns that a Robertson administration would inhibit “the free exercise of religion by any of the people.”
Robertson lost to George H.W. Bush after enjoying some initial success with primary victories in Washington, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii.
He launched the Christian Coalition, a conservative religious advocacy group, in 1989.
CBN was courted by former President Donald Trump and granted access to the White House during his administration. Robertson interviewed Trump during his first year in office, in a wide-ranging conversation that touched on Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and Trump’s popularity among evangelical Christians.
“That’s why I do interviews with you, you have a tremendous audience,” the president told Robertson. “You have people that I love — evangelicals and sometimes you say ‘the evangelical Christians.’”
In turn, Robertson told Trump that “thousands and thousands” of evangelical Christians were praying for him.
But after his 2020 election loss, Robertson became more critical of Trump and said it would be a “mistake” for the former president to run for the White House in 2024.
“And I think it would be well to say, ‘You’ve had your day and it’s time to move on,’” he said on “The 700 Club” in December 2020.
Through his years as a Christian broadcaster, Robertson proved himself to be anything but welcoming of those with beliefs different than his own.
The televangelist repeatedly called non-Christians “termites” akin to “a virus,” attacked Hindus as “demonic” and claimed Islam is inherently violent and not a real religion. He called feminism an “anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” In the aftermath of the destruction and devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Robertson suggested it was a result of God’s wrath over abortion.
When it was revealed during Trump’s presidential campaign that the candidate had joked about sexually assaulting women and grabbing them “by the pussy,” Robertson brushed off the comments as “macho talk.”
These and other dangerous and bizarre comments earned Robertson the occasional moniker of “Christianity’s crazy uncle.”
“What he lacks in self-awareness, he makes up in confidence,” Christian writer Jonathan Merritt said of Robertson in a 2016 article. “But somewhere along the line, Robertson seemed to completely detach from reality, exhibiting bizarre behaviors and making strange statements. … forcing [Christians] to qualify their faith to friends and neighbors: ‘Yes, I’m a Christian. But I’m not a Pat-Robertson-kind-of-Christian.’”