Pat Robertson ends his long run as host of ‘The 700 Club’
Evangelist leader Pat Robertson said Friday he was stepping down after more than 50 years as host of “The 700 Club,” which has spread Christian conservatism to millions of American homes and turned him into a household name.
“It’s been a great run,” Mr. Robertson said on the show, adding that his son, Gordon Robertson, will take over as host.
Mr. Robertson, 91, announced the end of the broadcast on Friday, marking the 60th anniversary of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which Mr. Robertson had started in 1961 at a small station in Portsmouth, VA.
“The 700 Club” grew out of a series of telethons that Mr. Robertson began hosting in 1963 to save the network from financial problems. At the time, Mr Robertson said he was unable to pay for the offices the network had added to the station.
“I was on my knees with the staff praying,” Mr Robertson said on Friday. “I needed $200,000, and I was praying and praying for money.”
It was then that Mr. Robertson said that Jesus had appeared to him with a “vision to the world”.
“Our job was to reach out to the world, not just pay the bills,” he said.
The network began holding telethons, asking 700 viewers to pledge $10 per month for the station. The efforts inspired the name “700 Club”.
The show replaced evangelical broadcasting, moving it away from scripted sermons and tent revival recordings to a casual talk-show format, where Mr. Robertson discussed topics such as nutrition, relationships, marriage and politics, John C. . Green, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Akron.
Evangelical Christians have long used stories of wayward people saved through Jesus’ teachings as a way to spread the gospel and gain followers. Mr. Robertson’s show featured “very vivid presentations of these testimonials” that captivated the audience, Dr. Green said.
“It was through the success of ‘The 700 Club’ that he was able to make a real impact on politics,” he said.
Mr. Robertson interviewed President Ronald Reagan; Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel; and other world leaders. In 1988, he ran as a Republican candidate for president and finished a strong second during the primary, performances that underscored the organizing ability of evangelical Christians.
Through the show, Mr. Robertson helped “strengthen the alliance between conservative Christians and the Republican Party,” Dr. Green said.
The show also gave Mr Robertson a regular platform to denigrate gay people and Muslims. He often quoted Bible verses in a soft, gentle voice to justify remarks that offended Arab Americans and gay rights organizations.
In 2002, he described Islam as a violent religion that “wanted to dominate and then, if necessary, destroy.”
In 2013, a viewer sent the show a letter asking how Facebook users should react when they saw a photo of two men kissing. Mr. Robertson said, “I’ll punch ‘vomit’, not ‘like’.”
She rejected feminism as “a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become gay.”
He once told the story of a “terrible looking” woman who complained to her minister that her husband had started drinking heavily. Mr Robertson said the minister told him it could be because he had gained weight and neglected his hair.
“We need to develop a romance, darling,” said Mr. Robertson. He attributed the moral and spiritual failures to natural disasters and terrorism. In 2012, after deadly tornadoes hit the south and mid-west, Mr. Robertson said God would intervene if “enough people were praying.”
He also made comments that surprised both his followers and critics.
In 2011, Mr. Robertson said that a man whose wife had Alzheimer’s disease should be able to divorce and find a new partner. The following year, he called for the legalization of marijuana, saying that “the war on drugs has not yet succeeded.”
“I believe in working from people’s hearts, not shutting them down,” he said.
During Friday’s broadcast, the show shied away from Mr. Robertson’s divisive remarks.
Instead, it showed clips of Mr. Robertson embracing diversity – a program called Rev. Ben Kinchlow, a black minister, co-hosted in 1975 with Mr. Robertson, at a time when there were few black television hosts. In another clip, Mr. Robertson is seen as President Donald J. Shown asking Trump if the women in his cabinet would earn the same amount as the men.
Mr Robertson said he asked his son to expect a return to the show from time to time.
He said, “If I get a revelation from God, I’m going to call you” and participate in the show. “I’ll come in as a commentator from time to time as a senior commentator.”
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