It's no secret that the Rev. Pat Robertson is a yammering fool, but last week he hit a new low.
During a chatty sit-down segment of his television program, the "700 Club," the prominent Christian preacher offered his viewers a unique explanation of the terrible earthquake in Haiti:
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.' True story.
"And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. ... They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God."
Robertson was referring to Haitian voodoo rites that were supposedly conducted before a slave uprising against French colonists in 1791. Why God waited more than 200 years to unload a natural disaster of such magnitude on an innocent generation of Haitians remains a question that perhaps God will answer for Robertson during their next private conversation.
It should be noted that Robertson's idiotic comment was followed by a promise that one of his organizations, an aid group called Operation Blessing, would send medicine and workers to Port-au-Prince to help in the relief efforts.
A spokesman for Robertson has since scuttled forward to insist that the famous televangelist - a stalwart of the Christian Coalition and founder of the Christian Broadcast Network - wasn't really saying that the earthquake in Haiti was caused by God's wrath.
But that's exactly what Robertson was saying. It's what he always says when something bad happens.
If you buy the gospel according to Pat, the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States were divine retribution, brought on by homosexuals, abortion activists, feminists and the ACLU.
The same sinners were to blame for Hurricane Katrina, or so pro claimeth the Rev. Robertson.
When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was felled by a stroke, it was God's way of punishing him for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. Again, Robertson connected the biblical dots.
In most advanced countries, a guy like this would have been laughed off the stage long ago as a bombastic fraud, and nothing he said would be taken seriously.
Until he made it big on television, he was just another sweaty faith healer, "curing" hernias, ulcers and hemorrhoids in exchange for cash donations. Lord, does he hate to be reminded of those days!
Another touchy subject is his dismal record as a prognosticator. Robertson announced that the world would end in the fall of 1982, one of scores of loony predictions that have fizzled.
Six years later, with doomsday apparently rescheduled, he ran for president and got stomped in the Republican primaries.
But he didn't fade away. He just went back on TV and kept blurting the same outrageous, offensive crap.
Amazingly, he's never been disowned by the GOP leadership. Just the opposite.
In 2008, when presidential hopefuls were trolling for the votes of fundamentalist Christians, Robertson was courted avidly by Republican candidates.
Mitt Romney thought he'd won the preacher's endorsement, only to see Rudy Giuliani get the nod. The former New York mayor was so excited that he joined Rev. Pat for a big announcement at the National Press Club.
The impact upon Giuliani's campaign was a feeble thud. If anything, Robertson's support probably lost votes for Giuliani in Florida, a state he'd counted on winning.
But you just wait. If Robertson still has a TV show in 2012, the candidates who are trying to sell themselves as "social conservatives" will come swooning again.
And, as before, they'll pretend they are in the presence of a true man of God, not a toxic flake.
Among Robertson's devout followers are some pathetic souls who actually believe his pronouncement that the Haitian people invited this disaster by swearing "a pact to the devil."
Perhaps blaming the victims for some imaginary sin makes it easier for Robertson's audience to absorb the overwhelming images of suffering and desperation that now fill the airwaves and the Internet. Who knows.
Even as he sends help, Robertson somberly advises the Haitian people to make a "great turning to God." The country's population happens to be 80 percent Catholic, but not all Christians are equally precious in the eyes of Rev. Pat.
The man richly deserves to be ignored, but that can't happen until those who want to be president quit groveling for his worthless blessing.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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