Religious Right leader and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson declared a fatwa on Aug. 22, calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Surprisingly, the Bush Administration and major Religious Right organizations have failed to condemn the comments.
“If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said of Chávez on his show, The 700 Club. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”
Robertson, on his show today, backtracked, claiming he was misinterpreted:
ROBERTSON: Wait a minute, I didn’t say ‘assassination.’ I said our special forces should, quote, “take him out,” and “take him out” can be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.
Maybe those who should be condemning Robertston choose to live in the alternate universe that allows Robertson’s lie to replace the truth. How else can you explain the lack of an appropriate response from Republican and Religious Right leaders?
The tame response from the administration focused on the idea that assassination was not administration policy.
“Certainly, it’s against the law. Our department doesn’t do that type of thing,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the top administration official to remark. “Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.”
Of course, most private citizens don’t have their own nationally broadcast television shows, reaching about 1 million people per broadcast. Most private citizens don’t have a voice in national politics, either.
Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman, called Robertson’s comments “inappropriate.” He said the U.S. government “does not share his view” and is not plotting to kill Chavez.
And that was about it. No strong words. No condemnation. Please ignore the crazy man on television, and oh by the way, make sure his viewers continue to vote for the GOP.
Robertson has often used his show and the political advocacy group he founded, the Christian Coalition, to support President Bush.)
When has the administration used the word “condemn”? Following terrorist attacks worldwide and suicide bombings in Iraq, for sure. But it also has condemned assassinations, such as the 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, or the 2002 assassination of Haji Abdul Qadir, a vice president of the Afghan Transitional Administration. Just this month, the administration condemned the assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.
So, does that mean the world has to wait for a Chavez assassination before the Bush Administration will condemn it? Or is it just that the administration only uses the word condemnation when the victim is a friend of the U.S.? (Something Chavez, officially, is not.)
Also silent were many conservative Christian organizations. Leaders at the Traditional Values Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition saying through spokesmen that they were too busy to comment.
In a separate reaction, liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America sent a letter urging the ABC Family network to stop carrying Robertson’s program. The network broadcasts The 700 Club three times each weekday.
In an Aug. 23 statement, ABC Family said the company was “contractually obligated to air The 700 Club and has no editorial control over views expressed by the hosts or guests.”
But that’s a bogus statement — in 2003, MSNBC fired controversial conservative talk show host Michael Savage after he referred to an unidentified caller as a “sodomite” and said he should “get AIDS and die.”
“His comments were extremely inappropriate and the decision was an easy one,” MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said at the time.
And certainly declaring a fatwa is as serious as anything Savage has to say.
This article first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.