News of the death of radical right-wing evangelist Pat Robertson on June 8 2023 prompted many of his more infamous remarks to revisit the spotlight, including his willingness to blame gay Americans for the 9/11 attacks.
The incident ocurred during an episode of Roberton’s 700 Club television show aired two days after the attacks, when Robertson interviewed fellow extremist Jimmy Falwell.
At the time, both men predicted that the attacks against New York City and the Pentagon could be preambles to bigger catastrophes.
“I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror,” Roberson said. “We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population.”
Falwell cut Robertson off at this point to say that the American Civil Liberties Union had to “take a lot of blame” for the attacks.
“With the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of public square, out of the schools — the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked,” Fallwell added, using a common right-wing boogeyman. “And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularise America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'”
“I totally concur,” Robertson replied. “The problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government.”
As The Guardian reported at the time, Falwell and Robertson’s views fell in line with those in similar circles:
Among evangelicals, the terrorist attacks have unleashed renewed calls for repentance, prayer and spiritual revival.
“Many people are calling this a wake-up call, and yet it doesn’t help us respond to God to somehow feel that we’ve been chastised by this,” said Steve Hawthorne, director of WayMakers, a prayer ministry in Austin, Texas. “It might be wise for us to examine our lives and our hearts and our practices.”
Falwell, who was chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia at the time, quickly backtracked from the remark in a separate statement:
Despite the impression some may have from news reports today, I hold no one other than the terrorists and the people and nations who have enabled and harboured them responsible for Tuesday’s attacks on this nation.
I sincerely regret that comments I made during a long theological discussion on a Christian television program yesterday were taken out of their context and reported and that my thoughts – reduced to soundbites – have detracted from the spirit of this day of mourning.
As Media Matters reported in 2004, Falwell would later try to soften his remarks by falsely claiming that he also blamed “sleeping” or “lethargic” religious groups for enabling the attacks.
As Rolling Stone recounted in reporting his death, Robertson would go on to continue pushing homophobic rhetoric couched in his “faith”:
Robertson’s bigotry toward gay people was boundless. He said on The 700 Club that he wished Facebook had a “vomit button” for when he came across a picture of gay people kissing, equated gay people with Nazis and Satanists, and suggested God unleashed hurricanes and other natural disasters as punishment for homosexuality. “I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you,” he said of Disney World’s Gay Days. “It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”
Falwell died in May 2007. Robertson was 93 when he died.
Update 6/8/2023, 1:54 p.m.: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag