Caracas, Venezuela, August 24, 2005 —The furor over right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson, who had called for the Bush administration to assassinate Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, refused to die down today, despite an apology from Robertson.
U.S. representatives Nancy Pelosi and Gregory Meeks issued statements calling on Bush to reject Robertson’s call for assassination and Rev. Jesse Jackson held a press conference in Chicago where he called on the FCC to investigate the Christian Broadcasting Network, which aired Robertson’s 700 Club comments.
Meanwhile, on the Venezuelan side, Venezuela’s foreign ministry issued a statement calling on the Bush administration to act and several legislators argued that Robertson’s comments should be read as a test and as comments from the U.S. right wing that others feared to make but support. In addition, Venezuela’s Mission to the UN urged the UN to examine the issue and Venezuela’s Consulate in Chicago issued a statement rejecting Robertson’s apology, saying that it was contradictory and unclear.
Robertson had made his controversial comments following a report about Chavez on his program The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said, “If he [Chavez] thinks that we are trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s really a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. This man is a terrific danger. This is in our sphere of influence. We can’t let this happen.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “President Bush should censure unequivocally the scandalous call of Pat Robertson’s for the United States to assassinate the President of Venezuela.” “In a time when the invasion of Iraq has caused so much harm to the international reputation of the United States, the last thing we need is a prominent republican promoting assassination as a foreign policy tool,” added Pelosi.
Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) made similar comments, saying, “Under the current Administration our relationship with Venezuela has been tenuous at best. We do not need inflammatory rhetoric from anyone along the nature of what has been said by Pat Robertson.” Meeks went on to call on Bush to respond forcefully. “It is unfortunate that the State Department’s strongest condemnation to these type of violations of American law from the leader of the Republican Party’s evangelical base, an avowed Christian broadcaster and a 1988 Presidential candidate can only be summed up as ‘inappropriate.’ President Bush and the House and Senate Republican Leadership should not remain silent and condemn his statements.”
U.S. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack had referred to Robertson’s remarks as those of a private citizen and as being “inappropriate” yesterday.
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry also released a statement today, urging Bush to forcefully dissociate himself from Robertson’s remarks. “The Venezuelan government is waiting for a response from U.S. authorities that reflects the responsible adherence to norms that prohibit acts that go against U.S. law,” read the statement.
Venezuela’s Mission to the UN weighed into the controversy by calling on the United Nations to “review the resolutions of the United Nations and other norms of international law that can deal with incitement to state terrorism, as was done by Reverend Robertson.” The Mission went on to say that even though Robertson is not a U.S. government official, “a revision of the international instruments signed and ratified by the United States,” should be conducted as soon as possible.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, holding a press conference in Chicago to announce an upcoming trip of his to Venezuela, said that the U.S. government, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in particular, should investigate whether Robertson had violated any laws with his remarks.
According to Jackson, “the FCC launched an investigation when Janet Jackson showed a part of her breast some months ago. We believe that calling for the assassination of a democratically elected world leader is more serious than that, which is why we ask that an investigation be conducted.” Jackson will be in Venezuela beginning this coming Saturday.
Venezuela not satisfied with "apology", kidnapping still wrong
Venezuela’s Consul in Chicago, Martin Sanchez, who accompanied Jackson during the press conference, explained that even though some leaders in the U.S. were trivializing Robertson’s remarks, “Robertson has great political influence in the U.S.” According to Sanchez, what Robertson said, “confirms Venezuela’s concern for the physical integrity of our president.”
Pat Robertson, late this afternoon, issued an apology for his statement that the U.S. should assassinate President Chavez. “Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him,” said Robertson. His statement came after AP reported that Robertson at first did not apologize, but only said that he had been misinterpreted and that he never actually called for Chavez’s assassination.
Consul Sanchez said that Pat Robertson’s “clarification” of his public call for the assassination of Chavez is, “a desperate last minute maneuver to save face after an overwhelming rejection of his inflammatory comments.”
“At this point, we don’t really know what Mr. Robertson’s position is. This morning he said the Associated Press misinterpreted his comments, that he did not say Chavez should be assassinated, just kidnapped by U.S. Special Forces. Now in the afternoon, Mr. Robertson apologizes for having demanded the assassination of Chavez. The televangelist is clearly contradicting himself,” Sanchez said through a statement released later in the afternoon.
According to the Consul, Venezuela continues to condemn Robertson’s call to overthrow President Chavez. “The kidnapping of a world leader is still wrong, an invasion of Venezuela by U.S. Special Forces is still wrong. We demand respect for our sovereignty and independence,” he said.
Sanchez said Robertson’s justification to demand the assassination of Chavez is based on lies and half truths. “Mr. Robertson said President Chavez has ruined the Venezuelan economy. We frankly think Mr. Robertson should return from whatever planet he is living in right now, because the Venezuelan economy grew 17% last year, and it is expected to grow double digits this year,” Sánchez said.