On June 8, 2023, televangelist Pat Robertson, 93, died. His main show, “The 700 Club,” drew a million people daily.
In 2018, Robertson created the first 24-hour Christian television news station. In 1977, he launched Christian Broadcasting Network University in Virginia Beach, which became Regent University in 1990.
The Conversation’s researchers have noted Robertson’s huge impact on American politics for years. After losing the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, he continued to influence politics through his famous program.
Three pieces from our archives describe how he brought religion into U.S. politics.
- Religious rights and public policy
The 1979 Jerry Falwell-founded Moral Majority included Roberston. The “Religious Right” was a broad alliance of conservatives, predominantly white evangelical Christians, stated USC Dornsife historian Richard Flory.
James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, and Phyllis Shlafly had a huge impact on American politics and public policy.
Flory called the group’s objective “a familiar agenda”: “traditional” family values, prayer in schools, resistance to LGBT rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion, and other problems.
As host of “The 700 Club,” Robertson made controversial and racially offensive remarks. He likened gays to robbers and murderers.
- Mixing Christianity and America
The Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was influenced by Christian nationalism, according to historian Samuel Perry.
He highlighted that evangelical Christian media promotes Christian nationalism, which argues that Christians fear being oppressed unless they control the state.
In recent years, white evangelical Christian radio stations have grown. Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network “similarly blends politics with religion,” according to Perry.
Robertson decried the Capitol attack but had predicted Trump’s reelection.
Perry says Roberton’s mix of politics and religion “conflates Christian identity with American identity” but doesn’t necessarily promote Christian nationalism.
- Longstanding Christian media
The Christian Broadcasting Network has influenced evangelicals greatly. Trump occasionally reached this support base via the network.
Since the 19th century, Christians have “shared and shaped the content of world news and information through a distinctly Christian viewpoint,” according to Jason Bruner at Arizona State University.
He explained how eastern US and Western European Christians used Christian missionary magazines as informal foreign journalists.
Those missionaries emphasized Assyrian and Armenian Christian slaughter in the eastern Ottoman Empire. They also helped generate international opposition to King Leopold of Belgium’s ruthless rule in the decades around the start of the 20th century, when 10 million people died.
Robertson “created a global Christian identity through knowledge production” and greatly influenced U.S. religion and politics, Bruner stated.