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Conservative Evangelist Pat Robertson Dies at 93

'700 Club' TV host was a onetime Republican presidential candidate

spinner image Television evangelist and conservative political activist Pat Robertson poses for a portrait at his Virginia Beach headquarters
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The wall between church and state in the United States found itself a fierce opponent in Pat Robertson, the evangelical broadcaster who helped make religion an often powerful force in Republican politics.

Robertson, who died at age 93 on June 8, created the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), with its flagship show The 700 Club; campaigned to be the Republican presidential nominee in 1988; and was the force behind the Christian Coalition, the extremely influential grassroots political group backing conservative candidates.

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According to an homage to Robertson on, “His heart’s desire was that all people come to know Jesus.”  

But he was undoubtedly a controversial figure. In a 1994 profile, Esquire described him as “a man of both extraordinary accomplishments and extraordinary contradictions.” While revered by his followers — who’ve filled his coffers to overflowing through the decades, at his repeated behest — he was viewed by others more skeptically for, among many other things, his focus on money. He followed the “prosperity gospel,” seeing wealth as a sign of God’s favor, and sometimes was perceived as callous toward the less fortunate.

He also made provocative statements — telling his 700 Club viewers, for example, that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable because the disease is “a kind of death,” so a divorce doesn’t break the marriage vow to love “till death do us part.”

Pat Robertson grew up in Lexington, Virginia, with a politician father, U.S. Sen. A. Willis Robertson. His mother, Gladys, was deeply religious, and both his grandfathers were ministers. He attended a military prep school and Washington and Lee University in his hometown, then went on to Korea to serve with the Marines.

Robertson graduated from Yale Law School but left law after failing the New York bar exam.

His move toward evangelical Christianity began soon after he married his wife, Dede, a Roman Catholic whom he met at Yale in 1952. (She died last year at age 94.) While dining with a Philadelphia evangelist named Cornelius Vanderbreggen, Robertson experienced God “as a vivid presence,” according to the Esquire profile, and “the next day, he threw away the Modigliani nude that hung in his living room, poured all the whiskey down the drain — Dede, who liked a drink herself, tried unsuccessfully to stop him — and set out to become a minister.”

He received a master of divinity degree from New York Theological Seminary and went on to form his television ministry, the Christian Broadcasting Network, in 1960, and become ordained as a Southern Baptist minister. Robertson soon entered the political realm — “he helped elect Ronald Reagan,” CNN writes. At the end of Reagan’s second term, he made his own bid for the presidency, and he later founded the Christian Coalition of America to support conservative Christian political candidates. Many have asserted that Robertson helped Republicans take both houses of Congress in 1994, among other conservative wins.

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Meanwhile, he spoke regularly to his flock about God’s fierce judgment and miraculous healings on his 700 Club TV show, which has been on the air since 1966. Since Robertson’s 2018 stroke, the program has been cohosted by Robertson’s son Gordon, the president and CEO of CBN.

Robertson also founded Regent University in Virginia Beach, which announced his death online with an homage from former U.S. senator and attorney general John Ashcroft, a Regent professor. “Dr. Robertson was a titan of the Christian faith and he will be dearly missed by millions around the world,” Ashcroft said. “His legacy is a life well-lived in loving and faithful obedience to Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel.”

According to a letter posted on the CBN site by his son Gordon, Robertson — who leaves behind four children and 24 grandchildren — “was surrounded by his family when he entered glory and met his Savior face to face.” He added that details on a memorial service in the coming days will be forthcoming.

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