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Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson Paparazzo Photography.jpg
Robertson in 2006
Marion Gordon Robertson

(1930-03-22)March 22, 1930
Died June 8, 2023(2023-06-08) (aged 93)
Years active 1961–2023
Television The 700 Club (1966–2021)
Political party Republican
Dede Elmer
(m. 1954; died 2022)
Children 4, including Gordon

Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson (March 22, 1930 – June 8, 2023) was an American media mogul, religious broadcaster, political commentator, presidential candidate, and Southern Baptist minister. Robertson advocated a conservative Christian ideology and was known for his involvement in Republican Party politics. He was associated with the Charismatic movement within Protestant evangelicalism. He served as head of Regent University and of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).

Robertson's career spanned over five decades, and was the founder of several organizations, including CBN, Regent University, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, the International Family Entertainment Inc. (ABC Family Channel/Freeform), the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), the Founders Inn and Conference Center, and the Christian Coalition. Robertson was also a best-selling author and the host of The 700 Club, a Christian News and TV program broadcast live weekdays on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) from CBN studios, as well as on channels throughout the United States, and on CBN network affiliates worldwide. Robertson announced his retirement at the age of 91 from The 700 Club in October 2021, on the sixtieth anniversary of the first telecast on October 1, 1961 of what eventually became CBN.

The son of U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson, Robertson was a Southern Baptist and was active as an ordained minister with that denomination for many years, but held to a charismatic theology not traditionally common among Southern Baptists. He unsuccessfully campaigned to become the Republican nominee in the 1988 presidential election. As a result of his seeking political office, he never again served in an official role for any church.

Early life

Marion Gordon Robertson was born on March 22, 1930, in Lexington, Virginia, into a prominent political family, the younger of two sons. His parents were Absalom Willis Robertson (1887–1971), a conservative Democratic Senator, and Gladys Churchill (née Willis; 1897–1968), a housewife and a musician. At a young age, Robertson was nicknamed 'Pat' by his six-year-old brother, Willis Robertson, Jr., who enjoyed patting him on the cheeks when he was a baby while saying "pat, pat, pat". Later, Robertson thought about which first name he would like people to use. He considered "Marion" to be effeminate, and "M. Gordon" to be affected, so he opted for his childhood nickname "Pat".

When he was eleven, Robertson was enrolled in the preparatory McDonogh School outside Baltimore, Maryland. From 1940 until 1946 he attended The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he graduated with honors. He gained admission to Washington and Lee University, where he earned a B.A. in History, graduating magna cum laude. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's most prestigious academic honor society. He joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Robertson said, "Although I worked hard at my studies, my real major centered around lovely young ladies who attended the nearby girls schools."

In 1948, the draft was reinstated and Robertson was given the option of joining the U.S. Marine Corps or being drafted into the U.S. Army; he opted for the former. Robertson described his military service as follows: "We did long, grueling marches to toughen the men, plus refresher training in firearms and bayonet combat." In the same year, he transferred to Korea, "I ended up at the headquarters command of the First Marine Division," says Robertson. "The Division was in combat in the hot and dusty, then bitterly cold portion of North Korea just above the 38th Parallel later identified as the 'Punchbowl' and 'Heartbreak Ridge'." For Robertson's service in the Korean War, he was awarded three Battle Stars.

In 1986, former Republican Congressman Paul "Pete" McCloskey, Jr., who served with Robertson in Camp Pendleton, wrote a public letter challenging Robertson's record in the military. Robertson filed a libel suit against McCloskey but he dropped the case in 1988 in order to devote "his full time and energies toward the successful attainment of the Republican nomination for the president of the United States."

Robertson was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1952 upon his return to the United States. He then went on to receive a law degree from Yale Law School in 1955, near the top of his class. However, he failed his first and only attempt at the New York bar exam necessary for admission to the New York State Bar Association, which did not deter Robertson because he never intended to practice law anyway. Shortly thereafter he underwent a religious conversion and decided against pursuing a career in business. Instead, Robertson attended The Biblical Seminary in New York, where he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1959. He became a born again Christian while having dinner at a restaurant in Philadelphia with author and World War II veteran, Cornelius Vanderbreggen. After his conversion, Robertson left the corporate world and went into ministry.

Christian Broadcasting Network

In 1956, Robertson met Dutch missionary Cornelius Vanderbreggen, who impressed Robertson both by his lifestyle and his message. Vanderbreggen quoted Proverbs (3:5, 6), "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths", which Robertson considered to be the "guiding principle" of his life. He was ordained as a minister of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1961.

In 1960, Robertson established the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, Virginia by buying the license of a defunct UHF station in nearby Portsmouth. The station, with the call sign WYAH-TV, first broadcast on October 1, 1961. On April 29, 1977, CBN launched a religious cable network, the CBN Satellite Service, which eventually became The Family Channel. It was the first satellite television channel in America, connecting to cable systems across the country. The venture became so lucrative that it could not continue to be part of a tax-exempt charity, so Robertson spun off The Family Channel as a commercial entity that was sold to News Corporation for $1.9 billion in 1997.

In 1994, he endorsed the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

Regent University

Regent University Robertson Hall
Regent University – Robertson Hall, home to the School of Law and Robertson School of Government

Robertson founded CBN University, a private Christian university, in 1977 on CBN's Virginia Beach campus. Since its founding, the university has established eight academic schools and offers associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in over 150 areas of study. It was renamed Regent University in 1990. According to the school's catalog, "a regent is one who represents Christ, our Sovereign, in whatever sphere of life he or she may be called to serve Him."

With more than 11,000 current students, Regent University has ranked the #1 Best Online Bachelor's Program in Virginia for ten years in a row by U.S. News & World Report 2022, as well as 2023 Best Graduate Schools-Law, Best Graduate Schools – Social Sciences and Humanities Doctoral Programs – Psychology, 2023 Best Graduate Schools – Public Affairs, and 2023 Best Education Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Robertson served as its chancellor and CEO.

Robertson was also founder and president of the American Center for Law & Justice, a major public interest law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. and associated with Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which defends constitutional freedoms and conservative Christian ideals. Critics have characterized Robertson as an advocate of dominionism.

Operation Blessing

Robertson's Operation Blessing organization sent medical teams to developing countries to help people who had no access to medical care. In 1994, in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, Robertson solicited donations to provide medical supplies to refugees in neighboring Zaire (present-day Congo), where Robertson also had exploratory diamond mining operations. According to a 1999 article in The Virginian-Pilot, two Operation Blessing pilots who were interviewed alleged that the organization's planes were used to haul diamond-mining equipment to Robertson's mines in Zaire. Robertson denied the pilots' accounts.

In its 2021 ranking of "100 Largest Charities," Forbes ranked Operation Blessing/CBN at #44, with an efficiency rating of over 90%.

Other ventures

Robertson was the founder and chairman of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Inc., and founder of International Family Entertainment Inc., Regent University, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, American Center for Law and Justice, The Flying Hospital, Inc. and several other organizations and broadcast entities. Robertson was the founder and co-chairman of International Family Entertainment Inc. (IFE).

Formed in 1990, IFE produced and distributed family entertainment and information programming worldwide. IFE's principal business was The Family Channel, a satellite delivered cable-television network with 63 million U.S. subscribers. IFE, a publicly held company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was sold in 1997 to Fox Kids Worldwide, Inc. for $1.9 billion, whereupon it was renamed Fox Family Channel. Disney acquired FFC in 2001 and its name was changed again, to ABC Family. The network was renamed to Freeform on January 12, 2016, though Robertson's sale of the channel continues to require Freeform to carry four hours of CBN/700 Club programming per weekday, along with CBN's yearly telethon.

Robertson was a global businessman with media holdings in Asia, the United Kingdom, and Africa. He struck a deal with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based General Nutrition Center to produce and market a weight-loss shake he created and promoted on The 700 Club.

In 1999, Robertson entered into a joint venture with the Bank of Scotland to provide financial services in the United States. However, the venture fell through after progressive activists protested over Robertson's Biblical views on an array of issues.

While some have estimated his wealth to have been between $200 million and $1 billion, Robertson claimed that these estimates were not based on any facts and were incorrect.

A June 2, 1999 article in The Virginian-Pilot alleged that Robertson had business dealings with Liberian president Charles Taylor, with whom Robertson, according to the article, negotiated a multimillion- dollar contract for gold mining operations in Liberia. Robertson has denied any business dealings with Taylor, and he also denied ever speaking to President George W. Bush about Taylor's alleged activities. On February 4, 2010, at his war crimes trial in the Hague, Taylor testified that Robertson was his main political ally in the U.S., while Robertson has denied ever meeting or speaking to Charles Taylor.

Beginning in the latter part of the 1990s, Robertson raced thoroughbred horses under the nom de course Tega Farm. His gelding named Tappat won the 1999 Walter Haight Handicap at Laurel Park and the 2000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap at Penn National Race Course. Following this success, Robertson paid $520,000 for a colt he named Mr. Pat. Trained by John Kimmel, Mr. Pat was not a successful runner. He was nominated for, but did not run in, the 2000 Kentucky Derby.

Political service and activism

Bush Contact Sheet P18779 (cropped)
Robertson meets with President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

Robertson was a past president of the Council for National Policy. In 1982, he served on the Victims of Crime Task Force for President Reagan. In Virginia, he served on the Board of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and on the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors. After his unsuccessful presidential campaign, Robertson started the Christian Coalition, a 1.7-million-member Christian right organization that campaigned mostly for conservative candidates. Billy McCormack, a Southern Baptist pastor in Shreveport, Louisiana, served as one of the four directors of the coalition as well as its vice president. The coalition was sued by the Federal Election Commission "for coordinating its activities with Republican candidates for office in 1990, 1992 and 1994 and failing to report its expenditures," yet the complaint was dismissed by a federal judge. In March 1986, he told Israeli Foreign Affairs that South Africa was a major contributor to the Reagan administration's efforts to help the anti-Sandinista forces.

In 1994, the Coalition was fined for "improperly [aiding] then Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Oliver North, who was then the Republican Senate nominee in Virginia." Robertson left the Coalition in 2001.

Robertson had been a governing member of the Council for National Policy (CNP): Board of Governors 1982, President Executive Committee 1985–1986, member, 1984, 1988, 1998.

On November 7, 2007, Robertson announced that he was endorsing Rudy Giuliani to be the Republican nominee in the 2008 Presidential election. While usually associated with the political right, Robertson endorsed environmental causes. He appeared in a commercial with Al Sharpton, joking about this, and urging people to join the We Can Solve It campaign against global warming.

In January 2009, on a broadcast of The 700 Club, Robertson stated that he was "adamantly opposed" to the division of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians. He also stated that Armageddon was "not going to be fought at Megiddo" but would be the "battle of Jerusalem," when "the forces of all nations come together and try to take Jerusalem away from the Jews. Jews are not going to give up Jerusalem—they shouldn't—and the rest of the world is going to insist they give it up." Robertson added that Jerusalem is a "spiritual symbol that must not be given away" because "Jesus Christ the Messiah will come down to the part of Jerusalem that the Arabs want," and this would be "not good."

1988 presidential bid

Pat Robertson speaks about the national deficit
Robertson speaking at the Florida Economics Club in 1986.
Pat Robertson presidential campaign bumper sticker 01
Bumper sticker from Robertson's campaign

In September 1986, Robertson announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Robertson said he would pursue the nomination only if three million people signed up to volunteer for his campaign by September 1987. Three million responded, and by the time Robertson announced he would be running in September 1987, he also had raised millions of dollars for his campaign fund. He surrendered his ministerial credentials and turned leadership of CBN over to his son, Tim.

Robertson ran on a standard conservative platform, and as a candidate he embraced the same policies as Ronald Reagan: lower taxes, a balanced budget, and a strong defense.

Robertson's campaign achieved a strong second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, ahead of Bush. He did poorly in the subsequent New Hampshire primary, however, and was unable to be competitive once the multiple-state primaries began. Robertson ended his campaign before the primaries were finished. His best finish was in Washington, winning the majority of caucus delegates. He later spoke at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans and told his remaining supporters to cast their votes for Bush, who ended up winning the nomination and the election. He then returned to CBN and remained there as a religious broadcaster.

Personal life

Marriage and family

In 1954, Robertson married Adelia "Dede" Elmer a fashion model and beauty queen in the Miss Ohio State contest, who was studying for her masters in nursing at Yale University. She had also been a nursing student at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. They remained married until her death in 2022, and had four children, among them Gordon P. Robertson.

Illness and death

On August 11, 2017, Robertson was hospitalized after sustaining minor injuries in a fall from a horseback riding incident.

On February 2, 2018, Robertson suffered an embolic stroke at his home in Virginia Beach. Following this incident, Robertson and his family thanked the paramedics and medical staff for their "extraordinary care and rapid response." They also urged people to learn about stroke, its symptoms and treatments. Robertson resumed his hosting duties on The 700 Club on February 12.

In June 2019, Robertson was absent from The 700 Club for several days after he broke three ribs in a fall. Upon his return, described the experience as very painful but said "Us old guys are tough, and we try to stay in there and keep on going." He then thanked viewers for their prayers.

On June 8, 2023, Robertson died at his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, at the age of 93.


Former president Donald Trump mourned the death of Robertson. In a statement posted on his Truth Social account, Trump said "Today the World lost an incredible and powerful Voice for Faith and Freedom. Pat Robertson showed us that Belief in God produces results that can change the course of History. Pat’s legacy lives on in the many endeavors and lives that he touched. He will be greatly missed. Our hearts and prayers are with his Family!". Previously, Robertson had criticized Trump in 2020, saying that he lived in an "alternate reality". David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch in El Cajon, California, said Robertson was "a kind and gracious servant went to be with Jesus today."

Other reactions were less positive than of those from religious or conservative figures. Progressive political commentator David Pakman stated that Robertson was one of "the most damaging religious influences in America of the last 50 years".


Robertson's book The New World Order (1991) became a New York Times best seller.

See also

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