(Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder)
The Guardian newspaper has issued a clarification and apology for a September 2013 report on a documentary titled "Mission Congo" that revisited allegations of fraud against Pat Robertson. The British publication admits that its inaccurate report failed to cite that the allegations against Robertson and his Operation Blessing charity had been declared unsubstantiated years ago.
In the "Corrections and clarifications" page of its website, The Guardian notes:
An Apology: In an article entitled "Mission Congo: how Pat Robertson raised millions on the back of a non-existent aid project" we claimed that Pat Robertson ran an almost non-existent aid effort in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Operation Blessing actually sent six medical relief teams to Zaire, between July and December 1994, and arranged for 66,000lb of medicines and supplies to arrive in Goma on an aircraft it chartered from Amsterdam.
In addition, the article referred to a report by the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) without making clear that there was a further report by the Attorney General's Office (AGO) which found no evidence of wrongdoing by Operation Blessing or Pat Robertson and no evidence of intent to defraud. Operation Blessing has asked us to make clear that the report was signed off by four individuals at the AGO, none of whom received any donation from Pat Robertson or Operation Blessing. The article claimed a school and farm set up by Operation Blessing in Dumi had failed. We have been informed that the school is thriving and the farm remains operational to this day. We are happy to clarify the position and apologise to Operation Blessing. We have agreed to make a contribution to Operation Blessing to be used in its relief efforts for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines.
The retracted report, originally written by The Guardian's Chris McGreal, has been removed from the publication's website, although some of its content remains on Internet forums and in full on the popular AlterNet.org website.
A statement from Robertson's representatives sent to The Christian Post Friday confirmed that The Guardian has indeed made a "substantial donation" toward Operation Blessing's relief efforts in the Philippines, which is recovering from the cataclysmic Typhoon Haiyan. The statement, apparently sent to several media outlets, called on publications to likewise review their coverage of "Mission Congo" and the "discredited allegations."
"For any coverage similarly misrepresenting the facts, please know that Operation Blessing will continue to pursue all remedies at its disposal, as was the case with The Guardian," the statement from Roslan & Campion Public Relations LLC concludes.
As The Christian Post noted in its original coverage of the controversial independent documentary, Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, had threatened to sue all offending parties about the "malicious allegations" made in "Mission Congo."
The film presented claims based on a series of investigative reports from the '90s by Bill Sizemore, an award-winning journalist for The Virginia-Pilot.
The focus of the reports was Robertson's soliciting of donations on his "The 700 Club" program in 1994 for Rwandan refugees fleeing the civil war into Congo (formerly Zaire). Refugees were being aided by Operation Blessing (OB) and other, unaffiliated humanitarian groups. Sizemore's reports prompted a request from then-Democratic Sen. Janet Howell for an investigation by Virginia state authorities into Robertson and OB's activities, which involved the nonprofit's resources being used to support Robertson's for-profit diamond mining venture in the country.
Virginia's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services concluded in 1999 that Robertson's request for donations to OB made on "The 700 Club" program were misleading but not an intentional attempt to commit fraud.
Robertson, 83, is owner of several other properties, many of them 501(c)(3) organizations based in Virginia, where the televangelist was born and still lives. Among those properties are the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which airs "The 700 Club" and Robertson's controversial commentaries, CBN News, Regent University, and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
Read the original report on "Mission Congo," which includes background on the fraud case and a full rebuttal of the film from Robertson and Operation Blessing's representatives: Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing Issues Rebuttal of 'Mission Congo' Film Highlighting Nonprofit Exploitation Claims.