In an interview published Saturday to mark 50 years of Christian Broadcasting Network, Chairman Pat Robertson said he liked Mitt Romney’s politics and saw the Mormon presidential candidate as an “outstanding Christian.”
Although many evangelicals are skeptical of the Mormon faith’s claim to Christianity, Robertson called former Massachusetts Governor Romney an “outstanding Christian” in an interview with The Associated Press.
But when asked if he was alright with a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the White House, the 81-year-old head of the television network refused to answer.
In a Pew Research Center poll in June, 34 percent of white evangelicals said they would not vote for a Mormon candidate, and a quarter of all Americans said they were less likely to do so. While Mormons also believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, there are many other doctrinal differences between evangelicals and the Latter-day Saints, such as on the Trinity and the Bible.
Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, one of the most influential groups in conservative circles, also said he would no longer endorse presidential candidates. “I’ve personally backed off from direct political involvement,” he was quoted as saying. “I’ve been there, done that.”
Robertson, a former Southern Baptist pastor, said he now believed that politics was not going to change the world. “It’s really not going to make that much of a difference.” But he would continue to comment on the news of the day, and his comment on Romney’s Christianity was perhaps part of that.
During Romney’s campaign for the 2008 Republican nomination, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “Here is the bottom line. As an Evangelical Christian – a Christian who holds to the ‘traditional Christian orthodoxy’ of the Church – I do not believe that Mormonism leads to salvation.”
Controversies are not new to Robertson. He told viewers of his “700 Club” program this month that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease, “a kind of death,” was justifiable.
“I hate Alzheimer’s,” he said. “It is one of the most awful things because, here is a loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly, that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone.” Robertson’s views were criticized by most Christians.
Robertson, whose TV program is viewed by around 1 million people in the United States each day, admitted in the AP interview that he could have worded some of his controversial comments differently. But he appreciated his forgiving audience.
During the 2008 presidential election, Robertson endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was pro-abortion, for the White House.
After the 9/11 attacks, Robertson said the federal courts, pornography, abortion rights and church-state separation caused an angry God to allow the event.
Robertson was once a highly influential figure. He is founder of American Center for Law and Justice, Operation Blessing International Relief, Development Corporation, Regent University, and a few other organizations. In the 1988 presidential election, he was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
However, in recent years, Robertson has lost his political influence, and he knows that. “When I was in charge of the Christian Coalition I was available to mobilize grass roots support for somebody,” he said. “I don’t have any army right now. It’s just an opinion, and that isn’t quite as good as it used to be.”
Robertson said he wasn’t sure for how long he would continue to host the TV program. “I’m still strong and it seems like I’m doing all right, but I don’t want to overstay my time.”
Robertson recalled that what he started as a tiny UHF station in Portsmouth, Va., had now grown to become a sprawling campus in Virginia Beach. He was especially proud of reaching overseas audience, which he said would continue to be a focus of the network.