Christian Broadcasting Network
Last updated: December 31, 1990
Published by the International Relations Center / Interhemispheric Resource Center.
Christian Broadcasting Network
Background: The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the world’s largest noncommercial broadcast network, was founded in 1961 by Pat Robertson. (5,14,45) CBN was at one time the largest supplier of 24-hour cable programming in the world, claiming to reach 66 foreign countries through 150 local stations, 2,500 satellite cable systems, and even through the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Network. (11,14,43) The group’s 1990 report records a drop in foreign cable operations to 40 countries. (78)
Best known for its flagship program "The 700 Club," CBN now encompasses a state-of-the-art broadcasting facility in Virginia, CBN Cable Network, CBN Continental Broadcasting, Inc., Middle East Television, and several individual TV stations. CBN also is associated with CBN University, the National Legal Foundation, The Freedom Council, National Perspectives Institute, "Heads Up" literacy program, and the Committee for Freedom. (33,43,78) Operation Blessing is the humanitarian relief organization of CBN’s "The 700 Club."
The CBN University, established in 1978 by Pat Robertson, has graduate programs in media. (6) In 1987 Oral Roberts University gave its law school and its $10 million law library to CBN University. (55) Pat Robertson is chancellor of CBN University. Holly Coors, Major General Curry (Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship), and Dee Jepsen (CREED) serve on its board of regents. (6,33,34) University president Bob G. Slosser is former assistant national editor of The New York Times. (43)
CBN is part of the neo-pentecostal or modern charismatic tradition. This movement is more contemporary in viewpoint and lifestyle than traditional pentecostalism. Like that forerunner, however, neo-pentecostalism emphasizes outward evidence of the blessings of the Holy Spirit such as faith healing and speaking in tongues. It also emphasizes a religious experience which transcends all denominational theology, thus being open to all believers and not bound by the limitations of denomination. CBN, along with Oral Roberts, the PTL ministry, and other pentecostal/neo-pentecostal organizations, has spurred the growth of the modern charismatic tradition since its origin in l960. (15) Robertson believes simultaneously in future global crisis and a new order in which Christians rule the earth. (10) Robertson says he believes that through television prayers, he and his co-hosts can provide not only spiritual salvation, but cures for everything from brain tumors to tennis injuries to reproductive disorders. (19) He has claimed that prayers by "700 Club" viewers made a hurricane change direction to avoid hitting CBN’s Virginia Beach studios, and that when he preached in English in Shanghai the listeners heard him in their native Chinese dialects, as in the New Testament account of Pentecost. (19,20) For a time, CBN published a newsletter of Christian political views,"Pat Robertson’s Perspective."(11,12) In it, Robertson predicted a major depression would hit in the early 1980s, to be followed by nuclear war in 1982. That year, the newsletter went out of production. (31)
Above all, Pat Robertson is a politician and he has used CBN and its 700 Club and Operation Blessing to gather in followers and pursue his political goals which include making "Christian values" a part of our government. He is staunchly anticommunist and was a strong supporter of rightwing regimes opposing communism and of the Nicaraguan contras in their U.S. backed struggle against the Sandinistas. (35,58) He, along with evangelist Jerry Falwell, believed that the rightwing religious coalition could amass enough votes to run the country. Although the Falwell-Robertson political vision was not shared by the entire evangelical community, it did hold sway in the National Religious Broadcasters. Robertson joined forces with the New Right in an attempt to influence the Reagan administration and in 1988 it led to Robertson’s brief candidacy for president. (57)
Pat Robertson, the son of the former Democratic senator from Virginia, A. Willis Robertson, was educated in private schools, prep school, New York Theological Seminary, and Yale Law School. (19,31) He was a Golden Gloves boxer, served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, and is a Southern Baptist minister. (31) He lives free of charge in a $400,000 "chancellery" owned by CBN and has free access to the CBN country home in Hot Springs, Virginia. (69) Robertson campaigned for president on the Republican ticket for the 1988 election.
Funding: Estimates of CBN’s annual budget over the years have ranged from $101 million to $230 million. (28,31) Figures for 1979-84 are estimated at $600 million in revenues, $500 million in expenses. (33) CBN itself reports that for fiscal year 198485,"the Lord blessed CBN with unparalleled growth." Its budget for that year was $159,067,000 and current assets were listed as $117,967,000. (43) Some 600,000 people donated $139 million to "The 700 Club" in FY 1985. (25) Expenses included: administration: 12%, fundraising: 11%, domestic broadcasting: 36%, intl broadcasting: 6%, cable network: 14%, counseling, 7%, Operation Blessing: 6%, contributions to others: 8%. Revenues included: contributions: 81%, cable & other: 19%. (43)
In the fiscal year ending March 31, 1988 CBN and its subsidiaries had total revenues of $145,517,000–with more than $62 million coming from The Family Channel and other for-profit subsidiaries. In 1989 income was $130,542,000 with over $70 million coming from the for-profit sector. (54)
The Coors Foundation was an early supporter of CBN, giving $30,000 in support of CBN University. (76)
Activities: According to its brochure, Programs to Change the World, CBN plans a global evangelization program based on multinational broadcasting."This is not just another skirmish with the enemy," the brochure declares."This is a major confrontation, perhaps one of the last, great, strategic battles on earth for the souls and minds of men." Among its targets are Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Its "Latin American Strategy" is based on a Spanish version of "The 700 Club," supplemented by multilingual daytime dramas and other CBN programs. (14) Only one-quarter of CBN shows are religious, including "The 700 Club" and a Christian soap opera. The rest include reruns such as "Flipper,""Gentle Ben," "The Rifleman," "Wagon Train," and "The Very Best of Groucho."(30,31) On these shows, commercial time is sold, which for a time brought millions of dollars to the "nonprofit" ministry. This questionable activity aroused the interest of tax collectors, and resulted in the state of Massachusetts suing CBN for a full disclosure of its finances (as required of all charities in that state). Shortly after that suit was filed in 1978, CBN split off its TV and radio stati
ons into a tax-paying for-profit company called CBN Continental Broadcasting Inc. (31)
The National Perspectives Institute is a nonprofit educational organization founded by Pat Robertson and funded by CBN to engage in political education work that stresses "traditional Judeo-Christian values and the values of the Founding Fathers." Pat Robertson was the president, but is no longer associated with it. (27,33) CBN has two literacy projects: a "Heads Up" Program to teach literacy to children, and "Project Bible" which aims to bring the Bible to a wider audience. It published a "user-friendly Bible" called The Book; the CBN brochure features football star Rosie Greer reading a copy. (43,45)
"The 700 Club": CBN’s flagship program,"The 700 Club," was started by Pat Robertson on radio in 1961 and on TV in 1963. By 1975 the ministry had gone international, airing the "The 700 Club" in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, the West Indies, Europe, and Nigeria. (78) By the mid-1980s it had an estimated 28. 7 million regular U.S. viewers. (11,12,28) This 90-minute show is a "Good Morning Christian America," with international news coverage, features on secular topics such as home gardening and martial arts, and interviews with politicians, controversial figures, and bornagain celebrities. (14,21) "The 700 Club," co-hosted by Pat Robertson, Ben Kinchlow (a former Black Muslim), and Danuta Soderman, is produced at CBN’s $20 million facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
According to CBN literature from 1985,"The 700 Club" reached 19.1 percent of U.S. TV households and an estimated 29.3 million adults in one month alone. (14,43) CBN has estimated its potential viewers in Central America to be: 1.2 million in Honduras, 2.5 million in El Salvador, and 3.1 million in Guatemala. (46)
Unlike most religious shows, Pat Robertson rarely asks for money on the air during "The 700 Club." Rather, people are encouraged to call in to the toll-free number flashed on the screen and talk to one of the thousands of volunteer prayer counselors who cover the phones 24 hours a day in most countries the program reaches. The caller’s name and address are recorded and then they are sent letters and other mailings at regular intervals with requests for money. (14)
Robertson, according to investigative reporter Sara Diamond, used his tax-exempt broadcast license to hold a fundraising telethon in the United States for the Guatemalan military and the Nicaraguan contras. (67) On "The 700 Club," Robertson has interviewed Adolfo Calero and Steadman Fagoth, contra leaders; Efrain Rios Montt, then-president of Guatemala known for massive human rights abuses; Jeremias Chitunda, an Angolan guerrilla leader; Ray Cline, former CIA deputy director of intelligence; several Israeli cabinet members, and even President Reagan in an exclusive interview. (5) One of his campaign pledges during his brief run for the presidency was to withdraw diplomatic recognition from Nicaragua and recognize the contras as a "government in exile."(68) Robertson also interviewed a former president of El Salvador, Alvaro Magana, and individuals connected with the Salvadoran death squads. He praised death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson of the ARENA party as a "very nice fellow."(17) Significant air time has also been devoted to interviews with white South Africans and pleas for viewers to pray for stability there. (17) CBN has also invited a number of pro-government black South Africans to appear in the 700 Club program in the U.S. (59) Ben Kinchlow, the black co-host of "The 700 Club," travelled to South Africa ("he personally experienced no racism there") and conducted a live interview through satellite feed with South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha. This was at a time when secular U.S. journalists were not allowed access to Pretoria’s top leaders. The interview centered on the negative consequences that would result from economic sanctions against South Africa. (35) More recently Robertson set up a television station to carry CBN programs in the Bophuthatswana homeland in South Africa. (59)
CBN has been active in Israel, frequently promoting the program of the fundamentalist International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. (60) Robertson operates the most powerful television transmitter in the Middle East, MET, located in Southern Lebanon, and has had close contact with government leaders in Israel. (58)
Operation Blessing in 1986 was sending $50,000 a month to Ethiopia in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). (5)
Pat Robertson’s Campaign for President: Robertson’s campaign for the presidency brought many rightwing Christians into the political process and made pentecostal Christianity a policy force to be reckoned with. However, his run for public office also brought Robertson some controversy and embarrassing moments, such as when he was forced to admit that his son was conceived out of wedlock. (21) He filed libel suits in response to allegations that he used the influence of his father, a U.S. senator, to avoid combat duty in Korea. (77)
Robertson, accused of using CBN funds for political purposes, denied that tax-exempt contributions to CBN had been used for partisan political purposes. (21,33) However, evidence shows that CBN not only encouraged the political involvement of its "700 Club" viewers, but also financed political activities in violation of its tax-exempt status as a ministry. (21,33) CBN operates as a tax-exempt, nonprofit ministry under 501(c)(3) and tax-deductible contributions make up more than 80% of its revenue. (33,43) This status prohibits significant involvement in political activities.
The CBN affiliate, the Freedom Council, was organized in 1981 under 501(c)(4), which is not tax exempt and permits general political activity (but not support for any one candidate). (33) According to CBN, the Freedom Council was a lobbying group founded by Pat Robertson "to engage in political education work that stresses traditional Judeo-Christian values and the values of the Founding Fathers."(27,33) At the same time that the government began to examine the records of this and other CBN affiliates, former officials of this nonprofit organization made allegations that misleading or inaccurate information was given to the IRS concerning where money came from and how it was spent. Two officials reported in 1986 that CBN had been financing the Freedom Council since its inception, and that by late 1985 support rose to $200,000 monthly. However, tax returns showed no funding of any kind from CBN, nor did they reflect any officers in common, even though Robertson served as the Freedom Council’s president from 1981 to 1985. The former council officials said that Robertson, who specialized in corporate taxation at Yale Law School, handled the group’s finances and set its policies. (33) They also criticized the direction of the organization’s political activities, involving some 75 full-time field workers and 200,000 contributors concentrated in states with key presidential primaries. (21,31) They and a Washington Post report said that the Freedom Council used millions of CBN dollars to elect Robertson supporters as delegates in Michigan. (21,33) The New York Times reported that the Freedom Council’s name was changed to National Freedom Institute in January 1986, and that on the same day, another Freedom Council was formed under the 501(c)(3) tax status. The National Freedom Institute dissolved on October 1, 1986. The Freedom Council is also defunct. (21,33) In 1985, Robertson organized, and CBN financed, the Committee for Freedom, a multicandidate political action committee. (33)
Various committees to draft Robertson for president were founded by Robertson supporters from CBN University, the Freedom Council, and elsewhere. (33) The National Committee
to Draft Pat Robertson for President, which featured Roy Rogers and Dale Evans as spokespersons, held a big fundraiser at the Dallas ranch of millionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt. (24) A "presidential exploration committee," called Americans for Pat Robertson, was formed in 1986. (33) In September 1986, Robertson announced that he was stepping down as co-host of "The 700 Club," "because of the overwhelming demands that he run for office." He stopped short of a formal declaration of his candidacy for president, since that would have forced him off of "The 700 Club" completely unless he agreed to give equal access to his political opponents. However, he said that he would continue to appear on "The 700 Club" no more than 3 times a week as a commentator. (29) Instead of declaring his candidacy, Robertson pledged that he would run for president if 3 million registered voters would, within one year, sign petitions urging him to run. Some of his supporters included: Joseph Coors (Heritage Foundation), Beverly LaHaye (founder of Concerned Women for America), Oral Roberts, and Jimmy Swaggart. (29,32) While Robertson was campaigning for President, his wife Dede said,"He is not a television evangelist. He has never been an evangelist. He is a television broadcaster. He has a law degree. He’s a businessman. He has a multi-million dollar business that he started with $70. He’s a good businessman."(16) Robertson finished surprisingly well in several primaries before dropping out of the race.
CBN broadcast a 30-minute documentary film opposing ratification of the Reagan-Gorbachev INF pact designed to reduce mid-range nuclear weapons arsenals of both countries. The film, produced and distributed by The Conservative Caucus (TCC), included remarks by Senators Jesse Helms and Gordon Humphrey, retired military rightwingers Major General John K. Singlaub and Brigadeer General Albion Knight and TCC chairman Howard Phillips. (72)
The graduating class of 1989 of the CBN law school brought a suit against the American Bar Association (ABA) because of the ABA’s reluctance to give full accreditation to the law school. The ABA was reluctant to accredit the school because its funding is dependent upon the "fluctuating fortunes of Mr. Robertson’s television ministry," and because its professors are forced to sign a statement of faith, which may compromise their academic freedom to present a broad range of ideas. (56) The Supreme Courts of the states of Virginia and South Carolina agreed to permit CBN’s law graduates to sit for the bar exams regardless of the ABA’s decision. (56) The law school was given temporary accreditation in June 1989. The Law School eventually received full accreditation and increased its enrollment by 50 percent to 165 students. (78) The CBN University reported a $1. 8 million operating loss for the year ending June 30, 1988. CBN University changed its name to Regent University in January 1990. (78)
Regent launched a major initiative in Eastern Europe, conducting business and leadership conferences and offering 36 scholarships to East Europeans. (78)
Reportedly U.S. televangelists hope to take advantage of the recent perestroika in the Soviet Union. Pat Robertson is currently producing a children’s Bible program for Soviet viewers. (61) Robertson has received permission to open a Ministry Center in Moscow. (62) In 1990 CBN began broadcasting its Bible series,"Superbook," on Soviet state-run television. (78)
CBN is spearheading a grassroots movement called Christian Coalition,"a house united." The goal of this operation–similar to many others in the Christian Right–is "to make government and the media responsible to our concerns." Headquartered at CBN offices in Virginia, the coalition includes Christian stalwarts such as Beverly LaHaye, Rev. D. James Kennedy, Rev. Charles Stanley, and Father Michael Scanlan. (62)
CBN Radio Network, a contemporary Christian network, begun in 1987 was placed under a for-profit arm of CBN called Broadcast Equities, Inc. (78)
CBN sold its for-profit cable network, The Family Channel, for $250 million. The network was sold "in recognition of the Internal Revenue Code" regarding the amount of unrelated business income that an exempt organization is permitted to earn. In 1989 The Family Channel contributed more than half of CBN’s income. (78,54)
Operation Blessing: Operation Blessing, the humanitarian relief agency of CBN’s "The 700 Club," was launched in 1978. (78) Operation Blessing raises money for relief projects, often passing the funds and goods to other organizations for distribution. CBN says that in fiscal year 1984-85, Operation Blessing aided five million needy Americans and helped people in 15 countries get through hard times. (43) In 1985, CBN says that this program helped distribute $50 million in relief aid to 8. 5 million people throughout the world. (31,45)
In May 1985, CBN/Operation Blessing announced a $20 million relief campaign to send "humanitarian" supplies–food and medicine–to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. This joint CBN and AmeriCares effort brought supplies "of a strictly humanitarian nature" to refugees and displaced people. AmeriCares gathered the contributions of medicines, pharmaceutical supplies, and nutritional supplements, and CBN provided $2 million cash for shipping and handling. [Quotes in original AP story]. (5,22,23) Several tons of the AmeriCares/CBN supplies were also transported to Guatemala and the Honduran Mosquitia region on U.S. Navy ships in the Navy’s humanitarian aid program called "Operation Handclasp."(9) Some of the aid was to be distributed through Operation Blessing units in Central America, and also by Knights of Malta. While en route to Honduras in a C-130 full of medical supplies, Robertson told a reporter in Miami that "some [of this aid] may get to the contras."(23)
According to Hap Lutz, Air Commando Association (ACA) vice president, Operation Blessing gave about $2 million to the ACA. (2)
In 1990 Operation Blessing rushed to provide aid to Romania. Within weeks of the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu, Operation Blessing delivered 100,000 Bibles and 13 million Gospel tracts to the beleaguered nation. (78)
El Salvador: The "700 Club" director for El Salvador reported that the organization’s local activities began in 1983 when Pat Robertson visited the country. "The 700 Club" started on local TV the same year. Operation Blessing’s El Salvador projects include building low-income housing and helping with the construction of two schools and several churches. (42) In 1984, Operation Blessing assisted the Air Commando Assocation (ACA) with shipping a supply of rice destined for El Salvador. According to an August 1984 ACA newsletter article by ACA president Brig. Gen. Harry C. "Hienie" Aderholt (USAF Ret. ), the transport of 9-1/2 tons of supplies and medicines from Selfridge Air Force Base to Dulles Airport in Washington DC was provided by Operation Blessing of CBN. From there the supplies were shipped to El Salvador. Aderholt goes on,"I was advised that there is a critical shortage of food in Morazan Province where we have previously provided medication. Operation Blessing (CBN) procured 9000 five-pound bags of rice… now we need transport to Salvador… CBN and the Conservative Caucus will help…"(37) Pat Robertson visited the country in 1985 and reportedly met with President Jose Napoleon Duarte. (23,42) Upon his return he noted that the political situation in the country was encouraging and attributed the improvement, at least in part, to "one of the strongest religious revivals in the world. Whenever you see that, you are not going to see communism and oppression."(23) Alongwith its Central American evangelical campaign, "Project Light," launched in early 1990 (described later in this report), CBN began
Spanish language broadcasting inside El Salvador. (73)
Guatemala: Within a week of the 1982 coup which brought evangelical Gen. Efrain Rios Montt to power, Pat Robertson flew to Guatemala to meet with the new president. (28) Rios Montt’s first interview as president was with Robertson, who aired it on "The 700 Club" and praised the new military government. (14) Robertson also urged donations for International Love Lift, a relief project of Rios Montt’s U.S. church, Gospel Outreach. (28) Rios Montt said that Pat Robertson had offered to send missionaries and "more than a billion dollars" in aid from U.S. fundamentalists. Robertson, however, claimed that he hoped to match the earlier CBN donation of $350,000 in earthquake relief and send "a small team of medical and agricultural experts" to Guatemala. (14) CBN reportedly sponsored a campaign to send money and agricultural and medical technicians to help design the first model villages under Rios Montt. (4)
In 1984, Operation Blessing and the Air Commando Association (ACA) set up a medical clinic in the conflictive northwestern region of Guatemala. (28) To quote ACA president "Hienie" Aderholt in the August 1984 ACA newsletter, it happened like this: "Early August, a call from Capt. Warren (USN Ret), Operations Officer for Operation Blessing who wants us to put a MED CAT into Guatemala ASAP. He pledged financial support and a photographic team to document the operation on tape for use on the Pat Robertson show on CBN [sic]."(37) According to an ACA press release, ACA established its Medical Relief Program at the invitation of then-president General Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores. "ACA will be joined in this program by the National Defense Council, World Medical Relief, International Aid, and the 700 Club’s ‘Operation Blessing’… as well as the Civil Affairs Department of the Guatemalan government."(38) A volunteer reported that, in addition to clothing and soap, they distributed five pounds of rice per person which had been donated by Operation Blessing. In all, Operation Blessing provided 45,000 lbs rice and $8 million in medications. (37,38) ACA president Aderholt said that these medical clinics provided medical assistance to "refugees returning to their homeland from guerrilla-enforced exile in Mexico or slavery in guerrilla camps in Guatemala."(38)
In Guatemala, "The 700 Club" is shown in Spanish twice a day, at noon and late at night. Its counseling center received 1,918 phone calls in 1985, and 4,278 in 1986. (46)
In a 1987 interview, the local "700 Club" administrator explained that Operation Blessing began in the country in May 1985 with the distribution of medicine donated by AmeriCares, food from International Aid and World Concern, and clothing from Germany. (40) In June 1985, Robertson personally delivered $1 million in medical supplies to the Guatemalan government. (5)
Operation Blessing in Guatemala has received food from the Guatemalan government Ministry of Development. It also works with the military-linked National Reconstruction Committee (CRN). (40) A joint Air Commando/Operation Blessing medical project had support from the Civil Affairs Department of the Guatemalan government. (38)
Operation Blessing has shared resources with Brotherhood of Nicaraguans and Food for the Hungry. All of its budget currently comes from the United States. Operation Blessing tries to combat malnutrition, but the administrator says that "the problem in Guatemala is not the lack of food but not knowing how to eat. We believe we can attack the problem of malnutrition by teaching people how to feed themselves."(40)
Honduras: "The 700 Club" airs in Honduras several times each week. (41) Operation Blessing is the most visible of the evangelical groups active in Honduras. (58) The local Operation Blessing program sponsors prayer meetings, counseling, and social service projects, mostly in the marginal areas in Tegucigalpa. According to the Honduran director of "The 700 Club," the local office is now run by Hondurans and is not active along the Nicaragua border. (41)
The U.S. operation of CBN was considered one of the top private funders of the contras. (23,28) As of 1987 Robertson reported that Operation Blessing had sent more than $3 million in aid to the Nicaraguan refugees. (58) CBN gave the $3 million to the contra’s Houston-based Nicaraguan Patriotic Association, according to Juan Sacasas, Vice President of the group and representative of the FDN contra force. (2,9) Robertson denies any connection with Sacasas. (3,9) However, there is little question that the Operation Blessing donations reached the contra forces. Robertson was so popular among them that one group named itself the Pat Robertson Brigade. (58)
In May, 1984, Pat Robertson solicited U.S. viewers’ contributions for the "freedom fighters" through a special telethon on "The 700 Club" and simulated mailgrams. (28) An undetermined amount of CBN aid was delivered to Miskito Indians on the Honduras-Nicaragua border by AmeriCares/Knights of Malta and the Friends of the Americas (FOA). (2,9) Louisiana State Representative Louis "Woody" Jenkins (Chairman of FOA) told The New York Times that "some of the aid… would go to the refugees and some to the rebels."(1) Jenkins said in 1985,"I’m all for the freedom fighters. I want the Sandinistas kicked out of Nicaragua. That’s one of the main motivations of my work."(9) At a National Religious Broadcasters dinner, Jenkins told the audience,"One of the few groups helping [the refugees through Friends of the Americas] is Pat Robertson and CBN." Addressing Robertson seated at the head table, Jenkins said,"Thank you."(9) Diane Jenkins, the representative’s wife and Executive Director of FOA, has solicited funds on "The 700 Club" for the FOA’s work on the Nicaraguan border. (37)
On a trip to Honduras in 1985, Robertson met with President Roberto Suazo Cordova. (23) He also visited contra training camps in Honduras in June 1985, where he met with top leaders of the FDN and was saluted as a guest of honor. (17) A prominent human rights worker in Honduras reported that Robertson was filmed leading religious services in three contra camps. (39) At a private reception held in his honor during the 1986 National Religious Broadcasters convention, Robertson said that CBN had provided Bibles and military chaplains to the contras at the request of FDN leader Enrique Bermudez. (27,28) His statement was verified by Bosco Matamoros, Washington representative of the FDN, who also said that Robertson and CBN representatives had met several times with the FDN. (27)
When allegations of contra-CBN connections arose in the United States, CBN gave a statement to WCFC-TV, which airs "The 700 Club" in Chicago, saying in part: "CBN is helping starving and displaced persons in 15 countries, including some in Central America. The help is absolutely non-political. Articles claiming support by CBN of the contras in Nicaragua are incorrect."(2) At a political fund-raiser in Chicago, Pat Robertson was asked about CBN’s support for the contras. He refused to answer directly, but said,"The fact is that the communists make people suffer. If that makes it [Operation Blessing] political, then, I’m sorry, we’re still going to help them."(3)
A refugee worker said that in 1985, a CBN film team came to a World Relief refugee camp asking for gasoline. "I told them I would give them the fuel, but not if their vehicle belonged to the contras. They said it didn’t. But when they came back a few days later, they admitted they had lied. The jeep belonged to Misura [contra forces]. CBN went down to do a story on freedom fighters. They weren’t interested in refugees."(9)
Nicaragua: In April 1989 Pat Robertson visited Managua to open the Nicaraguan chapter of CBN’s &q
uot;700 Club." Robertson’s first stop was the U.S. embassy. Robertson hired Costa Rican businessman Oswaldo Bonilla Montoya to head the CBN operations in Nicaragua. (75) In an interview he called Nicaragua a "Soviet client state where communism doesn’t work." Robertson met with numerous religious leaders and with Nicaraguan vice president Dr. Sergio Ramirez. Robertson’s visit and the reappearance of the "700 Club" (it was on the air from December 1977 through July 1979) on local television provoked criticism from numbers of more progressive church leaders in Nicaragua. (71)
CBN’s Operation Blessing’s activities are also under fire for delivery of rancid food and defective equipment. Critics claim that Operation Blessing also greatly overvalues its donations and is "a great business, where the poor of the world are just another factor on the spreadsheet, some place to dump old food or defective toothbrushes." CBN claims it is not responsible for purchasing or sending out-of-date materials. The shipments in question came from International Aid, a Michiganbased missionary supply center. Bonilla, who had complained to CBN about the quality of aid shipments was recently fired. (75)
CBN launched a major $1. 5 million media blitz, "Project Light," in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua with the goal of gaining two million followers. (63,64) The campaign included radio, television, film, billboards, and tracts. The film "Jesus," produced by the Campus Crusade for Christ was hauled into remote areas (along with portable power equipment to run the equipment), often with the assistance of Missionary Aviation Fellowship planes. Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill Bright’s evangelical, fundamentalist Christian organization, provided a week of training for CBN’s 40 teams of evangelists involved in this campaign. (64) CBN’s Operation Blessing provided massive amounts of food and relief supplies, many of which were purchased within the countries. An April press release from CBN claimed the effort a success that more than met its goals. (65)
"Project Light" was blocked during the last months of the Sandinista government. Negotiations to start it up again after the election victory of UNO have not gone well. One reason is the price tag for broadcasting Robertson’s programs. Another is the required review of the programs by Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo and Nicaraguan government officials. (74)
Government Connections: Pat Robertson is friends with Ronald Reagan and former Attorney General Edwin Meese. (21) Meese spoke at the dedication ceremony of the CBN University library. (21) In 1985, Pat Robertson toured Sudan at the invitation of then-Vice President George Bush. (5,21) Robertson has described Iran-Contra defendant Oliver North as "a personal associate."(8) Robertson and other CBN representatives met with White House officials about private aid to Guatemala. (28)
The 1984 AmeriCares/CBN shipments were delivered from Norfolk, Virginia to the Honduran Mosquitia area and Guatemala by the U.S. Navy under "Operation Handclasp."(9,18) Under this program the Navy is permitted to accept relief supplies for its humanitarian aid program if the delivery will not cost the government any money or require special stops. (18)
Operation Blessing supplies were also delivered from Selfridge Air Force Base to Central America where they were distributed by the ACA. (37)
Private Connections: CBN/Operation Blessing has financed or worked on joint humanitarian efforts with the Air Commando Association, AmeriCares, Brotherhood of Nicaraguans, Friends of the Americas, International Aid, Knights of Malta, and the Nicaraguan Patriotic Association (NPA)–several of which were a part of the private Nicaraguan contra supply network. (2,5,9,22,23,37,40) Juan Sacasas, Houston representative of the NPA–a contra front group–confirmed the CBN financing. Robertson denies any connection with Juan Sacasas. (3,9)
When asked about its Central America activities in 1985, CBN referred one reporter to World Vision. That organization said that the only joint effort with CBN was in Ethiopia in 1983. (9)
On "The 700 Club," Robertson urged support for International Love Lift, a project of Gospel Outreach. (28)
The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI) gave seed money to CBN (date and amount not specified). (34) George Otis, FGBMFI leader, founded and developed Middle East Television in Israeli-occupied Lebanon, and then gave it to CBN. (34) A CBN film crew traveled with members of the Fellowship to film contra troops in Nicaragua. (14) During a videotape of a 1981 conference, Robertson is shown casting out the afflictions of the FGBMFI members. "Several people are being healed of hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Thank you Lord."(30) He has also led some of FGBMFI’s military prayer breakfasts in Washington DC. Ronald Reagan has close ties to this group, whose members include James Watt (former Secretary of the Interior), and Herbert Ellingwood, former assistant to the Attorney General who worked full-time on Pat Robertson’s presidential campaign. (34)
Dee Jepsen is on the CBN University Board of Regents. (43)
Jepsen served as Special Assistant to President Reagan in 198283, his liaison to all types of women’s organizations. She was appointed to the President’s Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives to promote volunteerism in December 1981. Her husband is former US Senator Roger Jepsen of Iowa. She and her husband, along with Congressman Jack Kemp and his wife Joanne, founded CREED (Christian Rescue Effort for the Emancipation of Dissidents). This organization brings public and political pressure to secure the release of those persecuted for their faith in the Soviet bloc. (6)
"Joseph Coors," wrote Al Weinrub in the Labor Report on Central America, "has used the power of the Coors financial dynasty not only to provide support to the contras, but to set a rightwing political agenda in the U.S… ."(47) Coors who serves on the CBN University board of Trustees, is a funder and cofounder along with Paul Weyrich of the Heritage Foundation, and a member of Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. (34,49) He was the chair of the Rocky Mountain region Reagan/Bush campaign in 1984. (48) He also has supported various groups organized by New Right tactician Paul Weyrich including the Catholic Center, a religious group that sent conservative "truth squads" to counteract the activities of liberal bishops, and the Free Congress Foundation, a group dedicated to electing conservatives to Congress. (49,50) Coors money has supported rightwing religious groups including the Church League of America, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Moral Majority, and the Campus Crusade for Christ. (49) Coors supported Lt. Gen. John Singlaub’s U.S. Council for World Freedom (USCWF), the U.S. chapter of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL). USCWF and the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund (another Coor’s cause) helped fund the Nicaraguan contras. (49) He was on the advisory council of the National Strategy Information Center, a rightwing think tank for military strategy, and a member of the secretive Council for National Policy. (51,52) His wife Holly is on the CBN University Board of Regents. (43)
Carolyn Sundreth left her post as a former White House liaison officer to work for Pat Robertson’s presidential campaign as Outreach Director for Americans for Robertson. She had worked out of the White House Office of Public Policy Liaison, and was the connection between the Reagan administration and the Christian Right. She was on the board of directors of Christian Response International. Sundreth is a former member of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), which cites support from Pat Robertson. (36)
CBN News Director James Whelan is a former editor of the Wa
shington Times, which is owned by Reverend Moon’s Unification Church. He reportedly left the paper because of undue church influence. (21) Former Sen. Jeremiah Denton is a former CBN employee and friend of Pat Robertson. (35) Jim Bakker was a CBN employee in the 1960s, and a co-host with Robertson of "The 700 Club."(14)
Pat Robertson is on the board of directors of the National Religious Broadcasters along with Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), Jerry Falwell (Liberty Federation, Moral Majority), Billy Graham (Billy Graham Evangelical Assoc), Jim Bakker (formerly with PTL Ministries), Tim LaHaye (American Coalition for Traditional Values), and Jimmy Swaggart (Jimmy Swaggart Ministries). (36)
Robertson is on the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy, and was its president in 1987. Other board members include: Louisiana State Representative Louis (Woody) Jenkins (Friends of the Americas, Nicaragua Refugee Fund), General John Singlaub (World Anti-Communist League), Oliver North (former National Security Council staff member), Tim LaHaye (American Coalition for Traditional Values), and Joseph Coors (Heritage Foundation). (9,36) The Council for National Policy hosted contra leader Adolfo Calero at a 1984 gathering. Robertson is a Southern Baptist minister and was an activist with the now-defunct Moral Majority. (11,14,31) In the Spring of l980, Robertson joined with Bill Bright of Campus Crusade and others to organize a Washington, DC demonstration to celebrate a Day of National Prayer, Fasting, and Repentance. The event, also called Washington for Jesus, was estimated to be the third or fourth largest demonstration held in Washington up to that time. (11,13,14)
Ben Kinchlow was the keynote speaker at the 1989 National Religious Broadcasters annual convention. Kinchlow has moved from the "700 Club" to become a host on Trinity Broadcasting Network’s flagship program "Praise the Lord."(66)
CBN is a member of The Religious Roundtable, a coalition of business, military, political, and religious leaders working together to bring Biblical principles into public policy. (53) Robertson had originally held a key position, but he resigned abruptly in l980 saying,"God has been leading me in a different direction."(14)
At a 1985 Nicaraguan Refugee Fund dinner ($250 a plate), Robertson led the guests in the Pledge of Allegiance. (11,14) The Nicaraguan Refugee Fund was a short-lived group headed by former ambassador to Switzerland True Davis established to raise money in support of the contras. (49) In 1982, Robertson discussed private assistance for Guatemala with a Rios Montt aide, senior Reagan administration officials, and leading rightwing Christians, including Jerry Falwell (Moral Majority), and Loren Cunningham (Youth With A Mission). (28) Texas millionaire Bunker Hunt, Beverly LaHaye (Concerned Women for America), Oral Roberts, and Jimmy Swaggart (Jimmy Swaggart Ministries) supported his presidential campaign. (24,29,32)
Misc: The National Coalition Against TV Violence gave CBN a high violence quotient, saying that CBN had 12 programs with an average of 34 violent acts per hour. (7)
Pat Robertson on Congress and contra aid: "It’s appalling to me that we would debate over $14 million… one attempt to dislodge a communist dictatorship in Central America causes Congress to go into a tizzy over $14 million in aid. There’s something wrong with our sickly government, in my humble opinion."(9)
Robertson spoke out to his viewers about an upcoming vote on contra aid saying "I want us to pray about the voting Congress because this is a very important vote and the craven submission of our leaders and the Congress to the sick demands of communism makes you sick to your stomach."(58)
Comments: Although Robertson did not come close to winning the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, his political power should not be dismissed lightly. Investigative reporter Sara Diamond lists his political gains: his forces gained valuable campaign skills and connections; thousands of evangelicals were registered or re-registered to vote for Robertson; the head of the Robertson campaign in Nevada became the state party chair; at the GOP convention Robertson supporters dominated the national delegations of Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, and Washington; Robertson claimed that 13 percent of all the delegates (though many were committed to Bush) were Robertson workers in their home states; Robertson established a political action committee to bankroll future education and campaign efforts of rightwing candidates. The power of the media also must be considered. Religious broadcasters have a huge audience and hold enormous power to mobilize the "faithful."(70)
U.S. Address: Virginia Beach, VA 23463. (804) 424-7777.
Principals: CBN Board of Directors in 1986 included: Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, founder and president; Adelia E. "Dede" Robertson, secretary; Harald Bredesen; Bob G. Slosser; and S. Tucker Yates. CBN University: Pat Robertson, chancellor; Board of Regents in 1986 included: Mrs. Joseph (Holly) Coors, Major General Curry, and Mrs. Roger W. (Dee) Jepsen; Board of Trustees in 1986 included: Joseph Coors. The 700 Club: Pat Robertson, Ben Kinchlow, and Danuta Soderman, co-hosts. (31,33,34,43) Daniel Olson is the Manager of international marketing and mission. (63) Michael Little is a CBN vice president. Robert Warren, a retired U.S. Navy counterinsurgency expert, is head of Operation Blessing. (75)
Sources:1. New York Times, April 6, 1985. (Cited in #2 below)
2. Synapses Press Release, April 13, 1985.
3. Synapses Press Release, June 27, 1985.
4. National Central American Health Rights Network, Links, Winter 1986.
5. Sara Diamond, "Preacher Pat for Prez?," Mother Jones, January 1986.
6. Daniel Juster, "1990, World Congress on the Kingdom of God," Thy Kingdom Come, September/October 1988.
7. "CBN and Violence," The Christian Century, November 5, 1986.
8. Sara Diamond, The Daily Californian, March 27, 1987.
9. Vicki Kemper, "In the Name of Relief," Sojourners, October, 1985.
10. Andy Lange and Fred Clarkson, Convergence, Spring, 1988.
11. Deborah Huntington and Ruth Kaplan, "Whose Gold is Behind the Altar? Corporate Ties to Evangelicals," Contemporary Marxism, Winter l981-l982.
12. Ralph Clark Chandler, "The Wicked Shall Not Bear Rule: The Fundamentalist Heritage of the New Christian Right," in David G. Bromley and Anson Shupe, eds. , New Christian Politics (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, l984), pp41-58.
13. Wesley E. Miller, "The New Christian Right and the News Media," in Bromley and Shupe, pp139-149.
l4. Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America’s Freedoms in Religion, Politics and Our Private Lives (New York, NY: Delta, l984).
15. Jerry Falwell, ed., with Ed Dobson and Ed Hindson, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co. , 1981).
16. In These Times, "Hawking the Faith," April 15-21, 1987, p. 5.
17. Sara Diamond, "Right Wing’s Televangelists Manipulate U.S. on Contra Aid and Apartheid," Sequoia, September/October 1986.
18. April Witt, "Navy Ships CBN Goods to Central America," The Virginian-Pilot, July 11, 1984.
19. Thomas B. Edsall, "TV Preacher Eyes GOP Nomination," Washington Post, August 19, 1985.
20. Kenneth L. Woodward, "A Pentecostal for President," Newsweek, October 14, 1985.
21. Pat Aufderheide, "The Next Voice You Hear," The Progressive, Septem
22. Associated Press, "Christian Network Plans Relief for Latin America," Washington Post, May 9, 1985.
23. Adon Taft, "TV Evangelist Defends Aid to Nicaragua," Miami Herald, June 14, 1985.
24. Associated Press, "Roy Rogers Backs Evangelist for President," Albuquerque Tribune, October 20, 1986.
25. Dudley Clendinen, "A Coy Robertson is Pioneering Era of Satellite Politics," New York Times, September 13, 1986.
26. Associated Press, "Pat Robertson Group Says It’s Disbanding," New York Times, September 27, 1986.
27. Steven Hall-Williams, "Robertson’s Contra Chaplains," Sojourners, April 1986.
28. Sara Diamond, "Pat Robertson’s Central America Connection," Guardian, September 17, 1986.
29. National Religious Broadcasters, "Robertson Withdraws as 700 Club Host to Explore Candidacy," Religious Broadcasting, November 1986.
30. William Saletan, "Teflon Telepreacher," The New Republic, January 20, 1986.
31. John J. Fiaka and Ellen Hume, "TV Preacher, Possibly Eyeing the Presidency, Is Polishing His Image," The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 1985.
32. David Earle Anderson, "The Robertson Candidacy," Christianity & Crisis, November 17, 1986.
33. Jeff Gerth, "Tax Data of Pat Robertson Groups Are Questioned," New York Times, December 10, 1986.
34. Larry Kickham, "The Theology of Nuclear War," sidebar on The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Covert Action Information Bulletin, No. 27, Spring 1987, p. 15.
35. Sara Diamond, "Shepherding," sidebar on the South Africa Media Campaign, Covert Action Information Bulletin, No. 27, Spring 1987, p. 24.
36. Michael O’Brien, "The Christian Underground," Covert Action Information Bulletin, No. 27, Spring 1987, p. 32.
37. Air Commando Association Newsletters, dated August 1984, February 1985, and May 1985.
38. "Air Commandos in Guatemala, Seek American People’s Aid," Air Commando Association Press Release, dated July, 1985.
39. Interview with Dr. Ramon Custodio, December, 1985.
40. Interview with Julio Cesar de Leon S. , January, 1987.
41. Interview with Sonia Diaz, June 1987.
42. Interview with Carlos Orellana, September 1987.
43. The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc. Annual Report 198485.
44. "CBN and You," CBN brochure, undated.
45. "We Care… CBN and You," CBN brochure, 1986.
46. Gustav Niebuhr, "TV Fervor Takes Hold in Central America," San Jose Mercury News, April 11, 1987.
47. Al Weinrub, "Coors Brews More Than Beer," Labor Report on Central America, Sep/Oct 1985.
48. Michael Massing ,"The Rise and Decline of Accuracy," The Nation, Sep 13, 1986.
49. New Right Humanitarians (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1986).
50. Penny Lernoux, "A Reverence for Fundamentalism," The Nation, Apr 17, 1989.
51. List of the board of directors of the Council for National Policy, 1982-1983.
52. Special Operations in U.S. Strategy, National Strategy Information Center, 1984.
53. Roundtable Report, Vol. 1, No. 1, Sep/Oct 1983.
54. "The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc and Subsidiaries," Consolidated Financial Statements as of March 31, 1989.
55. "What Will Oral Roberts Do Next?," U.S. News & World Report, Mar 9, 1987.
56. Felicity Barringer, "Evangelicals and Bar Clash on Law School," New York Times, May 19, 1989.
57. John Saloma, Ominous Politics: The New Conservative Labyrinth (New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1984).
58. Michael D’Antonio, "The Christian Right Abroad," Alicia Patterson Foundation, Reporter, Fall 1987.
59. Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility Brief, Vol 18, No. 3, 1989.
60. William Claiborne, "Israelis Look on U.S. Evangelical Christians As Potent Allies in Battle With Arab States," Washington Post, Mar 23, 1981.
61. Religion Watch, Vol 5, No 5, Mar 1990.
62. Group Research Report, Vol 29, No 1, Jan/Feb 1990.
63. Jim Castelli, "CBN Launches ‘Blitz’ in Central America," National Catholic Reporter, Feb 9, 1990.
64. "CBN ‘Blitzes’ Central America with the Gospel," CBN press release, Feb 7, 1990.
65. "CBN Gospel Blitz Brings Millions to Christ," CBN press release, Apr 18, 1990.
66. "News from NRB," National Religious Broadcasters 1989 Annual Convention, Jan 30, 1989.
67. Sara Diamond, "Christian Right Stronger Than Ever in the 1990s," Pacific News Service, week of May 22, 1989.
68. Central America Education Project, Winter 1988.
69. "God and Money," Newsweek, Apr 6, 1987.
70. Sara Diamond, "The Right After Reagan," NACLA, Sep/Oct 1988.
71. Paul Jeffery, "Contra Supporter Pat Robertson Visits Managua, Says He Now Supports Diplomatic Solutions," Religious News Service, Apr 26, 1989.
72. The Conservative Caucus, 1989 annual report.
73. Sara Diamond, "Covert Crusade for Salvador," Guardian, June 6, 1990.
74. "More Problems for Robertson," The CEPAD Report, May/June 1990.
75. Paul Jeffery, "Popcorn for the Poor," Christianity and Crisis, Sep 24, 1990.
76. Foundation Grants Index, 15th edition, 1986.
77. Joe Conason, Jack Newfield, and James Ridgeway, "Pat Robertson’s Korean Cop-Out," Village Voice Sep 16, 1986.
78. "CBN Ministry Report: An Overview," CBN, Nov 1990.
The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300. www.irc-online.org.