The ONE (Progressive) Campaign Pat Likes

The anti-poverty campaign “ONE” recently launched a TV ad featuring an array of celebrities, including actor and eligible bachelor Brad Pitt, U2 front man and activist Bono, Christian musician Michael W. Smith, supermodel Claudia Schiffer, “Funk Pioneer and Chef” Isaac Hayes, Christian rock group Jars of Clay, Ugandan Nurse and Global AIDS activist Agnes Nyamayarwo, televangelist Pat Robertson, and Dikembe Mut… Wait, Pat Robertson?

Back in 2001, a columnist for The Washington Post unearthed some extremely interesting details about Pat Robertson’s investments. In 2003, Douglas Farah, who covered West Africa for the Post, resurrected the story about Robertson’s financial interests in the war-torn state of Liberia:

Part of the administration’s unwillingness to confront Taylor may be that the dictator still retains powerful and influential friends. Taylor’s staunchest defender is the Rev. Pat Robertson, owner of the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of ‘The 700 Club.’ Robertson has invested more than $ 8 million in a gold mine in Liberia under Freedom Gold Limited, registered in the Cayman Islands. In recent weeks Robertson, on his TV show, has been extolling Taylor’s virtues as a ‘fellow Baptist’ and ‘a fine Christian.’ In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Robertson, who has never been to Liberia and has never met Taylor, said Taylor’s indictment ‘is nonsense and should be quashed.’…Taylor ‘definitely has Christian sentiments, although you hear all these rumors that he’s done this and that,’ Robertson said.

Taylor, who was forced to get out of town as violence engulfed the Liberian capital, is now under guard in Nigeria and still reportedly causing trouble. He is wanted for war crimes in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where he contributed to the “deaths, rape, abduction and mutilation of thousands of civilians.” As a result of the civil war Taylor fueled, Sierra Leone was still ranked dead last in the 2004 UN Development Programme Human Development Index. Human Rights Watch continues to urge President Obasanjo to extradite Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. How could Robertson defend a war criminal like Charles Taylor who has blocked peace and development in two countries and claim to be for eradicating extreme poverty?

Maybe Pat Robertson’s signing of the ONE Campaign’s petition indicates he has finally noticed the many passages in the Old and New Testaments that decry poverty. He clearly didn’t catch that pesky sixth commandment about not killing anyone (and by logical extension, not doling out money to those who do).

— Jon Sherman