Across six decades in front of the camera, Pat Robertson brought his Pentecostal sensibilities and conservative politics into millions of living rooms as the pioneer of Christian television and the leader of the Christian Coalition.
The outspoken broadcaster died Thursday at age 93 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, home to his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and Regent University. Robertson signed off as host of CBN’s flagship program The 700 Club in 2021 at age 91, though he continued to appear on monthly Q&A segments.
During his TV career, the one-time Republican presidential candidate hopeful interviewed five US presidents and dozens of global leaders; prayed for millions of viewers; offered political predictions; and stirred controversy with his off-the-cuff commentary characterizing disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and the 9/11 attacks as God’s judgment.
Although his controversial remarks garnered a lot of attention in his later years, Robertson was also among the most influential evangelicals of the 20th century, with an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to do whatever he sensed was God’s will.
“Robertson has shaped three major religious developments: the charismatic renewal, Christian TV, and evangelical politics,” CT wrote in a 1996 profile of Robertson. “Together, these developments helped transform evangelicalism from a small, defended backwater to the leading force in American Christianity.”
Before CBN became the broadcasting powerhouse it is today—with a $300 million annual budget and a reach across 174 countries—it was a defunct Virginia television station and a call from God.
There was no successful model for Christian TV when Robertson bought a run-down facility in Portsmouth, Virginia, and launched WYAH-TV (named for Yahweh) in 1961. It aired three hours of programming each night from a single black-and-white camera. Those early years were exhausting, dizzying, and haphazard, but to the Pentecostal businessman, the station felt like a miracle.
CBN’s first telethon launched the “700 Club” in 1963, recruiting 700 viewers to pledge $10 a month to cover the station’s expenses; the show that took its name came three years later.
Robertson kept the station growing with more fundraising, more talent—evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker joined in ‘65—and new technology. The Praise the Lord (PTL) Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network followed.
Robertson became among the first TV executives to invest in satellite, allowing CBN to broadcast its annual telethon across 18 cities and launch a 24-hour cable network by 1977. Within a decade, CBN was in 9 million homes.
As CT reported in 1982, “CBN began replacing pulpits and King James English with Johnny Carson-style sofas and soap-opera vernacular. Its anchor show, The 700 Club, assumed an upbeat, magazine format, complete with news spots from Washington, D.C. Other programs resemble familiar TV Guide lineups, with a top-quality soap opera, early morning news and chatter, a miniseries on pornography, Wall Street analyses, and entertainment for children.”
While Robertson comfortably made his home on the CBN set, talking prayer and politics with charismatic flair, he had become a different sort of person than he was growing up a Southern Baptist in Lexington, Virginia, restless and largely uninterested in evangelistic faith.
Robertson was born Marion Gordon Robertson in 1930 and was nicknamed “Pat” for how his brother would pat his chubby cheeks. His father, A. Willis Robertson, was a US senator, and Pat Robertson enjoyed an elite education at Washington and Lee University and Yale Law School. He served two years in the Korean War.
After failing the bar exam and quitting a business job in New York, he set out to become a minister, a decision that confused his devout mother back home in Virginia. She connected him with a Dutch missionary named Cornelius Vanderbreggen. Robertson went to dinner with Vanderbreggen in Philadelphia and cringed when he shared a gospel tract with their waiter and read the Bible at the table.
But secretly, Robertson had been studying Scripture and began to sense God speaking to him through it. He made a confession of faith to Vanderbreggen that he later saw as his own conversion “from swinger to saint.” In that moment, he said, he transitioned from religious assent to the existence of God to a saving relationship with his heavenly Father.
He surprised his wife, Dede, with his convert’s zeal—he poured their expensive scotch down the drain; left her pregnant with their second child while he attended a month-long InterVarsity conference; and eventually sold their furniture and moved their family of five into one and a half rooms in a shared apartment in Brooklyn, inspired by Luke 12:33’s command to “sell your possessions and give to the poor.” His first job in ministry was at Bayside Community Church on Long Island.
In his late 20s, Robertson attended Biblical Seminary in Manhattan, joining a group of devoted believers who prayed, fasted, and dedicated themselves to seeking God while ministering among the poor. He went on prayer retreats with classmates who included Eugene Peterson. Robertson and the “Christian Soldiers” preached on street corners when Billy Graham came to the city in 1957. They met with Guideposts editor Ruth Stafford Peale and prayed in tongues for revival, inspiring two seminal books from the charismatic renewal, They Speak with Other Tongues and The Cross and the Switchblade.
“I had now walked into the Book of Acts and was no longer a spectator but an active participant in the works of a miracle-making God,” Robertson said.
Robertson left New York for his Virginia hometown after graduating in 1959. In Lexington, he had the opportunity to preach 15-minute radio segments and learned of a TV station for sale five hours away in Portsmouth. When his family moved down, he didn’t even have a TV set, “just $70 and a vision of establishing the first Christian television network in the United States,” his biography reads. He preached at local churches to get by before the network got running; some would give him a $5 honorarium, and one paid him in a 70-pound bag of soybeans.
Many of Robertson’s ventures follow this pattern of him hearing a call from God and launching a project in response.
“I wanted to be part of God’s plan, and his plan is for world evangelization and to bring millions to the kingdom, and he’s let me be part of it,” Robertson said.
He said God spoke to him over lunch (half a cantaloupe and cottage cheese) to build a school for his glory, and in 1977 he bought 70 acres in Virginia Beach for CBN University, later Regent. Seventy-seven students enrolled in its first year.
The next year at Christmas, he said God spoke to him to “proclaim a simple message of salvation” as he would send his Spirit all over the world and millions would respond. He launched what would become CBN International. Today, 90 percent of the network’s viewers come from outside of the US.
Reading the promise of blessing in Isaiah 58 led him to found the humanitarian charity Operation Blessing in 1978; the ministry has gone on to aid people in 90 countries and territories.
And it was also with God’s call in mind that Robertson entered the political arena. He returned to the Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone where he had once lived in New York to declare his presidential candidacy in 1987.
Even before his run, Christian viewers recognized Robertson’s interest in politics, some with excitement and some with caution. He’d joked that the Senate, where his father served decades as a conservative southern Democrat, would be a demotion, but the presidency would be a “lateral move” from his post at CBN.
Christianity Today wrote about the early buzz around Robertson’s presidential ambitions in ‘85:
He is intensely interested in educating Christians about public affairs and stirring their enthusiasm for political involvement. He believes America faces a crossroads where family values and faith in God could lose out to statism and hedonism. Running for President will not guarantee Robertson a term in the White House, but it will almost certainly mean that the presidential candidates in 1988 will not be able to dismiss moral issues that matter to Christians.
In the early ’80s, Robertson began dedicating the first half hour of The 700 Club to public affairs, having become increasingly concerned about secularism and threats to religious freedom, like restrictions on prayer in schools. He saw the show’s content shift as a response to government overreach. “It isn’t that we’re getting into politics,” he said. “They’re getting into religion.”
Robertson said he viewed the presidency as a way to continue his calling to serve. Despite a second-place finish in the early Iowa caucuses, he lost on Super Tuesday and dropped out, endorsing George H. W. Bush. After the race, he wrote in The Plan that he saw a deeper purpose in his failed White House run.
Could it be that the reason for my candidacy has been fulfilled in the activation of tens of thousands of evangelical Christians into government? For the first time in recent history, patriotic, pro-family Christians learned the simple techniques of effective party-organizing and successful campaigning. Their presence as an active force in American politics may result ultimately in at least one of America’s major political parties taking on a profoundly Christian outlook in its platforms and party structure.
He built on that momentum by launching the Christian Coalition, which rallied evangelical voters and distributed voting guides to churches starting in 1989. The following year, he also founded a “pro-family, pro-liberty, and pro-life” law firm, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
Part of a larger Religious Right movement, the coalition saw that some conservative evangelicals agreed with its conservative positions but remained reticent to declare a Christian stance on issues that didn’t have a clear biblical mandate. It also fought for a decade with the federal government over its nonpartisan guides and eventually lost its tax-exempt status.
Robertson saw himself as an evangelical with a charismatic gift and ecumenical outlook, once saying, “As far as the majesty of worship, I’m an Episcopalian; as far as a belief in the sovereignty of God, I’m Presbyterian; in terms of holiness, I’m a Methodist … in terms of the priesthood of believers and baptism, I’m a Baptist; in terms of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I’m a Pentecostal, so I’m a little bit of all of them.”
Fellow Christians frequently challenged (or rolled their eyes at) some of the declarations Robertson made on air over the years, as he commented on current events and answered viewers’ questions. He called for the US to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He defended divorcing a wife with Alzheimer’s. He predicted Donald Trump’s victory and didn’t accept Trump’s 2020 defeat until a week after Joe Biden was declared the winner.
“Pat Robertson was part of a tradition of Christian evangelicals who had a shrewd sense of media as a tool for reaching audiences,” said Michael Longinow, professor of digital journalism and media at Biola University. “His tendency to bring off-the-cuff statements that were incendiary also follows a tradition—albeit tragic—of Christian evangelicals who mingled the gospel with political perspective.”
Love or hate Robertson, his reach is hard to ignore. The 700 Club airs in 97 percent of TV markets in the US and is among the longest-running shows in history.
On his website, Robertson listed “starting companies/financial transactions” as one of his hobbies, and his success in that arena goes beyond CBN. He founded International Family Entertainment Inc., the parent company of the Family Channel, which was sold in 1997 for $1.9 billion. Balancing his financial success and call, Robertson said, “I realized God did not want me to be a billionaire investor. He wanted me as a humble servant who depended on Him and wanted to walk in His ways.”
Robertson’s wife of 67 years, Dede, died in 2022. He is survived by two sons, two daughters, 14 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren. His son Gordon Robertson is CEO of CBN and the host and executive producer of The 700 Club.
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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Pat Robertson, a religious broadcaster who turned a tiny Virginia station into the global Christian Broadcasting Network, tried a run for president and helped make religion central to Republican Party politics in America through his Christian Coalition, has died. He was 93.How much did Pat Robertson sell CBN for? ›
So in 1990, CBN sold the network to a company headed by Robertson and his son, Tim, for $250 million. CBN remained a stockholder.What religion was Pat Robertson? ›
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths", which Robertson considered being the "guiding principle" of his life. He was ordained as a minister of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1961.Who is the founder of 700 Club? ›
He was a major force in Republican Party politics and helped to spread the Christian faith around the world. Pat Robertson, original name Marion Gordon Robertson, (born March 22, 1930, Lexington, Virginia, U.S.—died June 8, 2023, Virginia Beach, Virginia), American evangelist who was noted for his conservative views.What religion are the Duck Dynasty guys? ›
The Robertsons are known for their long beards and their conservative, Evangelical Christian views which is why the show is often considered to be a part of Christian media.Do the Robertsons still go to church? ›
All the Robertsons are longtime, active members of the White's Ferry Road church, which meets just a few miles from the Duck Commander/Buck Commander warehouse in this northeast Louisiana town of 13,000.Does The 700 Club still exist? ›
“The 700 Club will continue to air now and in perpetuity on the network, no matter what the name.”Who owns CBN? ›
The cable network prospered during the 1980s and was renamed the CBN Family Channel in 1988. In 1990 the cable network was sold to International Family Entertainment, Inc. IFE was subsequently sold to Fox Kids Worldwide, Inc., which sold the Fox Family Channel to The Walt Disney Company.Where did Pat Robertson get his money? ›
He created a multilevel marketing business selling overpriced vitamins and a protein powder called The American Whey. CBN pushed the products on its website as part of Robertson's anti-aging regiment, asking, “Did you know Pat Robertson can leg press 2,000 pounds!
Television talk show dedicated to bringing uplifting stories, exciting guests, breaking news, and much more from a Christian perspective. Television talk show dedicated to bringing uplifting stories, exciting guests, breaking news, and much more from a Christian perspective.
What was Pat Robertson's Net Worth? Pat Robertson was an American media mogul, Christian televangelist, and former Southern Baptist minister who had a net worth of $100 million at the time of his passing.Is The 700 Club religious? ›
After the telethon in 1966, The 700 Club continued as a nightly, two-hour Christian variety program of music, preaching, group prayer, Bible study, and interview segments. The music was hymns, instrumental pieces, southern gospel music, and urban gospel music.How much does 700 club make? ›
How much does a 700 Club make? As of May 31, 2023, the average annual pay for a 700 Club in the United States is $34,214 a year.How many people were in The 700 Club? ›
Of the more than 20,000 players who have participated in an MLB game, Pujols joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth as one of only four AL/NL players to have reached 700 homers. Here is a quick look at that short list of legends. No player went from 600 to 700 home runs quicker than Bonds.What Bible do the Robertsons use? ›
The Duck Commander® Faith and Family Bible unleashes the power of their practical insight into critical faith issues, founded on God's Word. Features include: Full text of the New King James Version Bible. A personal welcome note from Phil and Al Robertson.What is the Duck Dynasty DNA scandal? ›
Phyllis explained that she discovered that she had a different father than her siblings after her son did a commercial DNA test to learn more about his ancestry. When he got the results back, both he and Phyllis noticed that they didn't correlate with what their family had always told them about their ethnicity.What is the evangelical denomination? ›
Evangelicals take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.Do the Robertsons drink alcohol? ›
They've run afoul of Christian groups
Robertson's alcoholic past has clearly affected him and his family—and drinking has continued to have an impact on their financial bottom line. In 2013, son Willie Robertson launched his brand of Duck Commander Wines, sold online and at the finest Walmarts for $10 a bottle.
Turning back to Phil Robertson and the Duck Commander® duck call, Mr. Robertson made the tough choice early on in a market where there were a lot of competitors making duck calls. He invested in patents when he was just starting his company and making duck calls by hand in a shed in Louisiana.Were any of the Robertsons in the military? ›
Photo of the day: Silas Robertson served in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. You may know him as Uncle Si on the hit TV show Duck Dynasty, which had a season premiere last night. Thank you for your service, Si! 12,427 people like this.
On October 6, 2015, Disney–ABC Television Group announced that ABC Family would be rebranded as Freeform. Ascheim explained that "Freeform" was intended to represent how "becomers" are in the "formation" of their lives and that the brand would reflect a participatory experience for viewers across multiple platforms.Who is Pat Robertson's wife? ›
Adelia Robertson (née Elmer; December 3, 1927 – April 19, 2022) was an American author, nurse, and evangelical Christian activist. She was the wife of Christian evangelical televangelist Pat Robertson.When did Wendy Griffith get married? ›
It wasn't love at first sight, but Bill pursued me and my heart melted. I know that, as women, God has made our hearts to be pursued.” Wendy and Bill were engaged just over a year from the time of their first meeting, and married on 9 February 2019. Wendy was 54 when she became a bride.How old is Pat Robertson? › Is Superbook Catholic or Protestant? ›
Superbook was created by our protestant brothers and sisters. Their videos are high quality and very entertaining.Why did Ben kinchlow leave The 700 Club? ›
He also found time to produce and host the special program “Straight Talk” and the daily one-hour radio talk show “Taking It To The Streets.” In 1996, he departed “The 700 Club” to pursue an independent ministry. “I'm not sure that people are aware of the privilege of living in America,” Kinchlow once said.What is the name of the richest pastor in the world? ›
Without a doubt, Kenneth Copeland is the richest pastor in the world right now. The Kenneth Copeland Ministries was founded by him. Due to the fact that he has three private planes, which he primarily uses for vacations and trips to resorts, he is renowned for leading an ostentatious and extravagant lifestyle.How much property does the Robertsons own? ›
DUCK Dynasty star Phil and Kay Robertson own a seven-acre Louisiana compound featuring two mansions and views of the river. Phil, 75, and Kay, 74, live in West Monroe, Louisiana, and often filmed on their massive compound for A&E's Duck Dynasty before the show firing.Why is Duck Dynasty so rich? ›
A former college quarterback from Monroe, La., Robertson gave up a coaching career for his love of duck hunting when he discovered he could whittle a better duck call than any on the market -- a move that eventually made him millions of dollars and earned his family their own reality TV series.Which church denomination has the largest number of followers? ›
Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity with 1.345 billion, and the Catholic Church is the largest among churches.
The cowboy church movement itself is non-denominational, and originally the churches themselves were independent and non-denominational. Some still are. But the majority ascribe to Southern Baptist theology, and still others affiliate with Church of the Nazarene, United Methodists, and Assemblies of God.What denomination is IHOP? ›
|International House of Prayer|
Generally speaking, when someone divorces a spouse with dementia or Alzheimer's, they will file a no-fault or irreconcilable divorce. If you are divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's, dementia, or some sort of cognitive decline, it's important to be aware that your divorce may take longer.Is Pat Robertson still married? ›
(AP) — Dede Robertson, the wife of religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and a founding board member of the Christian Broadcasting Network, died Tuesday at her home in Virginia Beach, the network said in a statement.Is Pat Robertson married? › Does Pat Robertson have children? ›
Jerry Falwell net worth: Jerry Falwell was an American evangelical Southern Baptist pastor, political commentator, and televangelist who had a net worth of $10 million. Jerry Falwell was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in August 1933 and passed away in May 2007.What religion is the faith of the seven based on? ›
The Faith's central doctrine that there is one god who has seven aspects—the Father, the Mother, the Maiden, the Crone, the Smith, the Warrior, and the Stranger—is based on the Catholic belief that there is one God who has three aspects: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.What kind of religion is Alliance Church? ›
The Alliance World Fellowship or Christian and Missionary Alliance (The Alliance, also C&MA and CMA) is an international evangelical Protestant Christian denomination within the Higher Life movement of Christianity, teaching a modified form of Keswickian theology.
More than half of Salt Lake City's inhabitants are Mormons. Walking around the area, visitors will often run into missionaries offering to take them on a tour. Utah's capital city is clean, well planned and a little boring. Historical and religious reminders of Mormonism are to be found throughout the city.Who are the members of The 700 Club? ›
All-Time Greats: Stan Musial, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Oscar Charleston, Ken Griffey Jr, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, ...Who bought 700 Club? ›
The channel was then sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2001, which renamed it as ABC Family, later renaming it again to Freeform.) On March 24, 1999, the inaugural live broadcast of The 700 Club Asia aired.Is The 700 Club Republican or Democrat? ›
|Television||The 700 Club (1966–2021)|
|Spouse||Dede Elmer ( m. 1954; died 2022)|
|Children||4, including Gordon|
Barry Bonds holds the Major League Baseball home run record with 762. He passed Hank Aaron, who hit 755, on August 7, 2007. The only other players to have hit 700 or more are Babe Ruth with 714, and Albert Pujols with 703.Does Disney own The 700 Club? ›
“The 700 Club will continue to air on Freeform,” the network said in a statement. “It was part of a longstanding agreement that was made when Disney first acquired the network.” That will continue to make for strange bedfellows.What church does Duck Dynasty go to? ›
It's perhaps most on display at the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, where the Robertson family prays and preaches most Sunday mornings.What denomination is Willie Robertson? ›
Robertson is known for his Christian faith and often preaches about it to others. He is a member of the Churches of Christ.What denomination is Gordon Robertson? ›
|Parent(s)||Pat Robertson Adelia Elmer|
|Relatives||Absalom Willis Robertson (grandfather)|
|Offices held||Member, Board of Directors, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)|
Robertson is a devout Christian, a member of and elder at the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, and is outspoken about his beliefs.
|Leader||Gerald R. Flurry|
Willie Robertson is the CEO of Duck Commander and Buck Commander and star of A&E's “Duck Dynasty”.What denomination is a Pentecostal church? ›
Pentecostalism or classical Pentecostalism is a Protestant Charismatic Christian movement that emphasizes direct personal experience of God through baptism with the Holy Spirit.What kind of religion is The 700 Club? ›
The 700 Club is the flagship television program of the Christian Broadcasting Network, airing each weekday in syndication in the United States and available worldwide on CBN.com. The news magazine program features live guests, daily news, contemporary music, testimonies, and Christian ministry.What denomination is All Nations Church? ›
ALL NATIONS COMMUNITY CHURCH IS A MEMBER OF THE CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH, A DENOMINATION THAT AFFIRMS THE BELGIC CONFESSION, THE CANONS OF DORT AND THE HEIDELBERG CATECHISM AS OUR CONFESSIONS OF FAITH.