Quite a number of months ago, back when I was posting the What You Need To Know three times a week instead of one, I made an editorial rule for myself that I would not mention Pat Robertson on The Bilerico Project. Today I'm going to have to break that rule.
I stopped covering the progressively more disjointed, and frankly insane things that Mr. Robertson was saying for one simple reason: reporting on Pat Robertson just started to feel... mean. I'm not ok with that, and at this point, I don't think you should be either.
Let me tell you why.
Over the span of the man's long career as a Christian broadcaster and right-wing political activist, he has caused immense harm to the LGBT community, and I imagine a great many of us would not have been sad to see him hit by a piece of falling space debris. However, I truly believe that he is in fact suffering a far worse fate. Watching Pat Robertson over the past few years, it's hard to ignore the possibility that he has been slowly descending into some form of dementia.
Way back around '06 when he was claiming that he could leg press 2000lbs, it seemed that his claims had reached a new level of preposterousness, which is a tall order for a man with a pretty stunning track record of inaccurate predictions about the future. Even back then, I remember that the question of whether this was Pat Robertson trying to scam people, or Pat Robertson starting to loose his shit coming up in conversations with friends. In retrospect, I believe it was a bit of both.
As stories of Robertson's rantings, particularly those accompanied by videos, passed over my screen as I sifted stories for the WYNTK, I couldn't escape the thought that he seemed to be a man less and less in touch with reality in way having little or nothing to do with his faith.
And now he may have crossed a critical rubicon as far as public reception goes. On his signature show, the 700 Club, yesterday Pat Robertson asserted that gay men in San Francisco use a special sharpened ring to cut people during handshakes in order to infect them with HIV.
Honestly, this sounds more like an Onion headline: "Pat Robertson Says Gays Use Secret Handshake To Spread AIDS" than a serious claim. This of course doesn't mean that a distressingly high number of his viewers won't take it seriously, they will, and that should scare us. We can ill afford to get fixated on Pat Robertson and loose sight of those younger, and more cognizant faithful, who have been raised on his poisonous brand of religion.
That said, it is worth noting that the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which carries his show, chose to edit Robertson's whacky gay-handshake comments out of yesterday's program before uploading it to their website. This shows that they are aware that this particularly kind of scare-tactic has become a weapon that stands to cause more harm to them than to our community. Moreover, it demonstrates that Pat Robertson's power and influence are on the decline within the network that he himself founded.
Regardless of what may be seen as his deteriorating mental state, it's safe to assume that Robertson will stay on the air for some time to come, although I would be unsurprised if CBN began cutting down on his schedule. As a community, it may be time for us to resolve to simply ignore him from here on out. Let him slide into absurdist obscurity all on his own.
After all, it would be an ugly irony for the LGBT community to be perceived as bullying a senile old man after enduring decades of his abuse.
We can raise our cups to his decline in private if it makes us happy, but I'd love to see us stop talking about and reporting on what he says and does. The gods know he hasn't earned a shred of our pity or kindness, but pragmatically, it may be in our best interest to show some anyway.