Televangelist Pat Robertson joined the chorus of religious leaders criticizing President Donald Trump for his “law and order” response to the nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Robertson, a television personality and onetime GOP presidential candidate, has been generally supportive of Trump during his administration, but he blasted the president’s approach to the protests in his opening remarks of his television show “The 700 Club” on Tuesday.
“It seems like now is the time to say, ‘I understand your pain, I want to comfort you, I think it’s time we love each other,’ ” said Robertson, 90. “But the president took a different course. He said, ‘I am the president of law and order,’ and he issued a heads-up.”
Robertson took issue with Trump’s remarks Monday on a conference call with U.S. governors, telling them they were weak.
“[The president] said, ‘I’m ready to send in military troops if the nation’s governors don’t act to quell the violence that has rocked American cities.’ In a matter of fact, he spoke of [the governors] as being jerks,” Robertson said. “You just don’t do that, Mr. President. It isn’t cool!”
Does the president have the authority to call out the troops, Robertson asked his listeners, rhetorically. You have to go back to pre-Civil War days to find an ordinance to grant him that authority, he answered.
“We are all one race and we need to love each other,” Robertson said, addressing the protests. He also warned that the mass gatherings could risk spreading the novel coronavirus.
Trump outraged major Catholic and Episcopal leaders Monday and Tuesday for staging photo opportunities in front St. John’s Episcopal Church, across from the White House, and a shrine to Pope John Paul II a few miles away in the District of Columbia. Most of his evangelical Christian backers, aside from Robertson, have continued to stand by him.
On Monday, at St. John’s, the president held up a Bible after delivering a speech emphasizing the importance of law and order. Authorities forcibly cleared protesters from the area around the church before his visit. His actions were blasted by the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, as well as many other religious leaders. Some of his supporters, however, saw strength in his response.
Then, on Tuesday, Trump visited a shrine to Pope John Paul II as a way to highlight an executive order he planned to sign on international religious freedom. That visit was sharply rebuked by the Catholic archbishop of Washington, who called it “baffling and reprehensible.”
Robertson helped spur the rise of the religious right in the 1980s and 1990s and has been influential among religious conservatives for decades. He is widely known for making controversial remarks on his show and predicting God’s judgment. In early 2017, after Trump’s administration began, Robertson suggested that those who were revolting against Trump were revolting against God.