‘The 700 Club’ host, Pat Robertson, dies at 93

Pat Robertson, the televangelist who helped turn Christian conservatives into a potent force in U.S. politics, died at age 93 at his Virginia home, the Christian Broadcasting Network said in a statement on Thursday.

Robertson founded the network in 1960 and hosted the flagship program “The 700 Club” for decades, offering prayers and political commentary. In 1980, the show helped galvanize support among Christian conservatives for Republican Ronald Reagan’s successful campaign for president.

Robertson unsuccessfully ran for president himself in 1988. He finished second in the Iowa caucuses largely by appealing to the state’s sizable evangelical population, a strategy that has since been standard practice for Republican presidential contenders in the Midwestern state.

Robertson also founded the Christian Coalition, the organisation that grew to be a pivotal player in Republican politics starting in the 1980s.

It provided endorsements and financial and organisational support to candidates who echoed their views on hot-button social issues like abortion, religious liberty and “traditional” values.

In 1988, Robertson campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination.

He finished second in the Iowa caucuses behind Kansas Senator Robert Dole, with the the support of the state’s large evangelical community.

Robertson’s White House run faltered after eventual nominee and president George HW Bush won the New Hampshire primary.

Despite the defeat, Robertson’s campaign – he came top in four state-nominating contests – demonstrated that evangelical Christians were a growing force in Republican politics.

The evangelical leader would go on to become a kingmaker in Republican politics for decades.

Robertson’s brand of religious-infused politics frequently generated controversy.

He was sharply criticised for appearing to blame American cultural liberalism – including the gay rights movement and abortion – for the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

In 2010, he claimed a devastating earthquake in Haiti was because its people made a “pact with the devil” during their fight for independence from France.

After Donald Trump was elected president, Robertson said those who opposed him were “revolting against what God’s plan is for America”.

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