On Pat Robertson His Defenders

In its February 2 issue, The New York Review published my article on Pat Robertson’s 1991 book, The New World Order.1 In it, I showed that the founder and the leader of the Christian Coalition proposes that modern world history has been largely determined by a two-centuries-old conspiracy by Bavarian Illuminati, Freemasons, Communists, and Wall Street financiers. Central to the conspiracy has been a succession of Jews, ranging from eighteenth-century Rothschilds in Frankfurt to Moses Hess and the American banker Paul Warburg.

Instead of responding immediately, the Christian Coalition initially remained silent, perhaps in order to avoid drawing further attention to my exposure of its leader’s bizarre views. I was attacked at once, however, by my former colleagues in conservative publications. The editors of National Review, in the February 6 issue, alleged that “the liberal establishment,” upset by the November election results, got me “to do a hit on Pat Robertson.” (For the record, I submitted my first draft as an unsolicited article to this magazine last summer, before anyone envisioned a Republican sweep of Congress; I had had no contact with its editors until that point.)

The editors of National Review went on to acknowledge that Robertson’s book was a “farrago,” but offered several reasons to excuse Robertson, whom they portrayed as a harmless eccentric with monetary obsessions—“Paranoia about bankers runs deep in the American mind.” According to National Review, “Robertson’s writings have…gotten a free pass because they are not part of his political pitch. Robertson did not mention them on the hustings of Iowa” when he ran for President in 1988.2 If, as a general rule, crackpot political figures should be immune from criticism when they manage to conceal their bizarre views, it follows that National Review and the national Republican Party were wrong to condemn David Duke’s campaign as a Republican for the Louisiana governorship a few years ago, because the former Klan leader, in his public statements, stressed only conventional Republican issues, not his views about race.

My former friend and mentor William F. Buckley, Jr., returned to these themes in a subsequent column, in which he described me as someone who, overreacting to the religious right, had done “everything to repudiate his own past except change his name”—something which he knows is not true.3 While doing his best to make me look unreasonable, Buckley tried to make Robertson appear reasonable, asserting that Robertson is not anti-Semitic. The latter point, Buckley assured his readers, has been established by Midge Decter, who absolved Robertson of anti-Semitism in a Commentary article of last year, the very article I discussed in my essay.4

In her Commentary article, Midge Decter claimed that Robertson, and the religious right in general, are the victims of a smear campaign by the Anti-Defamation League and adherents of the “liberal left.” Ms. Decter’s defense of Robertson was particularly surprising, when we consider that a few years ago, when the late conservative thinker Russell Kirk accused neoconservatives of confusing Tel Aviv…

This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!

View Offer

Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.

If you are already a subscriber, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account.