People Who Need to Retire: Pat Robertson Edition

The 700 Club host falsely asserted that gay men in San Francisco use special rings to give AIDS to unsuspecting people who shake their hands. What year is it?
CBN.com/YouTube

Dear people in public life: When you love your job, there is a nobility in working until you die, but retirement is a valid and respectable option, too. Someone needs to sit down with Pat Robertson and let him know that his views in 2013 don't sound conservative -- they sound like he has lost touch with the world as it is.

To wit, in remarks Tuesday on the 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network, the 83-year-old televangelist asserted that gay men in San Francisco use special rings to spread HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there, they want to get people, so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” Robertson said.

"Really?" asked his co-host, Terry Meeuwsen.

“Yeah, really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder," continued Roberts. "But anyhow.”

Robertson later clarified he was talking about something he was warned about decades ago, saying he regretted that his remarks were misunderstood and telling The Atlantic Wire: "In my own experience, our organization sponsored a meeting years ago in San Francisco where trained security officers warned me about shaking hands because, in those days, certain AIDS-infected activists were deliberately trying to infect people like me by virtue of rings which would cut fingers and transfer blood."
 
"In no wise were my remarks meant as an indictment of the homosexual community or, for that fact, to those infected with this dreadful disease," Roberts said.

There was at least one gay-activist effort in the past to get Christian conservative leaders sick. In 2000, Dan Savage wrote in detail in The Stranger about his efforts to give Gary Bauer the flu:

I go around the room licking doorknobs. They are filthy, no doubt, but there isn't time to find a rag to spit on. If for some reason I don't manage to get a pen from my mouth to Gary's hands at the conference, I want to seed his office with germs, get as many of his people sick as I can, and hopefully one of them will infect the candidate. I lick office doorknobs, bathroom doorknobs. When that's done, I start on the staplers, phones, and computer keyboards. Then I stand in the kitchen and lick the rims of all the clean coffee cups drying in the rack. I grab my coat and head out.

But there's no record of anyone trying to deliberately infect someone like Robertson with HIV. Maybe a security guard gave Robertson false information about gay men in San Francisco back in the deeply homophobic 1980s, and Robertson believed it all these years because it jibed with his suspicious view of  gays. This would have been during the era when Robertson routinely attacked AIDS funding and disparaged gays, one imagines. But why bring it up decades later as if it were something that (a) had ever happened and (b) was still happening? Robertson just seemed confused, and the 700 Club clipped the passage out of his show, according to Right Wing Watch.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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