Rush, Robertson Take Heat
By: Andy Barr
January 14, 2010
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and televangelist Pat Robertson are being scolded for their comments in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake in Haiti that has killed tens of thousands, according to early estimates. Critics from both the left and right are denouncing their remarks as insensitive to the disaster and attempts to score political points off human tragedy.
Speaking on his radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh said the earthquake has played into Obama’s hands, allowing the president to look “compassionate” and “humanitarian” while at the same time bolstering his standing in both the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country.” He added: “We've already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”
Limbaugh’s comments were, in part, a riff on Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) much publicized remark in a new book that Obama was able to win the election because he is “light-skinned” and lacks a “Negro dialect.” But regardless of the intended context, Limbaugh’s comments have been widely panned.
“They are deeply insensitive,” said conservative commentator Pat Buchanan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The president speaks for the country when he says we’re going to go in there,” he said. “You want your whole nation, and it’s very positive. And I think Rush’s comments were cynical.” Sitting next to Buchanan on set, host Joe Scarborough called Limbaugh’s comments “deplorable.” “The insensitivity is stunning,” said the former Republican congressman.
Liberal commentators also quickly jumped on Limbaugh. “Limbaugh did not know when to just shut up,” said liberal commentator Keith Olbermann on his MSNBC show “Countdown.” “Today he blamed communism for the poverty of Haiti, blamed President Obama for holding a news conference the day after this cataclysm when he did not hold one after the failed half-assed terror attempt in Detroit.” John Amato from the left-leaning website Crooks and Liars added that “with thousands of people dead already and as the suffering continues in Haiti, Limbaugh and his ilk only care about one thing: destroying Obama.”
The conservative media watchdog site Newsbusters stepped up to defend Limbaugh, saying his comments were not put in proper context, but very few others are backing the conservative firebrand’s latest controversial remarks.
While Limbaugh received a modicum of support, nobody of note has stepped up to defend Robertson’s claim that Haiti got hit by an earthquake because it is “cursed.”
Speaking about the disaster during his program “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said that when Haiti was still a French colony its leaders “swore a pact to the devil” to get out from “under the heel of the French.” “They said, ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal,’” Robertson claimed, as was recorded and sent around by the liberal group Media Matters. “But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other,” he continued. “That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle on the one side is Haiti the other is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty.”
Robertson, who has a long history of making controversial remarks on his program, urged his followers to pray for the residents of Haiti and said that “out of this tragedy I’m optimistic something good may come.” Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said Thursday morning she was left “speechless” by Robertson’s remarks. “That's not the attitude that expresses the spirit of the president or the American people, so I thought it was a pretty stunning comment to make,” she said.
A statement from Robertson’s spokesman Chris Roslan tried to downplay the “cursed” remark. “Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath,” the statement read. “If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them. His humanitarian arm has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster.”
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