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Tuesday, August 23, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Robertson: U.S. should 'take out' Venezuela's Chavez

Christian broadcaster calls leader 'a terrific danger'

(CNN) -- Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has called for the United States to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him "a terrific danger" bent on exporting Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas.

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson told viewers on his "The 700 Club" show Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Robertson, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, called Chavez "a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said. "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Robertson accused Chavez, a left-wing populist with close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, of trying to make Venezuela "a launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent."

"This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen," he said.

Chavez has said he believes the United States is trying to assassinate him, vowing that Venezuela, which accounts for more than 10 percent of U.S. oil imports, would shut off the flow of oil if that happens.

Robertson's comments Monday were the latest in a string of controversial remarks in recent years by the religious broadcaster and founder of the Christian Coalition.

Last October, during the heat of the presidential race, Robertson told CNN that during a meeting with President Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq, the president told him he did not believe there would be casualties. The White House strongly denied the claim.

In May, during an ABC interview, Robertson ignited a firestorm with his response to a question about whether activist judges were more of a threat to America than terrorists.

"If they look over the course of 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," he said.

Defending his remarks in a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Robertson insisted he was not being cavalier about the 9/11 attacks. But he also refused to apologize, saying Supreme Court rulings on abortion, religious expression in the public square, pornography and same-sex marriage "are all of themselves graver dangers in the decades to come than the terrorists which our great nation has defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq."

In October 2003, Robertson, criticizing the State Department during an interview on "The 700 Club," said "maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up," referring to the nickname for the department's headquarters in Washington.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the remark "despicable."

In July 2003, Robertson asked his audience to pray for three justices to retire from the Supreme Court so they could be replaced with more conservative jurists. "One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition," he said.

Robertson insisted he was only calling for prayers for the justices to retire and was not asking his followers to pray for their demise.

In November 2002, Robertson charged that the Muslim holy book, the Quran, incites followers to kill people of other faiths and disputed Bush's characterization of Islam as a religion of peace.

"It's clear from the teachings of the Quran and also from the history of Islam that it's anything but peaceful," Robertson said in a subsequent interview with CNN. "Of course there are peace-loving Muslims. But at the same time, at the core of this religion ... is jihad, and it is to subject the unbelievers either to forced conversion or death. That's what it teaches."

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