When I wrote last night, the only coverage of Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came from Media Matters, a few bloggers, and a short AP story that had been picked up by fewer than 20 news outlets. The blogger stories and the AP story all seemed to ultimately have been based on the Media Matters transcript. This morning hundreds of news outlets have stories and many have done some legwork of their own to dig up some background and fill out the story. Most encouraging is that in official Washington even the Republicans are condemning Robertson's words.
For example, the State Department:
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Robertson is a private citizen and that his views do not reflect U.S. policy.
"We do not share his view and his comments are inappropriate," he said.
U.S. Senators Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota and Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, said a call by U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson for the U.S. government to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was "irresponsible" and "incredibly stupid."
The senators, visiting Brazil to meet with government and business leaders, spoke with reporters today in Rio de Janeiro.
"It was an incredibly stupid statement and has no reflection on reality," said Coleman, the chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations subcommittee on the western hemisphere. "I met with President Chavez on my last visit a couple of months ago and he related that concern to me, about how the U.S. was out to assassinate him. I told him not to lose any sleep about it."
Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law.
Okay, that's hardly an unequivicable condemnation, but it's Rumsfeld. Interestingly enough, "unequivicable" is exactly the word the AP uses for it.
I want to emphasize that my point is not merely to giggle at a noted figure on the Religious Right getting himself in hot water for saying something "incredibly stupid." Though I do also want to do that. My main point is that Robertson is not a harmless loud-mouth. Robertson runs a media operation large enough to be called a network. He has a daily audience of over a million for his comments, and most of those million take him very seriously. Robertson is also big enough to be taken seriously on the international stage. He has influenced American foreign policy in the past and this time he has managed to cause an international incident.
The important thing to remember about a loose cannon is that it is first of all a cannon and capable of causing severe damage.