Pat Robertson steps down as host of long-running ‘700 Club’

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Pat Robertson, who turned a tiny Virginia television station into a global religious broadcasting network, is stepping down after a half-century running the “700 Club” on daily TV, the Christian Broadcasting Network announced on Friday.

Robertson, 91, said in a statement that he hosted the network’s flagship program for the last time on Friday, and that his son Gordon Robertson will take over the weekday show starting Monday.

“I will no longer be the host of the ‘700 Club,’” Robertson said on the show Friday, although he vowed to return from time to time, if he’s had a “revelation” he needs to share. “I thank God for everyone that’s been involved. And I want to thank all of you.”

Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network started airing on Oct. 1, 1961 after he bought a bankrupt UHF television station in Portsmouth, Virginia. The “700 Club” began production in 1966.

Now based in Virginia Beach, CBN says its outreach extends to more than 100 countries and territories in dozens of languages through TV and video evangelism, online ministry and prayer centers. The “700 Club” talk show can be seen in the vast majority of U.S. television markets.

“Pat Robertson had an enormous impact on both American religion and American politics,” said John C. Green, an emeritus political science professor at The University of Akron.

One of Robertson’s innovations with the “700 Club” was to use the secular talk-show format, which was a break from more traditional broadcasts of revival meetings or church services.

“Here’s a well educated person having sophisticated conversations with a wide variety of guests on a wide variety of topics,” Green said. “It was with a religious inflection to be sure. But it was an approach that took up everyday concerns.”

Robertson attracted a large audience and went on to have several U.S. presidents as guests, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, the network said.

Robertson was the son of a U.S. senator and received a law degree from Yale. He ran for president in 1988 and also founded the Christian Coalition, galvanizing American evangelicals into a conservative political force.

“He opened up a path that many people have followed,” Green said. “Surveys show that lots and lots of people view — in one format or another — religious broadcasting these days. But in politics, I think what he did was help cement the alliance between conservative Christians and the Republican Party.”

As “700 Club” host, Robertson sometimes found himself in hot water for his on-air pronouncements. In 2005, he called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town not to be surprised if disaster struck them because they voted out school board members who favored teaching “intelligent design.”

But Robertson also called for ending mandatory prison sentences for marijuana possession convictions. He later said on “The 700 Club” that marijuana should be legalized and treated like alcohol because the government’s war on drugs had failed.

After President Trump lost to Joe Biden in 2020, Robertson said Trump was living in an “alternate realty” and should “move on,” news outlets reported.

Robertson will still appear on a monthly, interactive episode of The 700 Club and will come on the program “occasionally as news warrants,” the network said.

Gordon Robertson, 63, is a Yale-educated former real estate lawyer who is less known than his father, if at all controversial. He is chief executive of CBN and has served as executive producer of the “700 Club” for 20 years, and even longer as a co-host. He’s also been hosting a show called “700 Club Interactive.”

He told The Associated Press on Friday that viewers should expect little to change about the show, which airs live from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays.

The younger Robertson said he hopes to host politicians from both sides of the aisle, while focusing on news and other topics from a Christian perspective.

He said he always wanted the show to be “a beacon of light of what can happen when people get together and say, ‘Let’s do some good in the world today.’”

“Let’s feed the poor,” he continued. “Let’s clothe the naked. Let’s give shelter to people in need. When disasters strike, let’s strike back with love and compassion.”

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This story has been corrected. Gordon’s surname is Robertson, not Peterson.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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