Charles Taylor, the Liberian president who has been indicted by an international court for crimes against humanity, has few remaining supporters in the United States. But one prominent American who has stuck with the West African leader is religious broadcaster and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson.
In recent broadcasts of his cable TV show "The 700 Club," watched by an estimated 1 million households, Robertson has defended Taylor as a fellow Baptist and Liberia's "freely elected" leader. The "horrible bloodbath" taking place in Liberia, he has repeatedly said, is the fault of the State Department.
"So we're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country. And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down,' " Robertson said to his viewers on Monday.
What Robertson, 73, has not discussed in these broadcasts is his financial interest in Liberia. In an interview yesterday, he said he has "written off in my own mind" an $8 million investment in a gold mining venture that he made four years ago under an agreement with Taylor's government.
Yet, he added: "Hope springs eternal. Once the dust has cleared on this thing, chances are there will be some investors from someplace who want to invest. If I could find some people to sell it to, I'd be more than delighted."...
In 1999, Americans United for Separation of Church & State, reporting on Robertson's Liberian venture, noted that this wasn't the first time he'd tried to make money in Africa:
Taylor’s critics say he is corrupt and is amassing personal wealth while his people suffer. They compare him to Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled for three decades in Congo (then known as Zaire), a country down the African coast from Liberia.
A few years ago Robertson struck a deal with Mobutu to do diamond-mining there. The venture eventually collapsed, but not before the religious broadcaster was accused of using airplanes from one of his charitable organizations in the for-profit jewel enterprise.
Two pilots told The Virginian-Pilot that planes sent to Zaire by Operation Blessing, a Robertson-founded relief agency, were used almost exclusively for the African Development Corporation (ADC), the Robertson company doing diamond-mining.
Robertson was investigated by the state of Virginia, which cleared him. He had given campaign contributions totaling $135,000 to Virginia's governor and attorney general.