Rooney On Robertson: TV Preacher Is 'Wacko'

CBS News "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney has proclaimed that TV evangelist Pat Robertson is a "wacko."

Rooney, commenting on recent religion stories in the media during the Feb. 22 broadcast of "60 Minutes," noted that Robertson had recently announced that God told him President George W. Bush would be re-elected in a "blowout." Rooney also noted the controversy over actor Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ."

"I heard from God just the other night," quipped Rooney. "God always seems to call at night. 'Andrew,' God said to me he always calls me Andrew I like that. 'Andrew, you have the eyes and ears of a lot of people. I wish you'd tell your viewers that both Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson strike me as wackos. I believe that's one of your current words. They're crazy as bedbugs, another earthly expression.'"

Continued Rooney, "God said to me that, 'I think I'd remember if I'd ever talked to Pat Robertson and I'd remember if I said Bush would get reelected in a blow-out.'"

Rooney concluded by asking, "My own question to Pat Robertson is this: The election looks as though it could be close, certainly not a blow-out. If George W. Bush loses the election to a Democrat, will you become an atheist?"

Officials at CBS later said viewer response to the piece was very high, calling it "several times the normal feedback."

At first, Robertson appeared to take the comments in stride, saying on his "700 Club" Feb. 23, "I am very happy to be linked by Andy Rooney to a talented genius of the order of Mel Gibson."

But Robertson's response soon took a more ominous turn. Appearing on Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes" March 3, Robertson remarked, "But really a person like Andy shouldn't do that. That's dangerous ground when you start. It isn't just mocking me, it was mocking God, you know, when [Rooney said] God told me he makes bedbugs. I mean, you don't assault the Creator and get away with it. And I don't know what will happen, but he was just on dangerous ground."

Later Robertson added, "You know, Andy's Andy, and I'm afraid his days on television are probably numbered. He's getting kind of old and tired."

At this point, cohost Sean Hannity broke in to say, "All right. I sense forgiveness in your heart, Pat."

Robertson replied, "Oh, sure."

In other news about Robertson:

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Robertson and Jerry Falwell took heat for suggesting on Robertson's show that the incident occurred because Americans have turned away from God. Although he distanced himself from those comments at the time, the televangelist has now returned to that view.

In a recent interview with the website www.beliefnet.com, Robertson blamed the most inflammatory Sept. 13 comments on Jerry Falwell. He added, "But I felt that in a sense the terrorist attacks showed that God had lifted his hand of protection. I think 9/11 at least in part showed that God hadn't been invited to the party, that our nation had scorned Him. Then we say 'God Bless America,' but it's like, 'How is He going to bless us?'"

Asked if God could choose to stop protecting America, Robertson replied, "Well, of course he can."

Robertson also reiterated his belief that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation," but said he doubts the country is Christian any longer.

"We've welcomed people from all over the world," Robertson said. "And we've given them freedom. But there's no reason why we should abdicate our foundational principles because certain groups don't believe in them. You know, no majority should surrender its deeply held beliefs to those who don't believe in anything. And it's one thing to give people freedom and something else to deny the rights of Christians to assert their faith in order to keep Hindus from feeling upset."