It always good to see, if you're a fan of boxing, who loves the sport and wants to see it remain healthy, to see a fighter get some press outside the normal channels. When a boxer goes on a "Dancing With the Stars," that has the potential to grow the fighters' fanbase immensely, right? A growing and vibrant sport is beneficial to all of us who love it and make a living off of it.
So on surface, it's seemed a good thing that Robert Guerrero, who fights Floyd Mayweather on May 4 in Las Vegas, appeared on "The 700 Club," the show hosted by evangelical leader Pat Robertson.
But if you're not familiar with Mr. Robertson (seen in above Hogan Photo, flanked by Casey and Robert Guerrero), who is tellingly described in his Wikipedia intro as "An American media mogul, executive chairman, and a former Southern Baptist minister, who generally supports conservative Christian ideals," you might not be inclined to applaud Guerrero's decision to be on Robertson's show.
Especially if you're gay.
Or a feminist. Or a pacifist. Or a Haitian.
Fight fans by and large know that the 29-year-old Guerrero, a Gilroy, CA resident with a 31-1 record, a fetching back-story and humble spirit- warrior persona, isn't shy about proclaiming his faith.
On Twitter, his mini-bio tells you that he is a "Big believer in Jesus Christ." Which is completely admirable, it should go without saying. A belief in a higher power is a most powerful salve in a frequently cruel and indecipherable world. And considering the man has been right there with his wife Casey, who has battled leukemia, and is currently and thankfully clear of cancer, no one in their right mind would judge him for latching on to a belief system and regimen to stay right minded.
Casual boxing fans and sports fans who rarely give a second look at the sweet science are learning about Guerrero, and assessing his chances at handing the 36-year-old Mayweather (43-0) his first loss as a pro in Las Vegas, in a bout to be shown on Showtime pay-per-view. The hype machine for that MGM Grand tussle is humming, and kicking into third gear now. A release went out on Sunday, Palm Sunday, which talked about Guerrero's Monday appearance with Robertson.
"I'm very excited that I'll be able to use my platform in boxing to talk about my faith in Jesus Christ who has guided me to this incredible position," Guerrero said in that release. "At the same time I'll bring awareness to the bone-marrow registry. I want everyone to check out www.knockoutbloodcancer.org and join me in my quest to help save lives. On May 4th the world will see me dethrone Floyd Mayweather and everyone won't understand what happened, except those who believe in the power of Christ. As the bible verse Philippians 4:13 states "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."
Let me digress, slightly, by informing you where I'm coming from on this matter. Personally, I've tried to be a follower, tried to believe, but have found it's not for me. I'm more of the Bill Maher school, though I wouldn't indulge in his pointed takedowns and mockery of believers, as I feel that if you weigh out the good and the bad, faith and worship does more to lift up souls than drag them down. My outlook on organized religion has become more entrenched in the last 10 or so years with each and every scandalous and disgusting revelation of rape and sexual abuse committed by priests the world over, so many of which were swept under the rug by church higher-ups, allowing vile predators to prey upon young innocents over a span of decades. I have a hard time conceiving there is a Heaven that the good ones will spend eternity in when their time on earth is done, but less difficulty picturing a Hell where supposed ambassadors for spiritual wellness who have abused their standing in such shocking and shameful a manner will reside after dying.
Which leads me back to Robertson. No, he hasn't been accused of molestation. But if you dig into his past, he has repeatedly voiced judgements, accusations and insinuations that scream bigotry and bias, and could leave any but a loyal adherent wondering if the man is possessed by demons who are seeking to undermine the import of his brand of Christianity. I do not know how much Guerrero, the six time champ in four weight divisions, a beyond-solid citizen who one and all can't help but root for, for his strength of character in and outside of the ring, knew about Robertson heading into his date with the tele-preacher. I wish, I guess, I had the time to collect all the forthcoming Robertson-isms and had forwarded them to Guerrero before he accepted the invite.
Robertson appeared on many radar screens when he ran to secure the Republican nomination for President in 1988. Then the head of the Christian Broadcasting Network, he wasn't casually dismissed as a fringe player by more voters than some might think when it was widely reported that he'd bragged that God had performed miracles at his request, and that he had been spoken to directly by both God and Satan. (I will resist the temptation to joke that he sometimes seems to listen a little bit harder to the whispers of Satan.) His CV, which included a law degree from Yale, and the fact that his dad was a Senator from Virginia, helped some on the fence decide that there was enough there to overlook some of his more "out there" behavior and viewpoints. He picked up support from the odd boxing fan when he said that he was a Golden Gloves boxer in Tennessee, where he lived as a high schooler. But more potential supporters bailed on him when it came out that his first child was born ten weeks after he and wife Dede Elmer were married, in 1954. "Judge not, lest ye be judged," some voters thought to themselves of the man who railed against premarital sex to the tune of $200 million a year grosses as head of the TV network-informercial platform.
I am guessing--and I don't know, as a DM to Guerrero on Twitter Sunday night asking if he was aware of Robertson's total history went unanswered--that Guerrero likely doesn't know much or all of Robertson's history, or, I have to think, it's possible that he might not have accepted the invitation to appear on "The 700 Club." And really, what the man did back in 1988, if he's been walking a straight and narrow path and acting in a manner Jesus, were he to return, would approve of, is probably not germane to the present. (And, it could be argued, that it is not incumbent on Guerrero to agree with, explicitly or tacitly, all or even most of what Robertson stands for, as it is more important for him to spread his message about the bone marrow registry, rather than dismiss platforms to educate the public about it.)
That said, for those curious about Robertson as a result of Guerrero's visit to the show, the televangelist was the second-to-last man standing in 1988 Republican primaries. Vice President George Bush repelled the challenge of 1992 nominee Bob Dole, and Robertson threw a scare into both of them, by carrying four states, to Dole's 5, and Bush's 41. Citizens were put off by what a sincere vetting of the man found, yet he did not melt into the background, put off by the national rebuff. Perhaps he was uplifted by the understanding that any dirt clinging to him from past misdeeds paled in comparison to the brand smeared on fellow fraternity boys Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.
In Match 1987, Bakker, big on the "prosperity theology" scene, resigned from his "Praise the Lord" ministry after a payoff scandal with then secretary Jessica Hahn came to light, and in 1989, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison for fraud.
In February 1988, televangelists again were under the microscope after Louisiana-born Pentecost preacher Jimmy Swaggart, beset by accusations that he'd recently consorted with a prostitute, went on TV and weepily admitted, "I have sinned against you, my Lord." He didn't specify how, or with who, but that came to light a bit later. Ironically, it had been Swaggart who'd ratted out Bakker to Bakker's bosses. Swaggart shrugged off the knockdown blow, and returned to his pulpit, but was again felled in 1991, when another hooker was linked to him. He'd been busted in a traffic stop, with an admitted sex worker. To his flock, Swaggart said, "The Lord told me it's flat none of your business," but he stepped down from his post. He took a hiatus, but was back in the pulpit in 2004, talking about the "asinine stupidity of men marrying men. I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm going to be blunt and plain, if one ever looks at me like that I'm going to kill him and tell God he died," as many in the pews chuckled and clapped. A backlash ensured, and the preacher countered that his remarks were a "humorous statement," and that he was joking. Today, he heads the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, preaches with his son and grandson, and hasn't been embroiled in any hooker scandals since.
Televangelists can tend to blend together, if the only time one pauses to consider them is when they pop up in one scandal or another. Robertson is not to be confused with the late Jerry Falwell, who headed up "The Moral Majority," was for many years the leader in that space, and said right after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen."'
We could touch on similar preacher scandals long enough to fill a book, but since it is Robertson that Guerrero chose to chat with, let's get the focus back on him, the man whose mission statement is, "I want to be part of God's plan of what He is doing on earth, and I want to bring Him glory."
Guerrero was born in 1983, so one couldn't expect him to recall the 1992 disclosure that Robertson wrote a fund-raising letter which made clear he opposed an equal rights amendment to potentially be inserted into the Iowa constitution. The amendment would have barred sex discrimination; in his letter, Robertson wrote, "it is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
A bias against homosexuals has been a persistent theme for the leader of the Christian Coalition. “Since our nation was founded, we have discriminated against certain things," he told viewers in 1993. "We discriminate against kidnappers. We discriminate against murderers. We discriminate against thieves...There are laws that prohibit that kind of conduct. And there have been laws since the founding of our country against what are considered unnatural sex acts, sex between members of the same sex." Then, "If the world accepts homosexuality as its norm and if it moves the entire world in that regard, the whole world is then going to be sitting like Sodom and Gomorrah before a Holy God. And when the wrath of God comes on this earth, we will all be guilty and we will all suffer for it," he told viewers in 1995. "The acceptance of homosexuality is the last step in the decline of Gentile civilization," he said on TV in 1998.
The anti-gay campaign drew wide attention in 1998, when Robertson, taking umbrage that Disney World didn't spurn attendees to "Gay Days," an annual gathering in that state, said on air, "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you." Homosexuality "will bring about terrorist bombs, it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor," he continued. When called on his message of hate and division, Robertson would protest that he wasn't preaching hate, but rather "redemption." Was that any solace to a gay man or woman who might not have the emotional armor sufficient to shrug off the babblings of such a hate monger?
He didn't seem to care for the heterosexual practices of then President Bill Clinton, either. Robertson publicly praised politicians who voted to impeach the President for declining to admit publicly his private transgression, a dalliance with a White House intern. This sort of behavior perhaps made it easier for the IRS, in mid 1999, to deny the Christian Coalition's struggle to win tax-exempt status. (Here is the IRS' current wording on how they determine if a church can rightly operate under tax exempt status: "(A church) may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.")
Robertson has been a boon for pharma companies who peddle pills to combat high blood pressure, I'm betting. Heading into the year 2000, Robertson preached about impending doomsday, and chaos and crisis. Tune in to me, buy my books and videos, and I will ferry you through the murky waters, he counseled. And pad my bank account, he maybe should have added.
Robertson was branded an "agent of intolerance" and "a force of evil" by Senator John McCain, running to gain to the Republican nomination in 2000, but McCain days later backed off, and said he was speaking in jest.
Robertson drew hard looks from folks who found it hard to believe the tout, which his CBN crew put out in early 2002, that he'd leg-pressed 2,000 pounds. The claim tied in with his push to sell a new product, Pat's Diet Shake. "My hope and prayer is that you'll find a healthier and more joyful life, fit for the Kingdom and the Master's use," Robertson, then age 72, said on Patsshake.com. "God bless you!"
Ads for the product were sometimes paired with a reference to "Dr." Pat Robertson, which would no doubt sway some buyers who figured he owned a medical degree, which he did and does not.
Here is the copy on CBN.com which touches on the miracle leg lift.
"One Saturday morning, his physician said, “I’ll get you bragging rights. Let’s go to 2,000 pounds.” Then he worked up multiple reps of 1,400 pounds, 1,500 pounds, 1,600 pounds, 1,700, pounds, 1,800 pounds and 1,900 pounds. When 2,000 pounds was put on the machine two men got on either side and helped push the load up, and then let it down on Mr. Robertson, who pushed it up one rep and let it go back down again. Mr. Robertson warms up now at 500 pounds, and was shown on television with Kristi Watts doing 1000 pounds. His doctor, by the way, has leg pressed 2,700 pounds. It is not nearly as hard as the authors of these reports make it out to be. We have multiple witnesses to the 2,000 pound leg press, plus video of the 10 reps of 1,000 pounds."
The world record for leg press is up for debate, as one can set the incline at different angles, and range of motion can vary, but eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman has maintained that his leg press of 2,300 pounds in 2009 is a world record. Does Robertson's boast pass your sniff test? Never mind why the Robertson feat wasn't taped and promoted, as if it were, he'd see a massive uptick in sales. Of course, if any of the "multiple witnesses" wish to contact me, and provide video proof, I will stand corrected.
The Reverend next stepped in it when he made this remark on his show about Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez: "I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop." It is mind-boggling that a "man of God" would lobby for the assassination of anyone, even a dictator, but somehow, Robertson's latest controversy didn't result in the cancellation of his show or noticeable reduction in his empire.
He was Robertson the meteorologist when in May 2006 he said, "If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms." He again went into predictor mode in January 2007, saying there would be a massive terrorist strike in the US in late 2007. "I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that...I put these things out with humility," he added, after stoking terror in the hearts of sad souls who give credence to his messaging. Months later, he coincidentally or not endorsed former NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for President in the 2008 race.
There was more doom and gloom and predictions of horrific unrest to start 2008, and he hinted that God told him who would win the 2008 race. "He told me some things about the election," he said, but didn't want to share, because he'd draw the scorn of the media. Robertson did just that when he said that a "pact to the devil" brought on the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti which killed more than 220,000 people.
He horrified even some of his faithful followers when in September 2011 he opined that it was OK to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's, as long as you made sure you provided "custodial care" for the afflicted. Some unfamiliar with his history of verbal missteps wondered if he was beginning to lose his mental faculties. This theory gained steam when he implied that author Paula Broadwell initiated an affair with US general David Petraeus, the former CIA director, and that the General was unable to resist the charms of the seductress. In the minds of some, the dementia theory was cemented when in mid January, Robertson weighed in when told about a teen who asked for advice on how to cope with his dad's inattention to his mom. "It may be your mom isn't as sweet as you think she is," he said. Robertson then went on to relay a story about a preacher who'd told a woman who complained to him that her hubby had started drinking that he'd drink to if married to her. Why? Because she was overweight and wore rattty clothes. "You've got to fix yourself up, look pretty," said this man of God.
So that's a short list of Robertson's greatest hits, a collection of behavior and verbalizations that could charitably be described as "eyebrow raising."
The host didn't offer any of those trademarked gaffes on Monday, when the boxer Guerrero and wife Casey went on his set. "I was a heavyweight Golden Gloves boxer," said the 83-year-old host, setting up the package. Co-host Terri Meeuwsen offered an intro to the segment, which told of Casey Guerrero's fight against leukemia. She was diagnosed in 2007, and the cancer had entered her brain. She got a bone marrow transplant, survived that 50-50 roll of the dice, and this morning sat next to the fighter in-studio.
The boxer said that he was enjoying life, as a champion and husband and father, and then his wife was stricken. "It was the hardest blow I ever took," he said, of learning that the gal he'd been with since age 14 was so ill. The boxer, calling himself "a devout Christian," said that he took a break from boxing so he could put his full attention on his wife. Casey said she had faith that God would heal her, and her hubby said the ordeal strengthened his belief in prayer. "Prayer is more effective than any chemo, in anything out there," he declared.
Guerrero said he was taking on "the biggest fighter on the planet" on May 4, and presented Mayweather as being all about fame, fortune and trappings of fame. "He's a very talented guy but I have faith in the Lord that he's put me in this position for a reason," he said. Robertson chimed in, asking Guerrero how he'd be able to beat Floyd. "He's tough!" Robertson said. "How you gonna handle it?"
Guerrero said he worked out every day and "I give it all I got, because the Lord's blessed me with a tremendous talent and I got to go out there and be a shining light with that talent." Robertson asked if he was rusty, and Guerrero said he fought recently (he beat Andre Berto on Nov. 24, 2012, in a rugged rumble which earned him loads of new fans, who took to his in-your-face tactics) and he's ready to "show the world how great is God."
"Amen, that's tremendous testimony, exciting, May the fourth, Floyd Mayweather, that'll be a biggie," Robertson said.
I do wish there were more and better platforms for Guerrero to advertise his heart-warming story, which I admire so. That Robertson, who has persistently demonized and degraded so many folks for the infraction of being born with a preference for the romantic company of their same sex, is still seen as any sort of leader in that realm is slightly depressing. But people who agree with me can be uplifted by the knowledge that time is on our side. Bigots like Robertson dwindle in numbers every day and young hearts, who understand that one's sexual preference is nobody's business but their own, replace the throwback thinkers.
A Twitter follower, a fellow boxing writer, asked me if there was any difference in a fighter being a convert of a Robertson, or a hip-hop star who has advocated violence, murder and misogyny. Good question. Yes, it is a night and day difference, because Robertson is still seen as a spiritual leader, someone we look to to learn from, that we look up to. A spiritual leader is supposed to be a role model, and if this man is someone who purports to follow the teachings of Jesus, I think he's gotten lost somewhere along the line. No version of Jesus I can conceive of would believe that a catastrophic hurricane was dispatched in divine retribution for a devil's pact. I think the lines are fairly clear to all involved what Pat Robertson's role in society is, or should be, and what 50 Cent's is.
One might get to this point in the article and say, OK, that's all well and good, but I'm a boxing fan, I'm a sports fan. I don't really care about Pat Robertson. I read and watch sports so I can avoid the dark and depressing aspects of the world. Understood. But how has our collective drift toward ignoring the dark and depressing, the almost constant immersion into entertainment, served us? If more people watched the news, and not funny cat videos, then perhaps there would be more righteous anger about what plagues our nation today. Maybe more people would be inclined to be activists, to push the lawmakers and powers that be to raise wages for the common laborer, for health care in this richest nation in the world to be seen as a right, and not a privilege for the top tier, to see that cynical puppeteers are setting Red and Blue Staters against each other, nudging them to go at each others' throats over issues like abortion and gay marriage and gun control, while they preside over a gargantuan transfer of wealth to the 1%. Friends, if you are going to watch sports to distract yourself from the real world ugliness, from the seemingly pointless political goings on, I have news for you--that is present everywhere. It is present in the sports you watch, which is presented by about six different gargantuan media conglomerates which own the bulk of the platforms, and insure that there is a uniformity of viewpoint, which helps keep their messaging on point.
Bottom line: I think highly of Robert Guerrero, as a boxer and human being who has stood tall and done the right thing, bigtime, by his wife and family. I'm always hopeful that fighters like him, who have so many elements of a positive role model in them, get more attention, so the sport can grow. But a Pat Robertson, with a decades-long record as a divider of people, a merchant of menacing fear and bias, doesn't deserve to have a person the quality of Guerrero appear on his platform. Guerrero is better than that. Robertson is not.
Feel free to follow Woods on Twitter here.