Pat Robertson and his followers make a big deal about Operation Blessing, his longtime charity wing that makes all kinds of claims about all the good things they do. Critics have long accused him of using that charity to further his financial investments, especially in African mining. A new documentary provides evidence for those criticisms, like how they use images of charity efforts that don’t involve them to make it look like they’re doing all the important work:
One of the stranger sights of the refugee crisis that followed the 1994 Rwandan genocide was of stretcher-bearers rushing the dying to medical tents, with men running alongside reciting Bible verses to the withering patients.
The bulk of the thousands of doctors and nurses struggling to save lives – as about 40,000 people died of cholera – were volunteers for the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The Bible readers were hired by the American televangelist and former religious right presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, and his aid organisation, Operation Blessing International.
But on Robertson’s US television station, the Christian Broadcasting Network, that reality was reversed, as he raised millions of dollars from loyal followers by claiming Operation Blessing was at the forefront of the international response to the biggest refugee crisis of the decade. It’s a claim he continues to make, even though an official investigation into Robertson’s operation in Virginia accused him of “fraudulent and deceptive” claims when he was running an almost non-existent aid operation…
“It was the most important first medical shipment on the scene out of everything,” he said of one aid delivery as he appealed for donations.
In another broadcast, Robertson said Operation Blessing was saving thousands of lives.
“The death toll in this particular camp went down to almost zero because of our people being there,” he said.
Robertson claimed that Operation Blessing sent plane-loads of doctors.
“These are tents set up with our doctors and our medical teams that came from here to work as hard as they could to save lives,” Robertson said over pictures of a large tent of children on drips being tended by nurses and doctors.
But the film was of MSF medical staff at work. Operation Blessing had just one tent and a total of seven doctors.
And how those charity trips were used to transport mining equipment rather than doctors:
Robert Hinkle, the chief pilot for Operation Blessing in Zaire in 1994, said he received new orders. “They began asking me: can we haul a thousand-pound dredge over? I didn’t know what the dredging deal was about,” he said.
The documentary describes how dredges, used to suck up diamonds from river beds, were delivered hundreds of miles from the crisis in Goma to a private commercial firm, African Development Company, registered in Bermuda and wholly owned by Robertson. ADC held a mining concession near the town of Kamonia on the far side of the country.
“Mission after mission was always just getting eight-inch dredgers, six-inch dredgers … and food supplies, quads, jeeps, out to the diamond dredging operation outside of Kamonia,” Hinkle told the film-makers.
The pilot said he joined Operation Blessing to help people. Of the 40 flights he flew into Congo, just two delivered aid. The others were associated with the diamond mining. “We’re not doing anything for those people,” he said. “After several months I was embarrassed to have Operation Blessing on the airplane’s tail.”
Just another TV evangelist scam.