GREENWOOD, S.C. — Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson said Monday that "somebody planned" the eruption of a sex scandal involving television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart two weeks before the Super Tuesday primaries. But he wouldn't say who he was talking about.
"Nothing happens to people by accident," Robertson, a former television evangelist, said in an interview with the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. "It is kind of funny this came up two weeks before the most important primaries in the nation. People probably wonder what went on."
Swaggart temporarily stepped down from the pulpit of his 7,500-member church in Baton Rouge, La., on Sunday amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
"I think somebody had something to do with it," Robertson said. "Somebody else planned all these things, I am afraid."
Robertson declined to say to whom he was referring, but said the "political efforts" will have little effect on his campaign because his supporters back him too strongly.
'Will Not Affect Me'
"It (the scandal) will not affect me because it has nothing whatsoever to do with me," he told the newspaper. "But I want to tell people to ask (Vice President) George Bush what he thinks about all this."
In the interview with the Anderson newspaper, Robertson accused the Bush campaign of "dirty politics" and "trickery" directed at his campaign, but offered no proof of such activity.
"I have been told of Bush's dirty tricks and I expect to see them in South Carolina," he said. "His campaign will use every kind of dirty trick against me because this state is important and I have a lot of support and George Bush knows that."
Bush campaign officials could not be reached to respond to Robertson's comments.
The Robertson campaign is concerned that fallout from the Swaggart affair may get in the way of Robertson's appeal to new voters. At the Town and Country shopping center in Easley, Kathleen Carmen said friends who support Robertson had urged her to come and listen to him. She said he was a good speaker but said she has "a long way to go" before supporting him. The Swaggart scandal, she said, "has a big hand" in making her reluctant.
Earlier, speaking in textile-dependent northwest South Carolina, Robertson escalated his effort to portray himself as a populist and Bush as a candidate of the wealthy establishment. Robertson is campaigning extensively in the state prior to the March 5 vote here, which he hopes will demonstrate his ability to win against Bush in a primary.
Eastern Bloc Loans
Robertson said Western banks have lent $120 billion to communist countries and that the countries refuse to repay the loans unless they are allowed to export huge amounts of textiles to this country. As a result, textile imports from the Soviet Union, Hungary and Zimbabwe have soared since January, 1986, while 300,000 U.S. textile jobs were lost, he said.
"George Bush has had eight years to come up with a textile policy," Robertson told a breakfast crowd at the Beacon drive-in restaurant here. "We haven't heard one word about textiles from him. Who does he represent? I'm not going to say--you can figure (it out) yourself, which side he's playing on in relation to the United States' interest. I'm for the American worker. . . ."
Outlining his textile policy, Robertson expressed support for congressional legislation that would limit foreign manufacturers to 52% of the total U.S. textile market. President Reagan vetoed similar legislation in 1986.
Staff writer Lee May in Spartanburg contributed to this story.