VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson apologized Wednesday for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, hours after he denied saying Chavez should be killed.
"Is it right to call for assassination?" Robertson said. "No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him."
Chavez, whose country is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush. He accuses the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.
On Monday's telecast of his Christian Broadcasting Network show "The 700 Club," Robertson said: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that 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."
He continued: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200-billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
On Wednesday, he initially denied having called for Chavez to be killed, and said Associated Press had misinterpreted his remarks.
"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out,' " Robertson said on his show. " 'Take him out' could be a number of things, including kidnapping."
He later issued the apology on his website.
On Tuesday, the State Department called Robertson's remarks "inappropriate."