Reporting from Washington — Conservative televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson on Wednesday linked the earthquake in Haiti to a "pact with the devil" purportedly entered into by the Haitian people in the late 18th century in a bid to defeat French colonizers.
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting Network show. "They were under the heel of the French . . . and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'
"True story. And the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal,' " Robertson said. "Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."
Hours after his comments ignited a firestorm in the news media and online, Robertson's "The 700 Club" TV show issued a statement elaborating on his remarks.
Robertson's comments were based "on the widely discussed 1791 slave rebellion . . . where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed," the statement said.
"Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God's wrath," the statement went on. It added that "Dr. Robertson's compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them."
The Haitian uprising is regarded as one of history's few successful slave revolts.
Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a 1988 Republican presidential candidate, has a history of making provocative comments, often in the wake of calamity.
He once said former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's incapacitating stroke was divine retribution for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Robertson seemed to link the storm to abortion. About the same time, he called on the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Robertson surmised that lack of prayer in public schools and tolerance of abortion and pornography meant that "God Almighty is lifting his protection from us."