Pat Robertson condones abortion in China

Plus: Mississippi reaffirms its Confederate roots; the Freudian Free Republic? And: Timothy McVeigh tells PETA they've got the wrong bomber.

By Anthony York
Published April 18, 2001 5:46PM (EDT)

Big buzz

In what might be the strangest story of the day, Pat Robertson condoned China's forced abortion policy as a means of birth control in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I don't agree with it. But at the same time, they've got 1.2 billion people, and they don't know what to do," Robertson told Blitzer. "If every family over there was allowed to have three or four children, the population would be completely unsustainable ... I think that right now they're doing what they have to do. I don't agree with the forced abortion, but I don't think the United States needs to interfere with what they're doing internally in this regard."

The reaction among conservatives was predictably befuddled. "I'm saddened and surprised," the Family Research Council's Charles Donovan tells the Washington Post. "This policy [of forced abortion] doesn't need comfort, and it certainly doesn't need comfort from a Christian and a conservative.

WorldNet Daily chimed in with a piece entitled, "Pat Robertson's Brain Abortion."

"Say WHAT???!" asked one poster. "Personally, I think Mr. Robertson is showing a weakness shared by many Americans--we simply do not know and do not care about Asia, in general."

Amid the outcry, Robertson tried to clarify his remarks with this press release:

"In an interview held with Wolf Blitzer and which aired on CNN Monday evening, I did not express my full conviction in regard to the question of population growth of mainland China. I have been and will always be strongly pro-life, and my teachings over the past forty years in private and in public reflect my deeply held convictions."

"In the CNN interview, I did not preface my remarks with my long-held view, but I merely expressed what to me seemed obvious ... that the Chinese people with a population of 1.2 billion will face a tragic dilemma of massive proportions if they permit their population to explode upwards of 2 billion people."

"The Chinese Government has by law restricted the birth rate to one child per family. Given their situation, intelligent family planning reflects an obvious necessity; however, I am unalterably opposed to the policy which would result in forced abortions or sex selection."

"I regret that my unrehearsed comments on Wolf Blitzer were not spoken with sufficient clarity to communicate my life-long opposition to voluntary and forced abortion as a means of population control."

But that didn't do much to settle down the Freepers. "Hey Pat...engage brain before operating mouth!" writes one.

Another chimes in with this: "I could not agree more. Pat is constantly embarrassing Conservative Christians with his outrageous and thoughtless comments. Pat may be "against" abortion, but if China "has no choice," then isn't he really tacitly supporting it? A typical Robertson doublespeak moment!

The fact is, Pat has thoughtlessly bought into Malthusian ideas about world population that are not just wickedly immoral, but have been shown by history and science to be wildly inaccurate.

His theology is so beholden to the Enlightenment and Kabalistic-styled mysticism, that he has almost become a whacky pseudo-pope! He really ought to retire from public, before he explains why another godless and murderous entity needs support!"

Weblines "Mississippi Votes to Keep Waving the Flag of the Confederacy: That's Bush Country for You" "Learning A Lesson From The Chinese"
Jonah Goldberg: "The Taxman Stinketh"
Andrew Sullivan: "Spielberg's Scouts"
Ted Gausmann: "Jiang Zemin, President Bush, and Elvis"

Anger management

The war over Southern flags is back in the news, this time in Mississippi. Mississippi voters Tuesday voted to keep their 107-year-old state flag, which contains the Confederate battle cross. Mississippi is now the only state to retain the symbol on its state flag.

"The distant rumble you are hearing is the sound of hundreds of thousands of Mississippians not giving a shit," writes one poster on "It's a state flag. It really just doesn't mean all that much. How many of you among Americans can recognize your own state flag?"

Other posters in the thread engaged in some good, ol' fashioned Dixie-bashing. "They have lot's more to be ashamed of before they get around to being ashamed of their flag," writes one.

On the Free Republic, the vote was interpreted as a sign of Mississippi's large collective genitalia. " Finally, a state with a pair big enough to tell the NAACP where to get off. Well done MS."

"Thank the Lord for the 'Redneck Riviera.'" writes another. "Beautiful beaches and men and women that love their country and state. They even know how to vote. No hanging chads there, just a big set of cojones."

Meanwhile, death row denizen Timothy McVeigh has responded to a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals demanding that his last meal be a vegetarian one. The letter from PETA was another nadir for the group in its shameless quest for a little ink. (Of course, we obliged.) And PETA's Bruce Friedrich, who wrote the letter, told the Washington Post he was surprised to get a response. But he did, so here it is:

"You gotta remember," McVeigh writes in the letter obtained by the Post, "this is meat-eatin' farm country; still, good job getting the attention to your cause (like protesting dead rats on 'Survivor') ... Truth is, I understand your cause -- I've seen slaughterhouses myself -- but I still believe in reasonable taking and eating of game (as an outdoorsman and hunter) ... My one main problem with the veg movements is this (besides the fact that I'm a libertarian): Where do you draw the line, and what standard is used to define that line? ... What about grubs/worms/etc.? (that chick on 'Survivor 2'). And finally, plants are alive, too: they react to stimuli (including 'pain'); have circulatory systems, etc.; so how about them? I cannot sustain a prolonged intellectual debate on the subject as my time is short, but I'd suggest hitting Ted Kaczynski up for his opinions on the subject."

Unfortunately for PETA, McVeigh is scheduled to die by lethal injection May 16.

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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