Pat Robertson is a televangelist icon who has long been approaching the expiration date of his relevance. During his height of his powers in the healthier days of the conservative Moral Majority, he wielded considerable influence. Nowadays, he’s that 85-year-old man you might see on the TV who can remind you how embarrassingly uncreative Christian-far-right demagoguery has become.
He recently blamed a false alarm of financial disaster on Planned Parenthood. Like any good Christian man, he has called for at least one assassination of a foreign leader. He thinks the gays loved Hitler. He’s also been accused of exploiting Rwandans, post-genocide, for diamonds and profit, so there’s that.
More recently, the televangelist decided to diagnose women in the military as sadomasochistic freaks.
“The feminists have gotten to a point where women are going to be drafted and put into combat units,” Robertson said on The 700 Club on Thursday. “Why would any woman in her right mind want that?”
He went on to posit that, “maybe there’s a masochistic thing [these women in combat] want,” and that it’s like “bondage, that’s Fifty Shades of Grey squared.”
He concluded with, “you’re looking at somebody that’s been there, done that. It ain’t something for a woman.” (Robertson is referring to his military record, which looks less impressive when you factor in the old allegations, which Robertson denies, that he used his Senator daddy’s influence to avoid combat duty in the Korean War.)
Okay, this is Pat Robertson we’re talking about here, so these comments come as absolutely no surprise. (He has said reliably mean things about Fifty Shades and women in combat before, but this is the first time he’s connected the two.)
However, we thought we’d give some veterans of the American armed forces a chance to respond.
“I mean…was he doing Fifty Shades of Grey stuff when he was in the military?” Emily Miller, who served in the Army as an engineer officer in Iraq and as a cultural support team member in Afghanistan, asked The Daily Beast.
“It’s ridiculous,” she continued. “Women have been on the frontlines in the past 10…years of war, and they’ve done a fantastic job. We need them. Having women on special ops teams, going on night raids, added tremendous value to the team. We were able to capture high-level terrorists after talking to women and children. And women want to be [in combat].”
Miller was on the team featured in the book Ashley’s War, which is set to be adapted into a film.
“[Robertson] sounds like a little bit delusional,” Miller said. “War is not an easy thing to do, but to make the leap to Fifty Shades and masochism, that’s…uncalled for. I mean, I’ve lived the experience, and dispelled the myth. People like Pat Robertson can talked all day long about what they think about this, but when you have women who’ve actually done it, it’s hard to refute someone with that first-hand evidence.”
Nathan Fletcher, a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War who sits on the national advisory board for Truman National Security Project, was less even less generous toward the elderly televangelist, slamming his comments as “shockingly disgraceful.”
“It’s disgusting—in one statement, a man demonstrates his intolerance of not just women but anyone in uniform,” Fletcher said. “It’s the epitome of ignorance and intolerance…I don’t know what his experience was, but this misguided tough-talk on the military [comes] from a guy who ran to his daddy to avoid combat.”
John Rodriguez, an Afghanistan vet who was on active duty in the Army for six years, largely concurs.
“It’s pretty clear to me that it’s disrespectful to the women who are serving in the military who have fought, and have been killed or wounded, in combat,” Rodriguez said. “His statement has really no basis in fact whatsoever.” (He later recalled that “one of the ballsiest helicopter pilots I ever worked with was a woman.”)
“There are people who think we’re gonna place Rambo with some dainty flower,” he said. “That is not the case…Many of these women are complete badasses, so why can’t they [fight]? The women who are serving are serving for the same reasons the men serve…That’s it. That’s why they’re serving.”