Robertson Assails Press Admits Backdated Wedding

Posted: October 09, 1987

Angered by the public disclosure that his first son had been conceived out of wedlock, Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson yesterday denounced the news media's treatment of the story as "outrageous" and ''reprehensible."

While conceding the accuracy of the reports, the former television evangelist said during a heated news conference in Philadelphia that he was being subjected to "press pillory" and a "terribly intrusive" invasion of privacy.

But he predicted that neither would harm his week-old campaign.

"It is outrageous to intrude into a man's family and to try to do damage to a man's wife and children under the guise of journalism," said Robertson, who was a Southern Baptist minister until he resigned last week to run for president.

"To dig back to somebody's family 33 years ago and try to resurrect some skeleton is in my estimation outrageous because the skeleton isn't there," he said.

Robertson, his face flushed with anger, also rejected news stories suggesting that his resume, his books and his speeches are replete with exaggerations and misrepresentations about his past.

"I don't need to embellish my record," said Robertson, 57. "I have enough record to last me a lifetime of accomplishment to the poor, to the needy, to the world."

Later, though, he conceded that his public relations people and book publishers might have been "a tad sloppy" in describing his past. Earlier resumes cited "graduate study" at the University of London, where he in fact took one summertime introductory arts course, and membership on the "board of directors" of a Virginia bank, when he actually participated on a local advisory board.

In an interview last night on ABC's news program Nightline, Robertson characterized the controversy as "much ado about nothing."

"The sharks are beginning to have a feeding frenzy, but the blood isn't in the water," he said. "I'm not going down on this one."

Robertson, whose presidential campaign is based largely on a call for a national moral and spiritual revival, spent much of the news conference in Philadelphia venting his outrage at the press, particularly the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

On Tuesday, the Journal revealed that Robertson's wife, Dede, had been pregnant at the time of their marriage. Yesterday, the Post disclosed that Robertson had lied about the date of his wedding - predating it by more than five months - to cover up that fact.

Robertson said that he and his wife had always considered March 22, 1954, to be the day they were married - even though they were not legally wed until Aug. 27, 1954. He explained that they chose the March date, his birthday, to protect the reputation of their first son who, he said, was conceived on that day.

In announcing his candidacy last week, the founder and former president of the Christian Broadcasting Network told his followers: "We must encourage our children to take the institution of marriage very seriously and to bring back the old-fashioned concept of moral restraint and abstinence before marriage."

Asked whether he thought his political prospects would be damaged by his admission, Robertson insisted that "this isn't going to have one bit of impact negatively on me because the people who support me understand forgiveness."

"I think it'll probably enhance rather than diminish (my campaign)

because people are saying, 'Is this guy flesh and blood? Is he a real honest- to-goodness human being?' And the answer is yes."

Robertson made the point that he has not claimed to have lived a sin-free life, especially in the years before he had a "life-changing experience with Jesus Christ."

"I have never, ever, indicated that in the early part of my life I didn't sow some wild oats," he said. "I sowed plenty of them. But I also said that Jesus Christ came into my life, changed my life and forgave me."

He said he resented being asked to perform what he called a "moral and intellectual striptease"; he said it violated his constitutional rights.

Later, at a news conference in Lancaster, Robertson tried to make a clear distinction between his current difficulties and the allegations that ended the candidacies of Democrats Gary Hart and Joseph R. Biden Jr.

"If you can find anything in my life in 30 years that would be even vaguely approaching what Gary Hart did, I'll be glad to get out of the race," Robertson said, before addressing 900 people at a $100-a-plate fund-raising dinner.

During a 41-minute speech at the dinner, he made no specific mention of the character issue, only a veiled reference to "extracurricular activities when I was a college student," a reference that won laughter.

Before this week, several other aspects of Robertson's past have been in dispute. The most notable was his military record.

Robertson sued former Rep. Pete McCloskey (R., Calif.) for libel after McCloskey charged that Robertson had used the political influence of his late father, a one-time U.S. senator from Virginia, to avoid combat duty during the Korean War.

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