Some Question Robertson's Katrina Charity

ByABC News
September 9, 2005, 7:41 PM

Sept. 9, 2005 — -- Charity and religious leaders are questioning why the Federal Emergency Management Agency designated Operation Blessing as the No. 2 charity for donations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Operation Blessing is the charity founded and still chaired by Pat Robertson, the politically well-connected television evangelist, who recently called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we've never had anything like this," Robertson told his audience. "Let's rally together and do what we can."

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government, through FEMA, issued a list of charities to which Americans should donate. On that list, Operation Blessing was only second to the American Red Cross.

Charity leaders say this FEMA recommendation is a huge boost for Robertson's charity.

"It could be worth tens of millions of dollars," said Richard Walden, president and founder of Operation USA, a non-governmental organization specializing in disaster relief.

However, as Robertson hosted his daily television show in Mississippi this week, other charity leaders were questioning why FEMA had recommended Robertson's operation and left others off the list, including Walden's Operation USA.

"I was shocked," said Walden upon seeing Robertson's charity so prominently displayed on the FEMA Web site. "It stuck out for a reason because of Pat Robertson's activities over the years."

Seven years ago, those activities led Virginia investigators to say there was evidence to prove Robertson "willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements." Robertson denied the allegations. He then personally reimbursed Operation Blessing. No action was taken.

"Based on their track record, I would say that, as an individual, I would not give to Operational Blessing," admitted the Rev. Charles Henderson, a Presbyterian minister, who is the executive director of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life.