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September 6, 2005

Katrina Relief: FEMA Urges Donations to Pat Robertson

Listed in: Israel, Other Domestic Policy, Separation of Church and State, NJDC News

As we struggle to grasp the extent of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, please -- if you have not already done so -- consider making a charitable donation to help the victims of this disaster. Please click here to see a listing of Jewish relief funds established to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

As Republicans and Democrats alike continue to decry the slow federal response and lack of initial assistance to those profoundly affected by this disaster -- many of them impoverished -- an additional facet of FEMA's mishandling of this calamity has come to light.

We are now learning that in the hours following Katrina's landfall, FEMA -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency, now a part of the Department of Homeland Security -- rightly encouraged Americans to make charitable donations, but wrongly placed Pat Robertson at the top of that list.

Making matters worse is that as soon as this insult came under scrutiny, after millions of Americans had already been urged by FEMA to give to Robertson, FEMA began covering its tracks -- erasing any sign of its actions from its Internet site.

On August 29th, FEMA encouraged Americans to donate to three central charities on its web site -- the Red Cross, Operation Blessing, and America's Second Harvest. So what is Operation Blessing, and who are its leaders? A visit to Operation Blessing's web site lists "M.G. Robertson" as the Chairman, and Dede Robertson as Vice President. Who is "M.G. Robertson?" None other than Pat Robertson himself; Robertson's personal website identifies him as "M.G. Pat Robertson." And Dede? That's his wife.

This is of course the same Pat Robertson who urged the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez... the same Pat Robertson who intoned that God will judge Israel's leaders harshly for withdrawing from Gaza -- bringing sharp rebukes from the Anti-Defamation League and many, many others.

Operation Blessing tries to hide more than just its leadership, though; they would also be happy if we forgot some of what they've done. As reported two years ago, "...Operation Blessing's tax-exempt cargo planes were used almost exclusively for Roberton's diamond-mining operation [in Zaire], not for humanitarian purposes. A subsequent investigation by Virginia authorities turned up evidence for charging Operation Blessing with violations of the state's charitable solicitation law."

But within hours of Internet blogs reporting on FEMA's outrageous call to help Katrina's victims by donating to Pat Robertson, FEMA pulled the references to Robertson's group from their website. Not so fast: a snapshot of FEMA's central Katrina donation page, still live as of August 31st , can be viewed by clicking here.