New Governor can’t avoid controversy

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November 20, 2009

2:18 AM

Virginia Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell faces a wave of discontent over his relationship with minister Pat Robertson, most recently in reference to the minister’s latest pejorative comments about Islam. With the Fort Hood shooting still fresh in everyone’s mind, the Christian broadcaster’s remarks that Islam is not only “violent,” but “not a religion; it’s a political system bent on world domination,” reflect a dismal attitude a number of Americans seem to hold about Islam and put the governor-elect in a bind.

On Nov. 9, Robertson denounced Islam, which has 1.57 billion adherents worldwide, nearly 2.5 million of which reside in the United States, on his television program, “The 700 Club.” He used the recent shooting at Fort Hood to project the violent actions of Major Nidal Malik Hasan onto an entire religion. He also voiced generally misleading claims about Islam, which Christianity historically matches in violence.

McDonnell has moderated his formerly radically conservative opinions in his most recent campaign and is now distancing himself from the divisive minister who has been a significant donor to the politician’s campaigns. McDonnell attended law school at Regent University, which was founded by Robertson and formerly named CBN University after the Christian Broadcasting Network. He also received over $30,000 from Robertson for his gubernatorial campaign.

Robertson is standing by his statements while McDonnell has neglected to comment directly on this incident. His lack of response has disappointed many in the Muslim community, specifically here in Virginia. McDonnell has stated that he and Robertson only speak “once or twice a year.”

Is this the beginning of a pattern? Will McDonnell constantly face ridicule for his ties to the conservative televangelist, which he is trying to imply are weak? If Robertson’s past controversial remarks are any guide, he is sure to instigate another incident.

The question is: Will McDonnell be able to disassociate himself from the minister and the line of fire as he distanced himself from his formerly radical, conservative views on homosexuality and immorality in the United States? Robertson’s tendency to cause controversy with his rhetoric could cause McDonnell trouble throughout the next four years as McDonnell tries to maintain his identity as a moderate conservative. How long can McDonnell refuse to comment and do Virginians even want to hear a statement that completely disassociates McDonnell and Robertson? Would this be an admirable action or another episode to add to McDonnell’s list of questionable attitude changes? Virginia knew what it was getting when it elected McDonnell and maybe voters will accept yet another display of hollow backpedaling; but they shouldn’t. If McDonnell doesn’t agree with Robertson, he shouldn’t accept his donations. If he does, Virginians at least deserve to hear him say so. The political game of tug of war has, it would seem, only just begun for McDonnell.

E-mail Allegra Silcox at [email protected]

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