White House Slams Limbaugh and Robertson on Haiti

You can really judge a right-wing leader by how he or she reacts to a humanitarian crisis. As Haitians were coping with the hellish earthquake, Pat Robertson claimed  that the island nation was hit by this disaster because it is “cursed.” And it is “cursed,” according to Robertson, because its people “swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.'” (Note to self: after every natural disaster, tune immediately to the 700 Club.) And Rush Limbaugh actually discouraged his listeners from contributing to relief for Haiti and pounded Obama for exploiting the tragedy in order to present himself as a humanitarian.

At Thursday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked to react to Robertson’s reading of history. He didn’t hesitate. He remarked, “It never ceases to amaze in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid.” As Gibbs was about to expand on that answer, several reporters in the room interrupted with questions on other issues. Gibbs didn’t come back to Robertson—and he said nothing about Limbaugh.

After Gibbs had taken the last question and was moving away from the podium, I shouted out a query about Limbaugh, asking what Gibbs thought about the conservative host trash-talking donations for Haitian relief. Referring to his earlier remark about Robertson, Gibbs called Limbaugh’s comment “really stupid.” He continued:

I don’t know how anybody could sit where he does, having enjoyed the success that he has, and not feel some measure of sorrow for what has happened in Haiti.  I think to use the power of your pulpit to try to convince those not to help their brothers and sisters is sad.

Fortunately, Gibbs added, “most people won’t listen, and instead will seek to help those that they know, because through no fault of their own, have suffered an unspeakable tragedy.”

After blaming Haitians’ past deal with the devil for their current misery, Robertson did try to back off—slightly. A Robertson spokesperson contended that Robertson had not said the earthquake was God’s revenge. (No, he had only suggested why God would want to take revenge.) Limbaugh, though, will likely not bother spinning his original comments, but he will certainly be tempted to respond to Gibbs’ admonition. Is it possible that Limbaugh sees the Haiti nightmare as just another front for his very profitable crusade against Obama?

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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.