Mr. McDonnell's albatross

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RELIABLE NUMBERS are hard to come by, but at a very conservative guess there are tens of thousands of Muslims living in Virginia. Now one of the top financial donors to Robert F. McDonnell, the state's governor-elect, has smeared them all by saying that their faith is not a religion at all, but rather a "violent political system." Doesn't Mr. McDonnell owe them and other Virginians some reassurance that he doesn't share Pat Robertson's despicable view?

Over Mr. Robertson's long and tiresome years as a television talking head, his hate-filled and puerile utterings have been so copious that it has been a fool's game to grace each of them with a response. Why get in a sweat denouncing someone who says he'd like to plant a nuclear device in the State Department; that various mainstream Protestant denominations embody the spirit of the Antichrist; that Hinduism is "demonic"; and that Scotland is a "dark land" overrun by homosexuals? In general, the better retort to such drivel is disdainful silence and occasional laughter.

Yet beyond his broadcast blather, Mr. Robertson has injected himself into the public arena as a major financier for conservative political candidates, in particular for Mr. McDonnell. Mr. McDonnell has tried to have this arrangement both ways. On the one hand, he has bristled at journalists who have asked about his ties with Mr. Robertson, dismissing questions about their longstanding relationship as irrelevant and insignificant. On the other hand, he has gladly accepted Mr. Robertson's campaign cash in his various races for the Virginia legislature, state attorney general and governor -- donations that add up to $106,000 over the past decade, more than all but three individuals have given Mr. McDonnell. (And that doesn't count another $49,000 from Mr. Robertson's son and daughter-in-law.)

The fact is, the two men share a continuing personal and financial relationship. In addition to attending law school in the 1980s at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Mr. Robertson and named for his Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr. McDonnell served eight years as a trustee of the same institution after it was renamed Regent University. He was featured last year as the graduation speaker at Regent's law school, and has appeared as a guest on Mr. Robertson's TV show, "The 700 Club." On election night two weeks ago, Mr. Robertson said he was paying the candidate a call in his hotel suite as the results came in.

It's unfair to expect politicians to be held accountable for every asinine thing that a supporter happens to say. But in this case -- when the supporter is among Mr. McDonnell's most prominent associates, and the level of support is extremely high -- it's important to know that he is as disgusted by Mr. Robertson's casual bigotry as millions of his constituents are.

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