PHILADELPHIA, OCT. 8 -- Republican presidential candidate Marion G. (Pat) Robertson said today it is "outrageous" and "reprehensible" for the news media to make news out of the fact that he conceived his first child out of wedlock 33 years ago, then fudged on his anniversary date to "protect his family." He said, however, that he expected the revelation to help his candidacy.
"I think that to intrude into a man's family life and to try and hurt a person's wife and children is outrageous," Robertson told reporters after a campaign appearance here.
He added, "I think the American people want to know that they will have a president who hurts like they do, who understands their problems and one who is a person that is very much human, but who also understands forgiveness."
Robertson publicly disclosed his real wedding date -- Aug. 27, 1954 -- for the first time last week to a Wall Street Journal reporter who was writing a profile of him. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that before that disclosure -- and as recently as this summer in an interview with a Post reporter -- Robertson has always maintained that he was married on March 22, 1954.
Robertson said the out-of-wedlock conception occurred before "Jesus Christ came into my life 31 years ago . . . . I have never, never indicated that in the early part of my life, I didn't sow some wild oats. I sowed plenty of them."
He also denied that he has ever misstated or embellished other facts of his life, as reported in The Post and other newspapers. "My life has been filled with enough honors and distinctions that I have plaques covering an entire wall. I don't need to embellish anything . . . and I have never done that."
The Post has reported that, either in official resumes or public statements in recent years, Robertson has claimed to be a board member of a United Virginia Bank when he only serves on a community advisory board; that he claimed to have done graduate study at the University of London when in fact he took a summer arts course there; that he has claimed to have served "in combat" and "as a combat officer" in Korea when he was an administrative officer in a Marine unit, but never fired a weapon on the battlefield or engaged in active combat.
Political analysts disagree over whether the revelations would damage Robertson, 57, who declared his candidacy last week, the day after he resigned his ministry and severed his relationship with the Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded a quarter of a century ago.
"It pains me to say it, but I think it's going to hurt him," said Eddie Mahe, a veteran Republican consultant. "It's a lot like the Joe Biden story, isn't it? His core constituency will forgive him, but I do think it will impact on his capacity to expand beyond his base. It's going to make it a lot more difficult for him to break out."
Jack Hawke, North Carolina GOP chairman, said, "I think it possibly could hurt him . . . . . His base of support is made up of people who are not political activists, but people who got involved because they respect him and his personal integrity."
Other Republican leaders, gathering in Atlanta today for a conference on the "Super Tuesday" primaries, said the revelations could hurt, although the sentiment was not unanimous. "We can't criticize Biden and praise Robertson at the same time," said Jean Sullivan, Republican national committeewoman for Alabama.
Robertson got a much more sympathetic response from among about 300 supporters who heard him give a campaign speech here.
"What occurred was all B.C. -- before Christ," said Ken Donaldson, producer of a local Christian radio show who helped organize the luncheon, at which Robertson received two boisterous standing ovations. "It shows he's as human as I am, I'm as human as he is, and we're all human beings . . . . It will have no impact."
"What he was, he was," said Mike DiLuzio, pastor of the Restoring Life Church. He differed, however, with Robertson's view that reporters should not pry into such matters. "It's the press' job to put pressure on the politicians," he said. "It purifies them."
During a tense 20-minute news conference, Robertson called himself a "husband and father of impeccable quality" and said that it is "over the line" for the media to "dig aimlessly into a man's past . . . . If someone is carrying on an affair today, and doing it on a repeat basis, then that is something different," he said.
Staff writer Thomas B. Edsall contributed to this report.