Please don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news

A headline from The Onion, of all places, went viral Monday after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

In recent years, the "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" story has become a staple of the satirical newspaper.

When there's a major tragedy, here's another thing you can count on: Pat Robertson opening his mouth.

So yes, Robertson weighed in on Las Vegas. Was there any doubt that he would? But is there any possibility that what he said amounted to actual news?

Probably not, as a million (only slightly exaggerating) past GetReligion posts make clear.

"The key is that there are so many people within evangelicalism who are — for better and for worse — more interesting and influential than Robertson at this point in his career," GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly wrote way back in 2005. (That same year, Poynter.org published another excellent Mattingly piece on this subject, titled "Excommunicating Pat Robertson.")

The good news is this: My Google news search found very few mainstream news organizations jumping on the latest Robertson quotes. But the Huffington Post — which still does some straight news reporting — was among them.

HuffPost's headline:

Pat Robertson Blames Las Vegas Massacre On ‘Disrespect’ For Donald Trump

The lede:

TV preacher Pat Robertson says the massacre in Las Vegas was caused by lack of respect for President Donald Trump, protests during the national anthem and the country having no “vision of God.” 
“There is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him,” the televangelist and former presidential candidate said on “The 700 Club” on Monday. “It’s in the news, it’s in other places.”

A journalist friend texted me a link to the story with this comment:

I honestly can't believe I'm about to defend Pat Robertson, but here goes: I watched the video and I didn't get the feeling he was really blaming the shooting on lack of respect for President Trump. It's really more of a generic, "Well, I don't really know what to say about this shooting, but here's what's wrong with America: We don't respect the office of the president, we don't respect the flag, we don't respect God and we run amok." It has an almost milquetoast "feel," as if he really has no idea what to make of this senseless act of violence, but has to say something. I even wonder if he had prepared some comments on the NFL, then the shooting happened, so he tried to "repurpose" his thoughts to fit the situation ... and failed. Don't get me wrong: Pat Robertson has said some CRAZY, WRONG stuff in the name of Christ that INFURIATED me (thoughts on the Haiti earthquake, etc.) but this one just strikes me as a kind of nothing commentary.

I see what my friend is saying. And I heard from another person who questioned whether Robertson's statement was taken out of context. But to me, an impartial reader has to conclude that he's saying — in one way or another — that part of the blame relates to a lack of support for Trump. Right? (If I'm wrong, feel free to tell me and explain why in the comments section.)

Overall, I don't have a real problem with the content of what the HuffPost reported. My bigger issue is whether — at this point — what Robertson says is worth any ink at all. 

And yes, I understand the irony of making that argument by devoting more attention to Robertson in this space.

But my friend who texted me isn't the only person I know talking about Robertson. Other friends have felt compelled to respond to Robertson on social media. Meanwhile, I'd vote for us all just rolling our eyes and ignoring him.

Who's with me? Can we vote Robertson off the newsmaking island right about now?

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