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You are probably just as surprised as we are to learn that a new documentary filmdetails how Pat Robertson ran a fake charity following the 1994 Rwandan genocide -- which is to say, not the least bit surprised. The film, Mission Congo, by Lara Zizic and David Turner, premieres today at the Toronto International Film Festival; while Robertson claimed the charity, "Operation Blessing International," achieved great things for Rwandan refugees in Zaire and Congo, its actual accomplishments were pretty modest, especially compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars it continues to raise. Oh, and then there are the


former aid workers at Operation Blessing, who describe how mercy flights to save refugees were diverted hundreds of miles from the crisis to deliver equipment to a diamond mining concession run by the televangelist.

Seriously, go read this article in the Guardian, but make sure you aren't holding anything you might hurl through your computer screen, OK?

It's not entirely new news -- the Virginian-Pilot newspaper first exposed the questionable activities back in the 1990s, and Virginia's attorney general's office investigated but did not prosecute the charity. And now, claiming that the decision not to prosecute amounted to a full exoneration, a spokesman for Operation Blessing says the group is "considering legal action" against the filmmakers, because this is America, and you don't just go around badmouthing Pat Robertson and get away with it.

Among other delightful details, the film notes that Robertson regularly raised funds using film of doctors and nurses from Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF), while claiming that they were volunteers for Operation Blessing:

"These are tents set up with our doctors and our medical teams that came from here to work as hard as they could to save lives," Robertson said over pictures of a large tent of children on drips being tended by nurses and doctors.

But the film was of MSF medical staff at work. Operation Blessing had just one tent and a total of seven doctors. MSF officials who worked in Goma told the documentary-makers that they had no recollection of even seeing Operation Blessing -- let alone working with it.

On the other hand, Operation Blessing did send bibles and "enough Tylenol to supply all of Zaire," according to one volunteer, so it would be inaccurate to say they did nothing.

But it's not all depressing news about aid -- Robertson himself is doing pretty well with a diamond mining operation in Congo that's making tidy profits. The filmmakers interview a pilot who says that of the 40 flights he made with Operation Blessing, only two delivered aid; the rest delivered mining equipment:

"We're not doing anything for those people," he said. "After several months I was embarrassed to have Operation Blessing on the airplane's tail." He had the lettering removed.

Robertson also used film of the airstrip near his mining operation to give the impression that it was used to deliver aid. Hey, an airstrip's an airstrip, right?

On top of that, there's the farm that failed, described by Robertson as "a tremendous feeding station," and the school that's now abandoned and falling apart, depicted in Operation Blessing fundraising materials as "thriving" and a "foundation of education" for the town where it's rotting. The film shows these things, but who knows, maybe there is a context that will make it clear that the empty school is really a great use of charitable donations, thus proving that the film is "defamatory."

You know what? We think maybe this Pat Robertson fellow is just plain not that nice a person. On the other hand, we're beginning to understand why fundamentalists make such a big deal about salvation depending on faith alone -- their "works" are so often pure bullshit.

[Guardian / RightWingWatch / Virginian-Pilot]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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