Pat Robertson says Alzheimer's can justify divorce because your spouse is "gone." Is he right?
There he goes again.
Pat Robertson, the televangelist famous for blaming earthquakes and hurricanes on sexual deviance, has provoked another outcry. According to multiple reports, Robertson said you should divorce your wife if she gets Alzheimer's.
Except he didn't.
Over the years, Robertson has said a lot of nutty things. But this wasn't one of them. His thoughts about dementia and divorce, aired Tuesday on the 700 Club, showed a man grappling with the kind of real-world experience that can shake your confidence in unbreakable rules.
The cartoon version of Robertson's comments is that he told men to "dump" their wives. "Pat Robertson Urges Man to Divorce, Abandon Sick Wife," says one headline. "Pat Robertson Says to Divorce Your Wife If She's Terminally Ill," says another. One report says Robertson "thinks it's totally cool for you to divorce your spouse" if she gets Alzheimer's. Another says he claimed "divorce is a way better option than being with a sick broad."
Here's what Robertson actually said. At the tail end of Tuesday's show, his co-host, Terry Meeuwsen, read a chat-room question from a man seeking advice. The message said:
I have a friend whose wife suffers from Alzheimer's. She doesn't even recognize him anymore, and, as you can imagine, the marriage has been rough. My friend has gotten bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, and now he's started seeing another woman. He says that he should be allowed to see other people because his wife as he knows her is gone … I'm not quite sure what to tell him.
Meeuwsen turned to Robertson for an answer. In the video (50th minute), you can see him struggling:
That is a terribly hard thing. I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things, because here's the loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone. So what he says basically is correct, but—I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her—
Meeuwsen interjected: "But isn't that the vow that we take when we marry someone, that it's for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer?" To this, Robertson replied,
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Pat Robertson by Mario Tama/Getty Images.