A new documentary premiering Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival re-opens an old case against controversial televangelist Pat Robertson.
Robertson, of the infamous 700 Club, is mostly known to the general public for the bizarre, laughable and theologically questionable claims he makes on his show, but he might be hiding a far more sinister secret.
Mission Congo, a documentary directed by Lara Zizic and David Turner, revisits claims made by journalist Bill Sizemore in 2003 that Robertson accepted donations in the 1990’s for his nonprofit Operation Blessing International only to actually use them to fund his own personal diamond mining operation in Africa.
After the Rwandan genocide in the early ’90s, Robertson called on his viewers to donate to Operation Blessing, which he said would help refugees who had fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
But Sizemore reported that pilots who worked for Operation Blessing were actually transporting mining equipment to a Robertson-backed diamond mining outfit hundreds of miles away.
The directors of Mission Congo decided to reach out to the pilots for a documentary, believing that the Robertson allegations were severely under-reported.
“Sometimes a story hits you so profoundly that you simply have to act,” the directors said in a press release for the film.
“We were researching a fiction script when we came across an article mentioning Robertson’s dual activities in Congo. We felt that these activities, and implied level of deception, were unfathomable on so many levels that we had to find out more. How could something like this happen? Why was there not more coverage in the media? How did he get away with it? If it happened then, is it still happening now?”
At the time of the original claims, there was an investigation into Robertson which found that he “willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements and other implications.” There was no prosecution, which Robertson has cited as evidence of his innocence.
Still, Robertson denied to be interviewed for Mission Congo.