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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 19:12 GMT
US attacks TV host on Sharon slur
By Justin Webb
BBC News, Washington

Pat Robertson
Mr Robertson is an influential figure in US politics
The White House has been unusually sharply critical of one of the president's most prominent supporters, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

Mr Robertson suggested Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for the withdrawal of Israeli settlers in Gaza.

A White House spokesman described the broadcaster's remarks as "wholly inappropriate and offensive".

The remarks were also immediately attacked by the Democrats and American Jewish groups.

Evangelical Christians are an important part of the president's core support and generally the White House avoids attacking them, even when Mr Bush does not agree with what they say.

But Mr Robertson is too big a figure in American politics to be ignored.
You read the Bible: This is my land, and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going to carve it up and give it away, God says no, this is mine
Pat Robertson

Mr Robertson, who once stood for the Republican presidential nomination, has many friends in high places.

President Bush's former attorney-general teaches at his university and Mr Robertson has an evening television programme with a million viewers.

He told them that he had met and prayed with Ariel Sharon and regarded him as a good friend, but God wanted Israel to be whole and undivided.

"You read the Bible: This is my land, and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going to carve it up and give it away, God says no, this is mine," he said.

The White House evidently felt that a formal mark of its displeasure was in order.

The president's spokesman, Trent Duffy, said Mr Robertson's views were "wholly inappropriate and offensive" and did not really have any place in this, or any other, debate.

Not for the first time in recent months, elements on the Republican Party's religious wing are causing it embarrassment.


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