Operation Blessing - A Response  

Friday, June 13, 2008

A couple of hours after I posted my article Pat Robertson a Humanitarian I received an email from public relations at Operation Blessing.

I handle public relations for Pat Robertson and Operation Blessing International.

To answer your question about where the money goes, 97% of OBI's spending goes directly to humanitarian programs, which is why the charity earned thjavascript:void(0)
Publish Poste highest rating. Since its founding 30 years ago, OBI has touched the lives of more than 202.7 million people in more than 105 countries and all 50 states, providing goods and services valued at over $1.4 billion to date.

One of the biggest charities in America, OBI provides strategic disaster relief, medical aid, hunger relief, clean water and community development in 22 countries around the world--including China, Myanmar, Kenya, the Darfur region of Sudan, Pakistan, Somalia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, United States and the Philippines. In 2007, OBI responded to a record 20 disasters in 14 countries, making a significant, long-term impact on the lives of 9.5 million people in this one year alone.

I urge you to visit our blog at www.myowneyes.org.

Chris Roslan
President & Managing Partner
Dera, Roslan & Campion Public Relations Inc.
And definitely looking around their site they do seem to be a worthy charity. In critiquing Pat Robertson I inadvertently pulled the charity into the ring as well. I did not intend to belittle the people on the ground working at the charity. I am sure they are making a difference in the world by helping those in need.

I was curious though what official response the charity has to the allegations against Pat Robertson, so I sent this email.

Thank you for your email. Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) gives Operation Blessing a four star rating, which is very respectable. I always check a charity on the Charity Navigator website before I give and Operation Blessing would certainly receive my approval.

Also, thank you for referring me to your blog. I will read the entries there and include additional commentary along with your email in my next post. I have no doubt that Operation Blessing does good for people. My main concern was raised from allegations that the charitable funding hasn't always been used for charity in the past. I'd like to set that straight if you can provide me with more details.

Would you comment on the funds and charity work in Zaire, Liberia, and Louisiana in addition to your current efforts? How does the organization determine how funds are allocated and spent? Do they work with other organizations or do you set up their own relief centers? Do they provide financial information on how government funds are allocated?

Again, thank you for your time and for the efforts you've made on behalf of the less fortunate.

I was a little surprised when I received a response.
Here are answers to your questions:

Q -- Would you comment on the funds and charity work in Zaire, Liberia, and Louisiana in addition to your current efforts?

A -- Regarding Zaire and Liberia, those allegations came from Bill Sizemore at the Virginian Pilot, a man who boasted to Virginia Quarterly Review this spring that he has made “a 12 year career” out of writing about Pat Robertson. Time and again he has written misleading stories seriously lacking in detail and purposefully leaving out important facts. An instant tip-off for you should be the fact that in that 12 year career he has never written one positive story about Pat Robertson or any of his organizations. In that amount of time he could not find one good thing to write about? In fact, the same can pretty much be said about his paper, the Virginian Pilot. Look at the charity’s work in Myanmar and China in the last month, for which we had major media coverage from NBC Nightly News, CBS Early Show, ABC News Nightline, Associated Press, CNN and many more...all the biggest media in the world except the local paper, the Virginian Pilot. I would urge you to read our response to a profile Mr. Sizemore wrote in the VQR at this web address, which explains the relationship with Mr. Sizemore and describes in full detail the issues you asked about re: Zaire and Liberia:

Regarding Louisiana, my earlier email offered a brief description of our work there. OBI most likely ended up on the FEMA list because OBI had a huge presence there (8,000 volunteers, delivered 12 million pounds of relief supplies, dispensed $4.5 million in cash grants, ran a free medical clinic that helped about 30,000 people, etc). They were first responders to Katrina and one of the last charities to leave (just earlier this year). The fact is that the charity does what it says it does, and the idea that Pat Robertson would somehow personally benefit from an influx of donations is completely absurd. Since 97% of spending goes to programs, it was the victims of Katrina who benefited from the donations received.

As for current efforts, OBI is a registered NGO and one of the largest charities in America, and they are required to be fully transparent with finances. You or anyone else can request a copy of their independently audited financial statements that are on file with the IRS. Again, I would urge you to visit www.myowneyes.org to read all about the work OBI does in 22 countries on a daily basis. Today they are responding to the flooding in the midwest, FYI.

Q -- How does the organization determine how funds are allocated and spent?

A -- OBI goes where the hurt is. Whether it is a major disaster or one of the humanitarian areas in which OBI specializes (as described in earlier email), the decision is made based on need and also how much leverage OBI and its partners can garner. This year, for example, OBI ramped up its anti-parasite program in South America because there is an incredible need for it. Thanks to OBI and its partners some 9.5 million children will now receive free medication in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico.

Q -- Do they work with other organizations or do you set up their own relief centers?

A -- OBI partners with hundreds of international, national and local organizations, as well as major corporations, around the world. For more info log on to www.ob.org where there are many stories about the work OBI does and its many partners.

Q --- Do they provide financial information on how government funds are allocated?

A — OBI currently does not receive any government funds, and has not in years. The last program involving the government at all was a powdered milk program whereby OBI received a donation of surplus powdered milk, but no cash funds were involved with that program.

I hope I have helped to clear this up. If there is anything else I can provide, please let me know.
His criticisms about the newspaper being biased may be valid. As a skeptical person, I should not take one claim above the other without valid evidence. But my sensors go off when I hear a tele-evangelist claim media bias. I remember those same claims over and over from Jim Bakker on air and in the end there may have been media bias, but the reporting was truthful.

Online I found an entry for Operation Blessing published by the Center for Media and Democracy, which I think accurately and fairly describes the charity. Much of the text is from the charity itself. It also links to two wikipedia articles, one on Pat Robertson and one on Operation Blessing that are controversial.

My criticism is still for Pat Robertson. I believe he made some poor decisions for the charity. And that's unfortunate because, if true, it taints the name of the charity and draws a black mark on what otherwise looks be an organization doing excellent work in the field.

Even discounting the reporting of the Virginia Pilot due to bias (and I would urge you to read both the article referred to in Mr. Roslan's response as well as the original article) I'm still stuck on the findings of Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs. Would the office state that the charity "willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements" without reason? And it certainly looks suspicious that Attorney General Mark Earley was the one to dismiss the case after earlier receiving campaign donations from Pat Robertson.

In the end I still feel like there are many issues not answered about Mr. (is it Reverend?) Robertson. Suspicions aren't proof. However, I'm not asking anyone to convict Mr. Robertson. I'm simply asking the question of whether or not he should be considered a humanitarian. My initial assessment still stands.

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6 comments: to “ Operation Blessing - A Response

  • Anonymous
    Friday, June 13, 2008 at 7:02:00 PM CDT  

    I'm impressed that the charity actually answered your questions rather than sending a boilerplate response. Good for them. The good work his employees or associates do does not change the fact that Robertson is a dip.

  • Anonymous
    Friday, June 13, 2008 at 7:03:00 PM CDT  

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Mamacita Chilena
    Friday, June 13, 2008 at 7:26:00 PM CDT  

    I am amazed that they responded to your inquiries in a personal manner. They obviously have someone dedicated to the cause. It's been interesting to see your findings, but I have to say that I too am always a little skeptical even if I shouldn't be.

  • Ordinary Girl
    Sunday, June 15, 2008 at 12:23:00 PM CDT  

    Chappy and Mamacita: Yeah, I have respect for the charity, just not the man behind the curtain.

  • Waldo Jaquith
    Monday, June 16, 2008 at 8:12:00 AM CDT  

    That response didn't come from the charity, it came from Dera, Roslan & Campion Public Relations Inc. (They're none too popular among bloggers.)

    And please do follow their suggestion that you read the response from Pat Robertson's attorney to VQR's article. It's pretty hilarious.

    My favorite bit is when he laments that "Sizemore would have his readers conclude that Dr. Robertson believes in that discredited 'prosperity gospel.'" Where in the world would Sizemore get that? I'm guessing Pat Robertson's article about much he believes in the prosperity gospel, or "the law of reciprocity," as he calls it. And the section of Pat Robertson's website about it. It's the same schtick: If you're a Christian and you show it by giving money to me, then God will make you wealthy. He specifically tells his followers to "give unto the Lord substantially" (through his charities, conveniently enough) in order to get out of debt!

    My other favorite bit is the attorney's lame denial that Robertson has a Corvette collection ("I don’t know if Dr. Robertson is partial to Corvettes, as Mr. Sizemore writes"). How does he not know? Robertson is famed for his collection of Corvettes, and well-known in Virginia beach for the speed at which he drives them. Fortune magazine wrote in 2002 that "for Robertson to survey his empire, all he has to do is jump in his black Corvette and peel--and that's the right word, says an employee, joking that he makes turns 'almost on two wheels'--through the trails."

    Sure that response you got from a PR firm came quickly -- all these people do is defend the indefensible on behalf of their deep-pocketed client, and they're paid handsomely to do so. But there's really no reason to believe that anything that they tell you is true. (After all, this is a 78-year-old man who claims to be able to leg-press 2,000 pounds, through the magic of his "age-defying protein shake." This would make him the strongest man in the world.) For all of Robertson's kvetching about the Virginian-Pilot, he's got nothing to back it up. He's never managed to sue the paper, never even managed to win the court of public opinion. When everything somebody says about you is both bad and true, perhaps you're the problem.

  • Ordinary Girl
    Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 8:43:00 AM CDT  

    Waldo: Well, yes, but the firm represents the charity. Of course I know that they were trying to protect Robertson. It's clear in the second letter. I've seen letters and articles like the ones he refers to before when Bakker accused the Charlotte Observer of running a conspiracy to bring him down.

    I figured my readers were smart enough to make their own determination, but I love your response. :)


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