PHILADELPHIA – Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson apologized Wednesday for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, after earlier saying his remarks had been misinterpreted.

As Robertson’s remarks further roiled political and religious waters, some evangelical leaders strongly rejected them as un-Christian, while others declined to criticize the comments by the popular and controversial religious broadcaster.

And the leader of the nation’s largest evangelical Christian group said he was seeking a meeting with Chavez.

“Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement,” Robertson said in a posting on his Web site. “I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him.”

Earlier Wednesday, on the daily broadcast of his Christian news-talk show, “The 700 Club,” Robertson denied that he had suggested killing Chavez.

“I didn’t say assassination,” Robertson said. “I said our special forces should “take him out.’ “Take him out’ could be a number of things, including kidnapping.”

On Monday, Robertson said on “The 700 Club”: “I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.”

Wednesday, the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the conservative pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., prepared to fly to Mexico City to try to arrange, through intermediaries, a meeting with Chavez, a Haggard spokeswoman said.

Haggard wants to talk to Chavez about evangelicals in the United States and Venezuela and “recent economic and political positions of the Chavez administration,” the spokeswoman said.

Haggard has tried to distance evangelicals from Robertson’s remarks, saying, “Pat doesn’t speak for evangelicals any more than Dr. Phil speaks for mental-health professionals.” Haggard and other evangelical leaders said they feared that Robertson’s remarks could increase the danger for evangelical missionaries in Venezuela.

The National Association of Evangelicals represents 30 million evangelical Americans and about 45,000 churches.


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