Robertson Apologizes

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson apologized Wednesday for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, only hours after he denied saying Chavez should be killed.

"Is it right to call for assassination?" Robertson said. "No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him."

Chavez, whose country is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President George W. Bush. He accuses the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

Earlier, Robertson said that his controversial remarks were "misinterpreted" and that he never called for the Venezuela's president to be killed.

"August is a slow news day but it seems like the whole world is talking about my comments about Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez," Robertson said at the beginning of his TV show, "The 700 Club."

"I didn't say assassination," Robertson continued. "I said our special forces should take him out. Take him out can be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted."

On Monday's broadcast of the "700 Club," Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a former Republican presidential candidate, said, "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. … We have the ability to take him out and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

Televangelist Pat Robertson suggests the U.S. assassinate the leftist Venezuelan president.

Robertson said Chavez should be taken out to stop the world's fifth-largest oil exporter from becoming, "a launching pad for communist influence and Muslim extremism."

Chavez was winding up a visit to Cuba when he was asked about Robertson's statements at Havana's airport.

"I haven't read anything. We haven't heard anything about him," Chavez said. "I don't even know who that person is."

CBS News Producer Portia Siegelbaum reports that Chavez said he'd rather "talk about life" than death.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, who was standing next to Chavez stroking his beard, referred to Robertson's statements saying he thought "only God can punish crimes of such magnitude."

Relations between the Chavez government and the Bush administration have been strained for some time, reports CBS News State Department Reporter Charles Wolfson, but Robertson's call for assassination was something the State Department wanted no part of.