September 16th, 2011
05:22 PM ET

Pat Robertson makes controversial Alzheimer's claims

Pat Robertson, former presidential candidate and well-known televangelist, gave advice on his TV talk show “The 700 Club" this week that doesn't sit well with some people familiar with Alzheimer's disease.

A viewer named Andreas asked about his friend, who started seeing another woman after his wife developed Alzheimer's: "He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone. I’m not sure what to tell him. Please help."

Robertson acknowledged that this is a "terribly hard thing" but also said the person in question is correct. "I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," he said.

"Isn't that the vow we take when we marry someone, that's for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer?" his co-anchor asked.

There is the vow of "till death do us part," but Alzheimer's is "a kind of death," he said.

Time.com: Pat Robertson's worst gaffes

Paul R. Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics in Atlanta, takes issue with the idea that spouses of Alzheimer's patients don't have to have any fealty to their spouses because of the disease.

"I think he misunderstands how important emotional support is to people with Alzheimer's. Except for the most extreme and close to death people with Alzheimer's, they respond to emotional context. The emotional part of their lives is the last part to go," he said.

It's extremely therapeutic in many cases for people to maintain relationships with their spouses with Alzheimer's, he said. There are situations in which a spouse will choose to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's or start a relationship with someone else while remaining married but will continue to remain connected to the Alzheimer's patient.

Wolpe is troubled by the idea that it's OK to abandon an Alzheimer's patient because he or she is already dead.

"I think abandoning a spouse because they have Alzheimer's is unethical. Divorcing them or not divorcing them isn't an issue to me so much; it's abandonment," he said. Robertson "did not say you have any responsibility to continue to try to support them emotionally, to visit them."

Not everyone took such a hard stance on Robertson's remarks. Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association, emphasized how stressful it is for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients to watch their loved ones in this condition, which can result in their grieving for a spouse while he or she is still alive.

As for whether Alzheimer's is a kind of death, Kallmyer said she understands that some people may see it this way but said this also raises the need for education about the disease. "That person, even in the end stages, is still a person with a full history and a life that's been lived," she said.

But it can feel like the person is slowly dying. Kallmyer and colleagues get calls from caregivers who don't know how to talk to their spouses anymore. To that, she says:

"Talk to them like you used to talk to them. Do you know a favorite song that you could sing? To continue to have those conversations, and when people in the later stages are engaged with like that, there is a reaction, people react, and they can benefit from that," she said.

If you have a question or need support, call the Alzheimer's Association's 24-hour hot line at 1-800-272-3900.

soundoff (959 Responses)
  1. dk

    Said to my brother about 5 yrs ago: "If there's a hell, one person I know will be there: Pat Robertson"
    He was on TV not being controversial but it's easy to see why anyone could be named Ichabod....
    (I presume his wife is still with him.... which is ironical)

    September 16, 2011 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sharon

      I can only pray and I do mean PRAY that either Pat or his wife gets it, lol, that would be a PURE blessing for me to watch....

      September 16, 2011 at 20:43 | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      If Robertson is representative of Christianity, then christianity is the evil epitome of Satan worship.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:34 | Report abuse |
  2. 21st Century Man


    Thanks again Christian / idiots for a good laugh ,,,,,,, WOW, anyone who would follow PR has some serious emotional and intellectual issues.....

    September 16, 2011 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • natrldiver

      Just because you do not have faith means you can stereotype all christians or anyone else for that matter. Just like you and Pat Robertson, there are people who do and say stupid things. Instead of making yourself appear a fool, best to keep those comments to ones self.

      Best to let people thing your a fool than to open your mouth (or publish your thoughts) and remove all doubt.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
    • opinionguru

      ...and who laughs at you?

      September 19, 2011 at 01:19 | Report abuse |
  3. Jimi, Hicktown AK

    Well I think this is a disgrace err what was the topic again – I'll have that on rye please

    September 16, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. LV

    Why does any batsht crazy person get so much as one second of media attention, or build a financial empire upon the backs of their 'flock' in the first place? We need to change our society to ignore people who are stupid, greedy, manipulative, unfair or mean.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sqeptiq

      "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." -H.L. Mencken

      September 16, 2011 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
  5. Charise Olson

    Many Christians are taking issue with Robertson as well. He NEVER represented my perspective spiritually but he has an audience and this stance is wrong.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jimi, Hicktown AK

    Sounds sensble advice to me. In fact it is such good advice that I am going to take it right now even though my wife probably won't get alzheimer's for another 40 or 50 years you can never be too soon!

    September 16, 2011 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. JH

    Everytime he says something you can't believe it and can't believe he can say worse. I guess he excels at that!!
    People are sending money to this dinkus too. Open your eyes!! He doesn't need your money. Give to the people who really need it homeless, soup kitchens, homeless or disabled Vets.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. phil

    "Til death do us part", no matter the illness or disease!

    September 16, 2011 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. buhda2

    I cannot believe that I graduated from Regent University and this uneducated and clearly uncaring individual was a receipient of the money that I spent on my education. He is without a doubt one of the most uneducated and insensitive people that I have ever had the opportunity to meet. On my fathers grave, who passed this earth two years ago suffering from this terrible disesase I will not stop helping to stop to this dreaded disease from distroying the lives of so many families around the world.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sqeptiq

      Pat Robertson is evil incarnate. But he couldn't possibly understand that.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
  10. bmull

    It's shocking, but good ole Pat's kinda right in this case. If you have to ask whether it's unchristian to leave your demented spouse, you probably should do it. You're not doing him/her any favors by sticking by and being bitter about it.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      Well if you're willing to leave them, why take vows in the first place? It's not really a vow if you're willing to break it, is it?

      September 16, 2011 at 20:37 | Report abuse |
    • Virginia

      so what's next? euthanasia for those with mental health conditions, because they're not "really here?"

      September 16, 2011 at 20:46 | Report abuse |
    • cb

      The person who wrote the letter didn't ask if he should leave his wife; he asked what he should do about his friend who was having an affair. Even if the letter writer had been the adulterous husband, Robertson should not condone bad behavior.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
    • ardie

      I have stage IV Cancer, should my husband start looking for another wife? He spends a great deal of time helping me out.

      September 17, 2011 at 21:00 | Report abuse |
  11. Greg

    We are to pray for one another, We are not here to judge but to love and pray for one another. Are we any better or more sanctified? I think not!! He will be held accountable befor G-d for his words and actions.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sharon

      Oh I am praying that he gets it or his wife....As I have always said, "Ya gotta watch out for those sunday only church going christians", hahaha

      September 16, 2011 at 20:47 | Report abuse |
  12. TooRelaxed

    Really. Is there a Pat Robertson Bible out there that he has written, because I don't think that is what is told in the King James Version or any other Version. Wow, he needs to retire or maybe his wife needs to divorce him for stupidity!!!!!.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ramazan

      How can anyone reonspd reasonably to that question? Cheap shoes aren't going to last very long. Remember the old adage, You get what you pay for. You have to chose whether you want to spend $ 15 a month on shoes or over $ 100 and get a pair that will last a few years. Don't buy shoes made in Asia or Latin America.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:34 | Report abuse |
  13. Tex71

    Robertson gives Christians a bad name. OK, so he doesn't really deserve to be called Christian. Well, he gives Americans a bad name. OK, OK, doesn't deserve the name American. Well, he gives humanity a bad name. Yes, I know, he's not even really human. He's just a bad name.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. MJMullinII

    Speaking to the interview in the video - if you can confuse Pat Robertson with Jesus Christ BEFORE now (he makes it clear it's terrible people might do it now!) then I'm afraid there's not much that can be done for you, son.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Me

    What an idiot

    September 16, 2011 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. gracenyc

    Good reminder to align oneself with truth and not look to a mortal man necessarily for the truth. When it doesn't seem right and aligned with the truth, it probably isn't. People have burdens they must carry in this world. This man being married to a woman with a debilitating illness is no different than a person who has another life consequence to deal with and work past (paralysis, cancer, etc.). Marital vows taken before God very much include, "till death do us part". There is no question that this is God's plan for His people and His very best for us. Deviating from that because its not convenient is not aligned with the christian teaching of sacrifice. Pat Robertson is confused on this one...

    September 16, 2011 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tex71

      Most of the tragedy surrounding Alzheimer's is the way we cling to ignorant ideas concerning the dignity of life. There is no dignity in being reduced to a mindless shadow of one's self. Dignity is found in facing death with courage and resolve, a clean conscience and a clear mind. The way we force human beings to suffer a horrid decline and die like an animal – for profit – is inhuman in the extreme. There should be no shame, no stigma, in choosing to die with dignity when faced with a dehumanizing terminal illness. I know such will be my choice if I am forced to choose, whatever the law may dictate and whatever hidebound tradition may proscribe.

      September 16, 2011 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
  17. CS

    How sad that someone with Pat's influence, altho granted deteriorating, but still there, can be so utterly ignorant. He believes life begins at conception but ends with dementia? As someone who has worked with many alzheimers patients over the years, some of the most precious love I have seen between 2 people has been the love shown from a spouse who stayed by the side of their husband or wife, loved and cared for them until this dreadful disease took them home.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bmull

      But not every marriage is a happy one, and not everyone is happy to care for a demented spouse. If it makes you happy, do it. If it doesn't, don't.

      September 16, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
  18. Suzette

    Pat Robertson was not advocating divorcing someone because of Alzheimers. His point was because the man was already dating that he should not date while married. He suggested he make sure his wife was cared for, divorce and move on if 'that's what he was going to do"....date other women. I was watching the program when he said that. Most of what is being shown on CNN is cut to sound like something else. Most of what is being said is misquotes and half-truths. Most people have not even bothered to watch the original show and see what was really said, including people from the Christian community. Shame on Russell Moore for siding with CNN on half-truths against a brother in Christ. Shame on all the condemning Christians that would speak against this man without checking the facts.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • glsp

      He should have flat out told the man his responsibility is with his wife and not chasing everything that comes along. I got what he was saying also, but it doesn't excuse him of running around on his wife not Pat's saying she's not the person she was.

      September 18, 2011 at 01:40 | Report abuse |
  19. Tex71

    God forbid my beloved wife should ever become a victim of a terminal wasting disease. If she does, though, I will be with her every moment. To do less would be to dishonor her, the unfailing love she has given me, and the years of sacrifice in which she has poured herself out for our children. If I am the one to receive that sentence, I will set my affairs in order, say my goodbyes, and leave this life by my own hand while I am able to do so in strength and dignity. I will face death in whatever guise it comes with open eyes and a steady hand, not witless and unmanned.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sqeptiq

      "dishonor her" ???? NO, it would dishonor you. But people like Robertson are unfamiliar with the concept of honor.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:44 | Report abuse |

    This is just a taste of Perrycare.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Tex71

    Suzette: "Misquotes and half-truths?" Pat Robertson is a fundamentalist extremist who differs from the Taliban mostly in the names he calls God. This is the guy who advocated murdering foreign heads of state whose economic policies differ from his own. Pat Robertson is EXACTLY the kind of man Jesus Christ ranted against before there was such a thing as a Christian. "Misquotes and half-truths" are what you get from Robertson when he twists the Word of God into a sermon.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Suzette

      You didn't watched the program did you? I am specifically referring to what he is being accused of right now. He does not advocate divorcing a spouse because of Alzheimers. The guy was already cheating on his wife......

      September 16, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse |
  22. Nathan

    What a friggin hypocrite. I love how he just dictates how things should be as his feeble mind receives the audio from the woman. THIS is one of the many reasons why I gave up on this fictional-theological crap.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jason

    So by this man's logic we may as well just put a bullet in an Alzheimer's patient's head and call it a day... they're already 'dead' after all, no harm no foul.

    ^This is sarcasm just in case it isn't coming across as such.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Rosa Alzheimer's Nurse

    I have become the family member of many of the abandoned victims of Alzheimer's disease.Ihave worked in long-term care for 20 years and I must say, I have witnessed people being placed in facilities and forgotten never to be visited again! I have also witnessed the love and care and DEVOTION of spouses, male and female who visit three times a day to feed, hug, and give love to the very end! Just because someone can't remember does not mean they cannot feel! Patty better watch what comes out of his mouth, for as the Bible states you reap whatcha sow! What ignorance this guy possesses...why do people give him credence?
    PS My own father practiced medicine for 55 years and was diagnosed at 85 with Alzheimer's! He was as sharp as a tack at 82! This disease does not discriminate, rich, poor, all races, and levels of intelligence

    September 16, 2011 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rick w

    this IDIOT is a fruitcake and a prime example of what a consertive and the right wingers are about.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mitch

    If god actually exsisted I would be up in arms over this, but the fact that religion was made up by man to keep the population in check is why I am not. Pat Robertson likes controversy, it puts his name out there even more.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. SDFrankie

    See, God is really touchy about s-ex outside of marriage. He hates that worse than almost anything except killing babies (non-Canaanite babies anyway). Also, he has a plan. So if your wife gets alzheimer's (or maybe just fat and crazy) it's all part of God's plan for you to reload with a newer model. Just divorce the old one before you start in with the new or you'll be tortured forever. Rules is rules.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tex71

      Thank you for your exceptionally lucid and concise expose of what passes for philosophy among fundamentalists.

      September 16, 2011 at 20:57 | Report abuse |
  28. jdoe

    Robertson's claim doesn't work, if only because of the health care system in America, where loved ones often have to quit their job and/or go broke in order to take care of the patient themselves. It's ironic that the health care system that Pat Robertson's party supports makes his idea unworkable.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tex71

      It would be ironic if it were not carefully planned and executed. The rabid right is devoted to the destruction of freedom and the removal of human rights, and will not stop until America lives by the feudal system or until they are extinct. May the latter come swiftly to pass and God bless America.

      September 16, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse |
  29. Sam

    I guarantee you there are more Brain Cell in an advance Alzheimer Paitent that Pat Robertson ever had in his peak years.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Rosa Alzheimer's Nurse

    Bless the Christians who can justify and forgive the moronic wisdom of this brain dead idiot! This is a matter of ethics and morality which Andreas and your good televangelist seem to be lacking!

    September 16, 2011 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. CMurph

    He is truly an idiot. I am in shock that someone, anyone could even make a remark like he has.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Nare

    Pat Robertson.....doing his part to drive people away from Christ.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Tex71

    Pat Robertson is echoing Goebbels, Hitler, and Eichmann more faithfully than usual with this new gem. It must be hard for him to contain himself – reminds me of Dr. Strangelove with his hand reflexively going into a NSDAP salute. This is not surprising; after all, he is, like the abovementioned villains, a right-wing extremist. The frightening part is that he actually has a devoted fan base (see Suzette, above) who will make excuses for his obscene pronouncements. Even more terrifying is the near-perfect overlap of this fan base with Tea Party adherents.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Suzette

      The only thing is....he didn't advocate leaving a spouse because of Alzheimers. I am not making excuses......he didn't say what he is being accused of. But you would rather rant your own agenda than check the facts.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
    • Tex71

      Thank you Suzette for giving such a clear example of my point.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
    • Suzette

      please tell me what obscene pronouncements Pat Robertson made about Alzheimers on this particular 700 Club program. please be specific and be able to back it up......

      September 16, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
  34. Thomas

    Perhaps Pat's advice SHOULD have been "Honor the vows you made to your wife and remain with her IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH!! Don't even think about leaving her just because her illness has become a burden to YOU."

    Mind you, this is Pat Robertson we're talking about. We can't expect him to actually understand the religion he pretends to follow. All he's really looking for is the endless stream of donations from people who can't see him for what he is.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Steve Brinkhoff

    Jesus said (well, if he actually existed...) NO DIVORCE. Then, in another gospel, he said, NO DIVORCE EXCEPT FOR UNFAITHFULNESS. In the OT, god is quoted as saying, I HATE DIVORCE.

    Typical hypocritical Christians, cherry-picking the verses they like and ignoring the ones that are inconvenient.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. jgnewman

    For a religious man who has an impact on others to take this stand is disgraceful. Guess he doesn't believe in "in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live". Robertson should be ashamed of himself. The people should ignore his "sage" advice.

    September 16, 2011 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thomas

      Robertson is NOT religious. He's greedy and power-hungry. He just uses religion to feed his needs.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:07 | Report abuse |
  37. Larry

    What a compasionate man....lol

    September 16, 2011 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. mudbone9

    One of the first things to go when a person gets Alzheimer’s is a sense of empathy for others. Sounds like Pats wife needs to hurry up and divorce him before it’s to late...lol.

    September 16, 2011 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. bellablue

    It is far past time that Pat Robertson "retire"!! In reality, the Bible states that a person who is widowed, or a widower, "can" remarry, if that person "burns with passion", however Jesus said it is better that they remain alone!! What a terrible statement to make. I doubt he has ANY idea what it is to live with and/or LOVE a person with brain dimentia such as Althzimers!! It is a heartwrenching journey for EVERY FAMILY member. I doubt there would be very many "spouses" who would just walk away and find another partner! This tells you all about the Christian Right these days! They have lost it!!!

    September 16, 2011 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. touchofsilk

    I've worked with alzheimer patients for over ten years,and I've seen what love and kindness can do for a patient.Robertson is not a man of god. Why pay this man millions of dollars. I hope you all remeber you can't buy your way into heaven.

    September 16, 2011 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sanjosemike

      Heaven has nothing to do with it. As an atheist, I made a promise to her. It's really just that simple.


      September 16, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
  41. tony

    Evil is, who Evil does.

    September 16, 2011 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Louise

    Why doesn't the man just boink his wife, if she is kinda like dead, what does it matter?

    September 16, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sanjosemike

      Louise, I'm sure glad I'm not married to YOU!


      September 16, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse |
  43. Ted Haggard

    Christians are funny!

    September 16, 2011 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. CMurph

    I am disgusted by his comment. The fact that someone would even suggest that someone should just divorce and move on, especially when their loved one needs them to most at this time, is shocking and disgusting. Marriage vows...helllllooooo, anyone remember those??? To say she is already dead....just not so!! They may not be the same person you married 40-50 years ago but that is called LIFE. You age...if you are the lucky one who ages well and doesn't get this horrible disease, good for you, but how could you walk away from the poor soul you spent your entire life with because they get AD. They didn't ask to get Alzheimers, they didn't do anything to cause it. Unless you have witnessed and/or lived the effects of AD, you will never truly understand the toll it takes on everyone involved. My grandmother had AD, and my mom has it now so odds are that AD lies down the road for me as well. This is truly a grimroad to have to travel, even with the best of support around you. I couldn't imagine having to travel that road all alone. Shame on you Pat Robertson, what a truly evil thing to say. If only I could give you my mothers AD and let your wife divorce you, so you could eat you words, you sorry sorry man.

    September 16, 2011 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. sanjosemike

    It's not a matter of religion. It's matter of a promise made. Even though I am an atheist, I would still NOT divorce my wife if she got sick or came down with Alzheimers disease.

    One can still "get on with your life" and be moral and decent to an ill spouse, or even one who does not recognize you. Divorce is NOT part of that equation.


    September 16, 2011 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Suzette

    With all your opinions....has even one of you actually seen the particular 700 Club program where this took place? Pat Robertson was not advocating leaving a sick spouse for someone else. Nor was he advocating turning his back on his wife. The facts are that this man was already seeing other women. How can anyone state whether Pat Robertson had empathy for the woman with Alzheimers if they didn't even watch the program. Pat had empathy for the man and his wife.

    September 16, 2011 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nimnim

      Why do you keep saying it's OK because the guy was already seeing other women–I think it makes it worse. Both this guy and Robertson are slime–and you join them if you agree with them

      September 17, 2011 at 19:41 | Report abuse |
  47. husband2

    Now is the time to quote Lenny Bruce................"Everyday more and more people are getting away from the church and going back to God."

    September 16, 2011 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CyndyP

      Well said!

      September 16, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
  48. WhoKnewIt

    This man truly makes me sick. And he considers himself a Christian? My husband has this hideous disease, some days he knows me some days he doesn't...but I would NEVER, EVER divorce him to start a relationship with someone else. "A kind of death," ? What the h*ll does that mean? That must be like being "kind of pregnant"...look Mr. either your dead or your not there is no "kinda". What an ignorant statement to make.....I'll pray for you Mr. Robertson, I think your going to need all the help you can get.....

    September 16, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. ron

    Jesus...The religious right...does anyone take them serious??!!

    September 16, 2011 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Alientech

    Anybody expect anything better from Pat Robertson?

    September 16, 2011 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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