NORFOLK, Va. — One of Hampton Roads’ highest-profile Christians stands accused of a not-so-Christian act.
A plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Pat Robertson says the televangelist threatened his life and that of his family at a legal proceeding Wednesday in the Norfolk federal courthouse.
The accuser, Phillip Busch, is suing Robertson for misappropriation of his image in the promotion of Robertson’s protein diet shake.
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According to a complaint Busch filed with the Norfolk police, Robertson entered a room in the courthouse Wednesday afternoon to be questioned for a deposition — an out-of-court form of testimony — and told Busch:
This is not the first time televangelist Pat Robertson has been accused of threatening an adversary.
“I am going to kill you and your family.”
Robertson’s attorney, Glen Huff, denied the allegation Thursday, saying: “There was no such threat.”
Robertson has been touting his “age-defying” weight-loss shake for five years on his Christian Broadcasting Network talk show The 700 Club , offering the recipe free to any viewer who requested it.
Busch, a Texas bodybuilder, contacted the show in 2005, saying he had slimmed down from 400 to 200 pounds drinking the shake.
CBN showed his before-and-after photos 20 times in a promotional spot and flew him to Virginia Beach, Va., for a live TV interview with Robertson.
Busch says he didn’t know when he contacted CBN that Robertson had recently licensed his shake for commercial distribution by a nationwide health-food chain in a ready-to-mix powdered formula.
He sued Robertson in September 2005, alleging that the broadcaster used his image for a commercial purpose without compensating him.
The case is set for trial in April.
The litigation has been rancorous. Robertson’s spokesmen have accused Busch of extortion, and Busch has posted disparaging comments about Robertson on his personal Web site.
Busch has dismissed his attorneys and is litigating the case himself.
This is not the first time Robertson has been accused of threatening an adversary.
After the failure of an earlier Robertson commercial venture — a multilevel sales outlet for Bible study courses and discount coupon books — the broadcaster fired Mark Peterson, the venture’s top executive. The two blamed each other for the business’ failure in what became a public feud.
Peterson sued Robertson in 1995, alleging that Robertson made a veiled death threat in a telephone conversation with Peterson’s sister.
Robertson denied making a threat.
Peterson dropped the lawsuit in 1997, saying he had forgiven Robertson.