The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Scott Ross: 'Left-Wing Jesus Freak'

By Al Aronowitz
The Blacklisted Journalist My old friend Scott Ross strikes me as a Jesus freak who is as close to a left-winger as anyone is likely to find on Christian rightist Pat Robertson's Family Channel. I can't afford cable TV, so I've never seen Scott in action, but I'm told he's probably the most effective TV talk show host on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Among those who told me so was Scott himself but that fact notwithstanding, I know Scott well enough to believe him as well as to believe in him. Scott can keep you spellbound with his bull without ever stopping to take a breath or let you get a word in. I give him credit for merely being able to keep breathing within the crushing confines of Christian Fundamentalism, and he has done a lot better than merely breathe. Among those who watch the Family Channel, Scott is making a name for himself. And why not? Next to his belief in Christ, Scott, like me, believes in Scott Ross.

Sure, he says, he has faced many confrontations with and complaints from Christian hard-liners since he first started playing rock and praising Jesus on the radio more than 25 years ago. And also since he debuted on the tube and began assaulting his fundamentalist televiewers with shows about witchcraft, Satanism, motorcycle gangs and sex. Still, he says, his boss, Christian Coalition President Robertson, keeps backing him to the hilt.

"I was in trouble practically from the first day I got on the air on CBN," Scott told me. "A matter of days or weeks after being on the air, I was talking about guns. It probably had to do with Martin Luther King's assassination. I was on WXRI in Portsmouth, Pat Robertson's radio station, when Martin Luther King was shot and I said, 'We need to pray for this man!' I immediately got phone calls from people that I put on the air who said, 'You pray for that nigger? It's good he's dead!' I mean this is supposedly the Christian world. This is Bible Belt. 'Don't you pray for that nigger! He's dead and it's good he is!' Not everybody said this, but, well, I got calls saying, 'It's time somebody shot him! He's a communist!'

"God! I went nuts! I went sideways! I said, "What in the world?" Then, a few days later, I started talking about guns and saying, "Man there's a whole thing with guns in this country! This is a violent nation!" Now, this was 1967 when I started talking against guns. I said, 'We're violent people! We got a gun in our hands and we're going out to others and killing them.' And then I started getting calls: 'What would you do if somebody broke into your home, what would you do? Kill him! That's what you ought to do! 'And I said I wouldn't own a gun. It's not that I'm afraid of a gun. I'm afraid of myself. I know myself too well. I know what a temper I have. And I wouldn't shoot anybody anyway. How could I shoot him in the name of Jesus and tell him God loves him? 'God loves you! and POW! Blow their brains out. That's nuts! That's crazy! That's inconsistent. That philosophy is screwed up"---probably, I should have asked Scott if he meant his disapproval to apply to anti-abortionists who murder doctors working at women's clinics, but, like I say, it's hard to get a word in---"So, I was on the air and these people were threatening me because I was talking about not owning a gun and having some sort of gun control laws on our books in this country. This was in 1967. I went into the bathroom and I said, 'God, I'm gonna go back on drugs if these people represent you!' It's hard to deal with an entrenched religious system.

"Pat has given me enormous latitude and so I have enormous respect for Pat. When I started doing my 'Straight Talk' TV show just a few years ago, I brought his 'enemies' into the studios, the extreme liberal left. I brought them all into the studio and Pat didn't say one word to me except, 'You have a responsibility to hold them to the truth.' Pat has allowed me to do that all the years I've been here. People wanted me thrown out on the street.

"Back in the 60's, I brought in a bunch of rock and rollers, vagrants who'd been in jail the night before. They were a rock and roll band. I brought them into the studio and said, 'Let's listen to a song that represents who they are.' I think they did a Dylan song. The people at the Christian Broadcasting Network were so angry, they walked out of the studio. I had brought in 'these dirty heathen' off the street. One of the CBN women pointed out a girl in the group and said, 'She doesn't have any underwear on! She's sitting on that brand, new couch and God's money built this place!' I don't know how the woman knew the girl didn't have any underwear on, but there you are! I came out of the studio because my TV crew had walked out on me. I'm standing out in the middle of the hallway of this brand new building, which had been dedicated just a few weeks before. All these people are yelling and screaming and walking up and down the halls and waving their arms and Pat comes down the stairs and says, 'What's going on here?' And they point at me and say, 'He brought in these rock and rollers and that girl doesn't have any underwear and they're filthy people and this is God's building dedicated to God's purposes.' And Pat just looked at all these people and said, 'The day this building becomes more important than those people, I will personally burn this building to the ground.'

"And he let me do that at his expense. He'd only been going for five or six years at this time and people threatened to withdraw their financial support of his work, and he needed the money!"

Scott says his hour-long "Straight Talk" TV show is dedicated to presenting "both sides of things." He also told me that in Virginia's recent senatorial election, he voted against Oliver North, the fundamentalists' arch-conservative darling. Dedicated rock fan that Scott continues to be, he still stays in touch with rock and roll celebrities with whom he enjoyed drinking and drugging back in the '60's. He's even married to one of that era's celebrated pop singers, beautiful Nedra Talley, once a member of a chart-topping black female recording group known as the Ronettes. If you ever chanced to listen to so called Top 40 radio back then, you must have heard "Be My Baby." With Puerto Rican, Indian and African-American blood flowing through her veins, Nedra is blessed with a skin pigmentation which some Virginians historically have denigrated as "high-yellow."

"People were going to withdraw their financial support of Pat Robertson's work because Nedra and I were a mixed couple in an interracial marriage, " Scott said. "And Pat said, 'Scott Ross works for me and I love Scott. And I love Nedra, I care for these people, so I'm standing with them and you can keep your money!' What am I supposed to say? Later on, down the road, I can say Pat does things politically that I may not agree with, but when we didn't have furniture in our house, he got a pick-up truck and drove it over to our house with that desk in the back"---and Scott motioned toward the desk at which he was sitting--- "along with some chairs and a dining room table, because we were eating on the floor. And Pat and Dede, his wife, they had less than we had. We love Pat and Dede. The things that are really important, we agree on, and that's the love of God and Jesus! We believe that and Pat lives it, he doesn't just talk it. So, like in any family, we can fight over minor issues but on the important issues, we see things the same way.

"Pat has stood with me over the years and he has given me that kind of loyalty. He has taken a big risk to let me do what I've done. A big risk. It doesn't always get his approval but be doesn't look for people's approval all the time. There's no way Nedra and I can be disloyal to the kind of loyalty Pat Robertson has shown us. Why should we?"

Proud of his beautiful multiracial family, which now includes four children and three grandchildren, one of them born out of wedlock, Scott claims to live in a state of love for rather than in defiance of his lily-white neighbors in suburban Chesapeake, only a few minutes away from Robertson's CBN headquarters, located in America's Christian fundamentalist capital of Virginia Beach.

A lapsed Jew who thinks organized religion is nothing but a con, I would never question Scott's devotion to Jesus, although other rockers who've known him have voiced suspicions that he has gotten where he is because that's where his opportunism has led him. To me, Scott's is a super-salesman whose success was born of his passion. Similarly, I think of Scott's boss, Pat Robertson, as another impassioned super-salesman. In Scott Free, a 156 page autobiography, Scott describes his first impression of Pat as "this Hollywood-handsome square in his neatly pressed suit." at the time, Scott saw Pat as "an ultra-conservative southern super-dude." Nevertheless, the two of them obviously hit it off.

Scott and I became buddies after we met while hanging out in hotel rooms with the Rolling Stones back in the '60s. That was when Scott was a DJ on a small Long Island rock station and he soon became one of my pot pals, joining me in helping promote a high school rock band in partnership with songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King, now Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famers. Scott still speaks with the motormouth persuasiveness necessary for an effective radio rock jock.

My wife and I and Scott and Nedra got to be good pals, but after Scott and Nedra got married on March 5, 1967, they disappeared into Bibleland and I lost touch with them. For one thing, I was p.o'd that a perfectly rational '60s libertine like Scott had abandoned his enlightened licentiousness to preach fire and brimstone like his father, an apostolic preacher. It took me 28 years to realize I was being as hard as the religious extremists I rail against. For 28 years, the last I saw of Scott and Nedra was at their wedding. Not until the Fall of 1994 did I contact Scott again.

Scott's chief function in Pat Robertson's employ has been to reclaim college-age rock fans who slipped from Jesus into countercultural pursuits, and I presume Scott's show is aimed at a younger crowd. It was after I heard that Scott was hosting Pat Robertson's version of MTV that I decided to write a reminiscence of the time I brought Scott up to meet Bob Dylan and the Beatles. At first, I meant the piece to be sort of an embarrassing expose and then I had second thoughts. No, that's not fair. That's not good journalism. I contacted Scott and went to see him.

My reunion with Scott and Nedra after 28 years overwhelmed me with emotion. I couldn't stop crying as I remembered the closeness my wife and I once had shared with Nedra and Scott. And now to see them again, Nedra as beautiful as ever and Scott still looking as youthful as if he had a Dorian Gray-type portrait aging for him in his closet. I was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions, not the least of which was the joy I felt of a love rekindled.

One of the lessons I've learned in life is the importance of family. Another lesson I've learned is that multiracialism is the way of the earth, as natural as gravity. Try to stop multiracialism and you may as well try to walk on air. You may as well try to stop the rivers from flowing. Violent hate-mongers such as the Ku Klux Klan and William L. Pierce have become so desperate in their failure to stop nature that they are trying to unloose a plague of Timothy McVeighs on us.

I've got a multiracial grandson. He's one-quarter WASP, one-half Jewish and one-quarter Chinese and he's a direct descendant of one of America's founding fathers, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, whose signature adorns the U.S. Constitution and whose descendants now include kids who are also one-quarter WASP, one quarter Chinese and one-half black, my grandson's cousins. That's my kind of America. And so is Scott's family, whom I found so beautiful, simply thinking about them again moves me to tears.

Scott and Nedra welcomed me with as much passion as I greeted them. I spent what was for me a transfigured weekend with them, their children and their grandchildren in Chesapeake, where a finger of Chesapeake Bay tickles their back yard. There was a gazebo and a hot tub in the yard and, beyond it, on the placid, sheltered finger of water, I could see a black mother duck paddling proudly, dragging a string of black ducklings behind her. I think they were ducks. Maybe they were geese. Anyway, Nedra runs her family with the same authority. The Rosses live in the type of split level home which welcomed me with a bear hug.

It felt good to love Scott and Nedra again. I don't care if they are Jesus freaks, they're my brother and sister, members of my multiracial family. Besides, Scott has good connections in high places. When he needs something, all he has to do pray for it and he gets it.

Copyright (c) 1995 The Blacklisted Journalist

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