An invasion of pallid-winged grasshoppers descended on Las Vegas this past week, taking over the Strip and several of the city’s most popular tourist spots, including the night skies above the Luxor hotel and casino. And right on cue, televangelist Pat Robertson was ready to play the blame game.
For decades, Robertson has been an influential leader among evangelical Christians. After a tragedy, you can almost guarantee Robertson will say something eyebrow-raising. This is certainly not his first time making claims of this nature.
The 87-year-old commentator and former presidential candidate has a history of connecting natural disasters and violence to a decline in public morality. In the past, he remarked that the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was the result of God’s judgment.
The Las Vegas grasshopper invasion is the result of a “nefarious pact with Satan,” Robertson told his viewers Sunday morning. He likened the invasion of grasshoppers to the eighth biblical plague which God inflicted on the peoples of Egypt.
“Las Vegas celebrates and encourages debauchery and sin,” Robertson said. “There’s naked ladies, gambling, whorin’, violence in the streets, and drinking. And now they’ve legalized Marijuana. The people of Las Vegas have disrespected the lord God and sold their souls to the Devil.”
The Luxor resort, a 30-story pyramid inspired by ancient Egypt, says that its Sky Beam, a powerful column of light issuing nightly from the peak of the pyramid, can be seen by airline pilots as far away as Los Angeles. However, the beam has become a magnet for the grasshoppers. Experts say the insects could linger for weeks.
“It’s no coincidence the locusts are gathering around the pyramid,” said Robertson. “The people of Las Vegas got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you give us free drinks, comped rooms, and a 24-hour buffet.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.'”
Jeff Lockwood, a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming who has written extensively about grasshoppers, said the infestation was not a cause for alarm.
Although some locusts are part of the grasshopper family, Lockwood had reassuring news for the apocalyptically-minded, who may be inclined to see parallels with the biblical plagues: “These grasshoppers are not locusts.”
“When their children all begin to die, don’t come crying to me. The signs are as bright as the sun, and soon, God will have his revenge,” said Robertson. “It’s clear as crystal. Egypt… pyramid. Think about it folks. God is angry and he will punish the wicked, sinful residents of Las Vegas.”