The Rev. Pat Robertson turned heads with his appearance on The 700 Club on Wednesday when he blamed Haitian history for Tuesday’s devastating earthquake. In short, Robertson claimed that the quake was divine retribution for a pact with the devil that was sworn long ago, a statement he was audacious enough to make while the 800 number for disaster relief scrolled at the bottom of the broadcast. Here’s the clip:

“And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon the Third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘O.K., it’s a deal.’ “

So what was Robertson referring to? The theory that Haiti is a nation built on a pact with the devil has circulated on a number of websites, each tracing back to an apocryphal tale of Haitian voodoo priests sacrificing a pig and drinking its blood in 1791 in order to secure Satan’s aid in expelling the French occupation. In return, the priests are said to have promised Haiti to Satan for the next 200 years. The French were soon beat back, and in 1804, Haiti became an independent nation. But even if you believe the story (something many historians doubt), Satan’s lease on the tiny island nation should have expired in 1991.

This isn’t the first time that Robertson has shocked people by speaking off-the-cuff. After then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke in January 2006, Robertson posited that it was punishment from God. He urged the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2005, and hosted the Rev. Jerry Falwell on The 700 Club in 2001, when Falwell made comments suggesting that gays and feminists, among others, were responsible for bringing the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. He has also become famous for his woeful prognostication, after promising a disastrous tsunami in America in 2006 and a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2007, both of which (thankfully) failed to materialize.

* By Dan Fletcher, Time-CNN, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010