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He's Not That Sort of Doctor, But He Plays One on TV

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Quick quiz: For which 2005 statement will televangelist Pat Robertson be best remembered?

 

a. "If [Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it."

            b. "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover [Pennsylvania]: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city."

            c. "Pat's Diet Shake formula is proven to promote an increase in lean muscle, significant weight loss and an overall improvement in heart health."

 

If you answered c, you're betting along with the locally headquartered General Nutrition Corporation, whose GNC stores now sell the shake in chocolate and vanilla -- the first national retailer to do so.

 

For years, Robertson has been promoting his diet shake on his television show, The 700 Club (the forum for quotes a and b). He's still giving away the formula on his Web site (source for quote c), but spokesperson Amy Summers, of Basic Organics, the Columbus, Ohio-based manufacturer of the pre-mixed shake and other products GNC carries, is confident consumers will still purchase it. "Omega-3, omega-6 -- it would be difficult for the average person to even find these" ingredients, she explains.

 

According to Robertson's Web site, "When he invited those people to drink his shakes as part of his 'Weight Loss Challenge' program, more than 720,000 responded, and from all accounts, they were happy they did." The recipe, says Summers, was devised after consultation with various health and nutrition experts.

 

"It's doing very well," Summers says. "He's definitely got a following. I know that GNC's been pleased with it."

 

GNC doesn't appear to carry any other products with the endorsement of a cleric, unless you count St. John's Wort. But there's no telling how much a televangelist's celebrity will boost the fortunes of products not directly related to religion. Sharing shelves with Robertson at the Downtown GNC are Sylvester Stallone's High Protein Pudding; self-described "top celebrity trainer" Gunnar Peterson's Core Secrets DVD and Fitness Ball workout system; Ageless Woman, by former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs (for "deep wrinkle release"); The Simon Solution Two-Step System for Fuller Lips, by Veronique Simon, M.D. (but featuring Pamela Anderson's picture and endorsement); and best-selling fitness author Bill Phillips' Eating for Life-brand Nutrition Shake. The Original Celebrity Juice Diet seems to contain no connection at all to anyone famous, but is apparently doing fine.

 

Summers isn't certain how Robertson's wilder statements will affect sales of his shake, and GNC did not offer a comment by press time, apart from the offhand reaction of whoever answered the phone at GNC headquarters: "We're carrying Pat Robertson's diet shake?"

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