White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday called it "utterly stupid" for televangelist Pat Robertson to suggest the earthquake-stricken people of Haiti brought the disaster on themselves. 

Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of "The 700 Club," said on his show Wednesday that a "pact to the devil" -- dating back to the 18th century when Haitian slaves sought freedom from the French -- is to blame for Haiti's misfortune. 

"They said we will serve you if you get us free from the French. True story," Robertson said. "Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other." 

Gibbs, asked about the remark, ridiculed Robertson. 

"It never ceases to amaze that in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid. But it, like clockwork, happens with some regularity," he said. 

Robertson also said on his program that people "need to pray" for the Haitians and that he's "optimistic something good may come" out of the tragedy. 

CBN released a written statement explaining that Robertson's comments were "based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion ... where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French." 

The network disputed any suggestion that Robertson was saying they were being punished by God. 

"This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed," the statement said. 

"Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God's wrath. If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson's compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. ... His humanitarian arm has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster."