However Mr Robertson then went on to compare Mr Chavez to Saddam Hussein and to suggest the United States could one day be at war with his oil-rich country.
“Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologise for that statement. I spoke in frustration,” Robertson said in a lengthy “clarification” posted on his website.
The former presidential candidate and staunch supporter of US President George W Bush said the world was ignoring the threat posed by “the out-of-control dictator of Venezuela.”
Mr Chavez, he said, “has found common cause with terrorists,” is reportedly seeking nuclear technology from Iran and “intends to fund the violent overthrow of democratically elected governments throughout South America, beginning with neighbouring Colombia.”
“I said before the war in Iraq began that the wisest course would be to wage war against Saddam Hussein, not the whole nation of Iraq. When faced with the threat of a comparable dictator in our own hemisphere, would it not be wiser to wage war against one person rather than finding ourselves down the road locked in a bitter struggle with a whole nation?”
Before issuing the apology, Mr Robertson tried to argue that his comments had been misinterpreted.
“I said our special forces should, quote, ‘take him out,’ and ‘take him out’ can be a number of things, including kidnapping,” Robertson, 75, said on his television show, broadcast from his headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Mr Chavez, a twice-elected leftist and close ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro, has often said Washington would like to assassinate him.
He accuses the Bush administration of orchestrating a coup d’etat that toppled him for 47 hours in April 2002.
During his television show, “The 700 Club,” on Monday, Mr Robertson had said of Mr Chavez: “I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.”
“Without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly,” Robertson added. Venezuela is the fourth provider of oil to the United States.
The State Department said Wednesday that US ambassador to Caracas William Brownfield had been in contact with a Venezuelan government official over the remarks.
Yesterday Washington distanced itself from Mr Robertson’s comments but did not explicitly condemn them.