rotten > Library > Biographies > Religion > Televangelists > Jim Bakker|
Up until 1987, televangelist Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye were living in extravagance. The way they told it, prosperity was a gift from God, and He had blessed them with an army of followers and immense personal fortunes. The PTL ministry had a burn rate of $500,000 per day. Everything seemed to be going perfectly. But then Jim was caught fucking anything with a pulse and they could no longer conceal their egregious cash skimming.
The Lord giveth and taketh away
fine toupees and Rolex watches.
Jim got snagged funneling $265,000 in hush money to virginal church secretary Jessica Hahn, in order to cover up their adulterous tryst. Suddenly the Bakkers became pariahs. All of their friends deserted them. Even fellow Assemblies of God minister Jimmy Swaggart took some unnecessary potshots, just for fun and just to be a dick. Swaggart went on CNN and told Larry King that Jim was a "cancer in the body of Christ."
Bakker's rival and business competitor Jerry Falwell was called in to rescue the PTL ministry along with its Heritage USA theme park, but Falwell had a much different goal. Years later, he described his brief stint as head of PTL this way:
"God sent me there to bring an abrupt end to the immorality and financial fraud of this 'religious soap opera' that had become an international embarrassment to the Christian gospel."
The Bakkers and their empire had blown through $158 million of their ministry's donations. In his self-serving confession I Was Wrong, Jim admitted squandering church money on luxury cars and six mansions. When he got caught, there were 47 separate bank accounts in Jim's name.
After wasting money on every conceivable amenity, they brainstormed some truly frivolous expenditures. $100 in cinnamon buns just to imbue their hotel suite with the smell. A dog house equipped with air-conditioning, which was too noisy for the mutt to sleep in. $60,000 in gold-plated bathroom fixtures.
When they finally wound up in court, Jim had what appeared to be a psychotic break. Court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Sally Johnson examined Bakker and testified that he was vain, passive-aggressive, and easily manipulated, but nonetheless capable of standing trial. "Mr. Bakker has sufficient strength. He is strong enough to handle the trial. He has the capacity to get through it." Dr. Johnson had previously made the same assessment of John Hinckley and would later reach the same conclusion about Ted Kaczynski.
The jury found Bakker guilty on 24 counts, and he received a 45-year sentence along with a $500,000 fine. Bakker claimed from the beginning that his downfall had been orchestrated by enemies inside and outside his ministry. He never changed his tune:
"I sorrowfully acknowledge that seven years ago ... I was wickedly manipulated by treacherous former friends and colleagues who victimized me with the aid of a female confederate. They conspired to betray me into a sexual encounter at a time of great stress in my marital life. ... I was set up as part of a scheme to co-opt me and obtain some advantage for themselves over me in connection with their hope for position in the ministry."
Yeah, yeah. Good going, Jim. Blame everyone but yourself.
|2 Jan 1939
||Born as James Orsen in Muskegon, Michigan.
|7 Mar 1942
||Tammy Faye Bakker born, International Falls MN.
|1 Apr 1961
||Marries Tammy Faye. And it's not April Fool.
||Ordained as a minister.
||PTL show begins.
|6 Dec 1980
||Jim Bakker fucks church secretary Jessica Hahn at the Sheraton Sand Key hotel in Clearwater, FL. His line: "When you help the shepherd, you're helping the sheep." Later she receives $265,000 in hush money.
|19 Mar 1987
||Jim Bakker resigns from PTL, the television ministry he founded. He claims he was "wickedly manipulated by treacherous former friends and colleagues who victimized me with the aid of a female confederate... Vulnerable as I was at the time, I was set up as part of a scheme to co-opt me and obtain some advantage for themselves over me in connection with their hope for position in the ministry."
|24 Apr 1987
||Televangelist John Ankerberg accuses Jim Bakker of having engaged in sex with prostitutes and homosexuals, encouraging wife-swapping between PTL employees, and embezzling millions from the business.
|17 May 1987
||Jimmy Swaggart explains why Jerry Falwell is obliged to return PTL to Jim Bakker: "If I tell you I'm going to keep your truck for five days and then I'm going to give it back to you, and then someone finds out you're a homosexual, I still owe you your truck."
|26 May 1987
||Jim Bakker goes on Nightline and announces that it had been a "terrible mistake" to relinquish control of his PTL ministry to Jerry Falwell.
|27 May 1987
||During a 90-minute press conference, Jerry Falwell admonishes Jim Bakker: "I have sat across the table from men who have told me of your homosexual advances."
|27 May 1987
||During a joint appearance on Nightline, Tammy Faye Bakker declares: "I've been married to this man for 26 years, and I can tell you one thing: he's not homosexual, or is he bisexual. He's a wonderful, loving husband."
||Defrocked as a minister.
||Sullied church secretary Jessican Hahn appears in a Playboy pictorial.
|5 Dec 1988
||Jim Bakker indicted for fraud and conspiracy, after embezzling $158 million from the PTL ministry.
||Article "The Devil in Jim Bakker: His Homosexual Lover and Pimp Tells All" appears in Penthouse.
|28 Aug 1989
||Jim Bakker's trial for fraud and conspiracy begins in Charlotte, NC.
|5 Oct 1989
||Jim Bakker convicted of 23 counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy for stealing donations from the PTL ministry.
|24 Oct 1989
||Televangelist Jim Bakker receives 45 years and a $500,000 fine for defrauding investors of $3.7M. Bakker had already been dismissed from his PTL ministry, so the criminal penalties probably just added insult to injury.
||Tammy Faye Bakker divorces Jim Bakker.
|1 Jul 1994
||Jim Bakker paroled to a halfway house run by the Salvation Army in Asheville, NC.
||Jessica Hahn ranked among People's 25 Most Intriguing People of 1987. (God, why...)
||Jim Bakker returns to the televangelism racket, in The New Jim Bakker Show.