Official Blog of Author MICHAEL THOMAS BARRY.
A blog which discusses varied topics that are related to the authors many books. Michael is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books.
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Thursday, October 4, 2012
Evangelist Jim Bakker is Indicted - 1988
On this date in 1988, televangelist Jim Bakker is
indicted on federal charges of mail and wire fraud and of conspiring to defraud
The case against the founder of Praise the Lord (PTL)
Ministries and three of his aides exploded in the press when it was revealed
that Bakker had sex with former church secretary Jessica Hahn. On December 6,
1980, Bakker and Hahn had a sexual encounter in a Florida hotel room. Although
they each told different stories of what had happened, Bakker eventually paid
Hahn over $350,000 to remain silent. When the arrangement became public, the
scandal helped to bring down the entire PTL ministry. Hahn, who claimed that
she didn't want to be in the spotlight, became an overnight celebrity. She
posed for Playboy magazine, wrote a book about her relationship with
Bakker, and even briefly lived in the Playboy mansion. Hahn, a radio announcer
in Phoenix, Arizona, at the time of Bakker's indictment, soon became a regular
on Howard Stern's radio show and appeared in rock music videos, as well.
Jim and his wife, Tammy Faye, were on top of the world
before the scandal first broke. They were enormously successful at raising
money for their televised religious programs, and after its 1974 debut, their
cable show became the highest rated religious show in the country. The Bakker’s
then added talk-show elements to standard preaching, often featuring
celebrities, music, and comedy. With all of the money they made from their
programming, the Bakker’s built a 2,200-acre resort, Heritage USA, which
featured a studio large enough to seat 1,800 people. Six million people visited
the park in 1986, placing it behind only Disney World and Disneyland in terms
of attendance. When the Hahn scandal was leaked, other televangelists were
outraged. Jimmy Swaggart, in particular, went out of his way to condemn Bakker.
Tammy Faye responded to their critics by singing "The Ballad of Jim and
Tammy Faye" to the tune of "Harper Valley PTA" on their show.
Still, Tammy Faye could not defend the ministry against federal charges that
the funding for Heritage USA had been acquired by defrauding their viewers and
donors. Although the evidence was not particularly strong, Jim Bakker was
convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 45 years in prison. The sentence was later
reduced to eight years, and he was released in 1994. Tammy Faye divorced Jim
while he was in prison; she died in 2007.