Religion — Seriously. When bigtime TV religion combines the power
of God with human greed, a media circus ensues.
Jim and Tammy Bakker became the most sensational topic of the
spring of '87, more sensational than any governmental actions or world
issues. The ongoing scandal that rocked PTL seemed to make a mockery
of media priorities, and brought much deserved scrutiny to TV
As heavyweights in the industry, Jim and Tammy were king and queen
of an empire, one that would crumble before the public's eyes. Jim
Bakker told Ted Kopple on ABC News Nightline in May, "The story
seems to get bigger and bigger." At the same time Tammy Bakker
realized that they were probably on every magazine cover in the country,
except Modern Bride.
Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority has held a press conference the
previous day to discuss allegations that Jim, in an attempt to make
Tammy Faye jealous, had had sex with 19-year-old Jessica Hahn, along
with two other men from the PTL Ministries. Also on the one and a half
hour conference carried live on CNN, Falwell read a list of desires from
Jim and Tammy for their service to PTL ("Praise the Lord"), a list that
included: $300,000 annual salary for life for Jim Bakker, $100,000 annual
salary for life for Tammy Bakker, two cars, a maid for one year, attorney's
fees for IRS problems, lakehouse and furniture, and hospitalization
insurance. When Kopple asked what Jim Bakker wanted, he replied, "I
don't want anything God doesn't want."
To save PTL from enormous debt, an auction was held under the
directive of Falwell. Up for bids were an air-conditioned dog house, gold
faucets and numerous eccentric items purchased by Tammy faye. She told
Ted Kopple, "I am well known for my shopping . . . it's kind of a hobby
to help my nerves." The Bakkers were reportedly paid $1.9 million for one
While being interviewed live on ABC, Jim Bakker explained, "We're a
But the scandal continues. And Jim and Tammy, without a ministry,
without a theme park and without a TV show, haven't yet found their
place in the world. In the mean time, PTL, embarrassed, struggles to
regain financial stability, and respectability.