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Larry King Live
Jim Bakker, 'Born Again'Aired January 25, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: He was a famous TV evangelist who fell from grace. So how's his life now? Jim Bakker joins me in Los Angeles for the entire hour, and he'll take your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. A great pleasure to welcome Jim Bakker back to LARRY KING LIVE. He's got a forthcoming book coming soon called "The Refuge," one out now called "The Coming Apocalypse." Mr. Bakker is actively back with us. It's always good to see him again. And later his wife, Lori Beth Bakker, will be joining us, as well.
And I understand you just turned 60.
JIM BAKKER: Yes!
KING: Do you feel 60?
BAKKER: No. No.
KING: Feel younger?
BAKKER: I feel much younger. We were talking about that the other day. I -- I feel about 25.
KING: How's life, Jim?
BAKKER: Awesome. It's wonderful! You know...
KING: Never been happier?
BAKKER: Never. But you know, that term that's been overused, "born again" -- I feel like I've been born again. I've had a second chance at life. And I have a beautiful wife who loves me. I've never known such love. And at my age, to be able to fall in love like you did in high school, and then have it real and last, and to be able to see my dreams that I really stopped dreaming for a long time -- and now I'm working together with a lot of wonderful people, and exciting things are really happening.
KING: We'll get into some of them. You've changed a great deal, correct? Prison changed you. What happened to you changed you. You're a different person.
BAKKER: Prison has to change anyone. You can't go through prison, you can't go through -- I've been a student of the Holocaust, and some of the greatest people have come out of -- some of the greatest writings have come out. And I've read a lot of prison books. And everyone has been changed by prison.
I'm more comfortable with people in the inner city today than I would be people in a higher position.
KING: You're more comfortable with blacks, right?
BAKKER: I love black people. They -- they -- I have never been abused -- you know, I've been spit on. I know what it is to -- after I fell, to have somebody in the street come up and just spit on you. And I've never, ever had a black person be unkind to me. I know that sounds strange, but it's just that they've been so open to me. I think people who understand failure and being put down -- I think they have more compassion somehow.
KING: When you look back at the old Jim Bakker, the Jim Bakker that was pitching for money and that -- Jim and Tammy Faye and that whole scene -- what do you think? What do you reflect on?
BAKKER: A lot of...
KING: Because you know you -- you wrote a book called "I Was Wrong."
KING: What do you think?
BAKKER: A lot of it I'm embarrassed. But as I look back, you know, I had a tiger by the tail. The budgets kept getting bigger and bigger, and it got to the point where it was either, you know, raise the money or go broke. And so you kept raising the money. And more and more time was spent raising money. And you know, I tell people today I think I was working 24 hours a day. Even in my sleep, I was trying to figure out "How do I keep a million dollars every two days coming in?"
KING: But did you ever say to yourself, "What does this have to do with God?"
BAKKER: Oh, yes. Yes.
KING: Did you say it then?
BAKKER: I don't know as much -- you get -- when you're in that cycle, you're staying alive. You're just staying alive.
KING: And you're caught up...
BAKKER: You're facing the cameras like...
KING: ... in it. You liked the attention, right?
BAKKER: And you feel like...
KING: Your ego is...
BAKKER: And I believed in a prosperity gospel then. I really believed that God...
KING: God wanted you to have money.
BAKKER: ... wanted everyone to be rich. Above all, God wanted you to prosper. I quoted the scripture.
KING: What do you say when you see still a lot of that on Sunday morning in America, by flicking a switch? "Send me this, and I'll send you a gold-embossed Bible with your name on the back for an extra $37.50."
BAKKER: Yeah. I don't want to judge anybody, but my dream is that there could be a network to help people. One of my big dreams is to do a live network just there with people...
KING: Isn't there a full-time religious network on now?
BAKKER: Oh, yeah. There's several, but...
KING: Are they all pitching for money?
BAKKER: Well, they have to. They don't know any other way to do it.
KING: So it's a Catch-22.
BAKKER: Yeah. So I've been talking with people all over the country. How do you do television without raising the money?
KING: What do you -- what do you want to do? What do you have in mind?
BAKKER: I would like to do a live, 24-hours-a-day, 7-day-a-week network that comes from places like the Dream Center here in southern California, right in the middle of the inner city, that comes from New York City with the great work with Bill Wilson (ph), where they have 7,000 kids on Saturday, that it's the most awesome time with kids that I've ever seen. It's a TV show waiting to happen. But to be live all over the world, to do interactive television with satellites...
KING: With ministers and rabbis and...
BAKKER: Yeah, with everybody, with -- with the computer now, they're telling me, by the end of this year, we can have real-time television through the computer so that we can go anywhere, to anybody's house, the whole world, and just average people as well as famous people can be your guests live from any place, in any home. KING: Is it true that you're working on this concept with Reggie White, the great football star?
BAKKER: Reggie is one of my dearest friends. Reggie reached into my prison cell.
KING: Did he?
BAKKER: Yeah. And he and I have just been buddies. He comes to our home. We -- we hang out together. We're just dreaming right now. We're in a dreaming stage. He loves you, by the way. He said -- he said -- remember the time he met you and...
KING: He's a good man.
BAKKER: You told me he was a good -- one of the good guys.
KING: But did you -- do you remove yourself from his thoughts about gays and the like? He's been pretty rough in that area.
BAKKER: Well, Reggie -- Reggie's part of this. Reggie's gotten a bum rap for it. Reggie was talking about Hispanics, about blacks, about Jews, about Gentiles, about everybody. And he said it takes all of us to make up this big family of God. You know the flak that he got over this thing he did at the center.
BAKKER: I know -- I know Reggie. Reggie is not a...
KING: But he said that...
BAKKER: But he's not against gay people. He's not against black people or any people. I mean, I'm -- I've never known a man with less prejudice than Reggie White. He's a big...
KING: But he thinks gays...
BAKKER: ... Teddy bear.
KING: ... are sinners.
BAKKER: Well, I think he thinks everybody's a sinner, as far as all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. That means everybody.
KING: What are your thoughts about gays? Do you have any particularly?
BAKKER: My thoughts about everyone is that God loves us. I'm not against anybody. I don't believe in crusading against people.
KING: We'll be right back with Jim Bakker. He spent five years in prison for allegedly defrauding his followers of about $158 million. Here's a clip from his old TV network, where he and Tammy Faye are selling lifetime partnerships in the PTL and in Heritage USA. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE PTL CLUB")
BAKKER: Oh, my lands! That number has really moved up dramatically in the last few hours -- 19,364! My, has that taken a jump! That's taken a jump of about 600 new lifetime partners since I last looked at the board. That is unbelievable. That means there's just a little over 5,000 memberships left of the lifetime partnerships.
TAMMY FAYE BAKKER: Is that right?
BAKKER: That's it.
TAMMY FAYE BAKKER: Wow.
BAKKER: That's all there's left.
TAMMY FAYE BAKKER: That's exciting.
BAKKER: It is unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Jim Bakker. One programming note. Tomorrow we'll be on one hour later. There are two debates, both on CNN tomorrow night, the Republican debate and the Democrat debate in New Hampshire. So we'll be on at 10:00 o'clock Eastern, 7:00 o'clock Pacific with a great panel. That's tomorrow night following the debates. And John McCain will be with us, as well.
Jim Bakker, you mentioned during the break -- and we should clear this up. You said you did not go to jail for embezzlement.
KING: You went to jail...
BAKKER: No, I would have paid -- had to -- the IRS would have taxed that if it...
KING: What did you do?
BAKKER: There was no judgment against...
KING: What were you guilty of?
BAKKER: The bottom line was they said that I was not going to build enough rooms to house the lifetime partnership program at Heritage USA.
KING: So it was fraud, then.
BAKKER: I suppose you would call it that.
KING: And they gave you an enormous amount of years.
BAKKER: Forty-five-year sentence.
KING: And that was eventually reduced.
BAKKER: Jim Albert, one of the great law professors from Drake University, has written a book about it called...
KING: This is the worst sentence...
BAKKER: ... called "Jim Bakker: Miscarriage of Justice," which -- you know, I'm not trying to defend myself, but this man is an outsider. I never -- just didn't know him. And this law professor has spent now probably 13 years of his life researching my case. In fact, David Brokaw was just talking to me about the possibility that it may be made into a motion picture.
KING: David Brokaw represents you, an old friend.
KING: Where right now is Heritage USA? What about that? Where is...
BAKKER: The Christian retreat center is empty right now.
KING: It's physically standing there...
BAKKER: It's deteriorating, yeah.
KING: Going to do -- who owns it?
BAKKER: A group out of Malaysia owns it.
KING: Do you want it back?
BAKKER: Well, I gave it up totally during the prison years, and just said, "God, it's all yours. I'm not going to" -- it's sad. I was there a few months ago, and the big barn auditorium, the roof is leaking down in now. And one of the inns burned down. And so it's in a very bad state of repair. And I think anything that you've given birth to, it's hard to see it deteriorating like that.
KING: Well, there were stories that Reggie White was thinking of helping and buying it and resurrecting it. Is that true?
BAKKER: Reggie -- this is a very difficult question I wish you hadn't asked because I -- there's a...
KING: I just saw a story on that somewhere.
BAKKER: ... confidential -- well, there's a confidentiality agreement in all the negotiations of anything that Reggie does, so...
KING: OK. Is there a possibility...
BAKKER: ... I just simply can't talk about it.
KING: ... you might have Heritage back some day?
BAKKER: I don't know. I don't know. I don't think I want it back as the owner or the one in charge. But I wouldn't mind working with other people to see it restored because people gave money to build the place. It belongs to the people, in my estimation, that were a part of building it.
KING: When you saw that clip we just played -- it had to be about 30 years ago, I guess, right?
BAKKER: I -- boy...
KING: Boy, that was a young...
BAKKER: Yeah. Probably.
KING: What do you think when you saw that? "We have 40 more partnerships to sell."
BAKKER: It's -- it's so foreign.
KING: It is? You look...
BAKKER: It's like another planet or something! Like, who are these people?
KING: Another life.
BAKKER: Yeah. Because it's getting more and more unreal. And I'm married to Lori Beth, who is...
KING: We're going to meet her later. She was here before.
BAKKER: Yeah, who is an awesome lady. And we're so madly in love...
KING: You had a different life.
BAKKER: Totally different life. We live half the time -- in fact, the last two years, we lived in the inner city most of the time.
KING: Now where?
BAKKER: And we're in Charlotte with -- we have a big, old house that Maureen Starr Joiner (ph) has given to use to use, 17,000 square feet.
KING: Why do you need that much... BAKKER: We call it "Morning House," not mourning, not M-O-U.
BAKKER: But, like the Bible says, "Joy comes in the morning." And it's a place for restoration of pastors, people who have fallen, people who have just...
BAKKER: ... are tired, you know, people who -- pastors, leaders. We had a pastor there the other day had 10 children, brought them in for his anniversary, he and his wife. And just take care of them. And it's a place of restoration.
KING: And did it get snowed in?
BAKKER: Did we get -- we almost didn't get to this program! I think we were the last plane out of Charlotte. We had, like, eight inches more of snow that afternoon after we flew out to California.
KING: And what do you do here?
BAKKER: We have a place -- we have a room at the Dream Center, the old Queen of Angels Hospital, you know where -- that's on 101 here?
BAKKER: By the freeway, Echo Park area. And we're hoping to build on the 9th floor -- Tommy Barnett (ph) and Matthew Barnett (ph), our young pastor, has given us the whole 9th floor of that old hospital...
BAKKER: ... to build a restoration center for leaders and pastors, people who have fallen. We have thousands. And a lot of times, when a pastor makes a mistake, he's never, ever given another chance. And what we want to do is bring them -- you see, the inner city kids and the inner city people -- first of all, they don't know who I am. They just know that I love them. And they don't care if he has credentials. They don't know if he's been deflocked or -- defrocked, I should say -- you know -- I guess a Christmas tree is flocked. But anyhow, they don't care. They just love.
I -- when I went to the Dream Center two years ago, I was probably 50 percent healed. I mean, I was a broken, broken human being.
KING: You were here.
BAKKER: Yeah, on your show. In fact, that's why -- it's your fault that I actually went there because you brought me out for this show, picked me up...
KING: And they saw you.
BAKKER: ... picked me up at the airport and -- and I met with them, and they asked me to speak. And I never saw such love in my life! And these people -- I went to the inner city, reached out to the people that were alcoholics, the drug addicts, the kids. And when I went up to speak that night in that Dream Center, I never felt such love! I said, "I feel at home here!" I said, "Any of you guys ever been in prison?" Eighty-five percent of the audience raised their hands!
KING: Have many, many pastors and other clergy -- rabbis, priests -- fallen?
BAKKER: Oh, thousands.
KING: Let me ask you...
BAKKER: We just don't talk about it.
KING: Let me ask you in a minute why.
We're back with Jim Bakker on LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIM AND TAMMY," JANUARY 2, 1989)
TAMMY FAYE BAKKER: That is where Jim and I have been, the sorrow and the grief and the hurt! And we had absolutely nothing left, reputation destroyed, everything gone! My God! Oh, my!
BAKKER: Tammy bought me a little pin. It was supposed to clip on a shirt or something, but I have it on my lamp. It says, "Don't worry. Be happy." The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
TAMMY FAYE BAKKER: I shall not want! You know, Jim, I never realized what that Psalm was before, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." But he -- we have lived that!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In a little while, by the way, we'll be going to your phone calls for Jim Bakker.
Why do so many men, and women, I guess, of the cloth fall?
BAKKER: I don't know if any more of them fall than other people. It's just that it's more noticeable.
KING: Or hypocritical.
BAKKER: But the reason -- I don't think it's even hypocritical. Paul, the great Apostle, said in Romans Chapter 7, he says, "You know, I do stuff I don't want to do. The stuff I should do," he said, "I don't do." And everyone's human, and that's why I don't want people to put me on a pedestal. I don't ever want to get back up there again. I'd rather be down with people of the inner city. And you know...
KING: Right. Is there a common thread?
BAKKER: And another thing. The pastors can't talk to anyone. If you are a licensed or ordained minister and you've got a -- say you're having a lustful problem.
BAKKER: Who do you go to talk about that? If you go to your peers, most of the time they're the ones who would defrock you and tell you that you got to get out of the ministry.
KING: The priest can't go to the bishop.
KING: All right. OK. That's obvious. So where do they go?
BAKKER: Oh, they're alone. That's why we built -- we call it Morning House. That's why we want a place where people can come...
KING: Do you think too many rules are put on pastors?
BAKKER: I'm not sure about that. I think we get into law and legalism, and we don't understand that it's really, really human to err.
KING: But there is hypocrisy, the old-fashioned...
BAKKER: Yes, there is.
KING: The minister and the choir girl is common in America.
BAKKER: Yeah. Yeah. But we see ministers on boards will rule on one man who had a mistake, and they'll throw him out. And we'll find out a few years later those -- one of those men is doing the same thing. And it's hypocrisy when that happens. And that's why we believe in compassion. We believe in restoration. We believe that Jesus said, you know, the spirit shall restore, but we don't see a lot of that.
KING: When you talk now, do you call it preaching? You don't call yourself "Reverend."
BAKKER: Well, I don't like the term "Reverend."
KING: What do you talk about now?
BAKKER: I talk about restoration, bearing one another's burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ, confess your faults one to another, pray one for another that you'll be healed. I believe our relationship to each other is as important as our relationship to God. In fact, Christ said it. He said, "If you've done it to the least, you've done it to me." And we've missed that. We've missed that relationship. People go into churches and don't even know who's sitting next to them. And those people could be dying. They could be hurting.
I always kid people they go to church, and the first thing they do is they lie. They walk in the back door of the -- you know, a temple or whatever. They'll say, "How are you doing?" Everybody says "Fine." You may be thinking about committing suicide, but you know, you'll say "Fine." And there's hurting people. We meet them everywhere we go.
And Lori and I are just two broken people. She comes from a life...
KING: She had a rough life.
BAKKER: ... of sex, drugs, rock-and-roll and a husband that beat her, ended up in the hospital a lot, and total drug addiction. And so all we are is -- we're not examples. We're failures. We're just two broken-up people. We're Humpty-Dumpty who sat on the wall and had a great fall and...
KING: But you want to...
BAKKER: ... nobody could put us back.
KING: You want to come back. You could have just gone off somewhere.
BAKKER: I tried. I stayed on the farm many years, and the Gramm (ph) family took care of me and blessed me as...
KING: So we didn't hear from you for a while.
BAKKER: No, you didn't. You didn't hear from me for years.
KING: You were brought back by the need to come back?
BAKKER: Then I went into the inner city. I'm not back. I mean...
KING: But you want to be on television again. You -- I mean, there's nothing...
BAKKER: I love the idea of telling millions of people that God loves them, no matter what they've done. There's a way out. There's a way of having peace with God, just what Lori's doing with women who had abortions. We don't believe in marching and beating up people. Other people do what they need to do, but we believe in telling the ladies, "God loves you. That baby that was aborted is in heaven, and God wants to restore you and heal you to a whole person."
KING: How's your son doing?
BAKKER: He is doing awesome. He's in Atlanta...
KING: That's Jay (ph), right?
BAKKER: And you know, can you -- yeah. Jamie Charles (ph) is his real name, but Jay...
KING: He had a lot of problems, too.
BAKKER: Tremendous drug problems. And he could have been the most bitter kid in the world.
KING: What's he doing now?
BAKKER: He has his own inner-city ministry, working with Safe House there. He has -- called Revolution. He is -- HarperCollins is doing his life story.
BAKKER: And they -- they're talking of even doing a movie of his life, which is insanity. He even had -- "Rolling Stone" did about five pages on him, and so he had MTV call him about possibly doing a show with them. All kinds of things are happening. But he's built a half-way house for runaway kids. He ministers to punk rockers, kids with purple hair and tattoos. And he's -- he is a preacher of grace.
KING: We'll be back with more of Jim Bakker. We'll go to your phone calls in a little while, too. This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't forget tomorrow, two debates on CNN, and we'll be on at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, with a great panel. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 27, 1987)
REV. JIMMY SWAGGART: The moment we start charging blame to others, we are not really putting the blame on the doorsteps of ourselves. And the very foundation of resentence is saying, "Lord, I am guilty. No excuses. No cop-out. I'm guilty. Have mercy on me and forgive me." And Jim Bakker, as I see it, has not done that yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Pot calling the kettle black. When you saw it -- did you see that?
KING: And now knowing what's happened to him, how do you feel?
BAKKER: I just have compassion for him. KING: No anger at him?
BAKKER: Oh, no. No.
KING: Because that would have been...
BAKKER: At one time...
KING: ... the height of hypocrisy.
BAKKER: At one time I did. I mean, you know, you're hurt, and hurt is really anger and...
KING: But don't a lot in your faith, frankly...
BAKKER: I have to forgive...
KING: ... judge?
KING: That was very judgmental.
BAKKER: I had to forgive everyone in prison. I mean, I really felt that I would die in prison. I really felt God spoke to me in the spirit and to the word of God, you know, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." And God spoke to my heart if I did not forgive everyone from my heart, that I would die in prison. And I had a list. I prayed for them. Some days I would backslide, and I'd still have anger, and I would just read the list. I said, "All right, God. Here they are," you know? But when I really got to the point where I could forgive everyone totally, I was -- I -- my sentence was changed, and a miracle took place.
KING: So you can look at that which we just saw with bemusement.
BAKKER: I can look at it and say, "I love him." And my son, Jamie, has met with his son just recently, and there is -- you know, I want to love everybody. I don't want to hate anyone.
KING: "Washington Post" in a story about you said, "Bakker is focusing almost exclusively on black America." In that "Post" piece, it said "Bill Clinton, even George Wallace late in his life, benefited from the African-American religious community's willingness to forgive." And that's a kind of broad statement. Is the African- American religious community more willing to forgive than white America?
BAKKER: Oh, absolutely. But I'm not focusing...
KING: You think it's because they've know...
BAKKER: I'm not focusing just on the black community.
KING: That's what the article said. BAKKER: I'm focusing on everybody. They happen to visit me at a very large black church I was ministering to in the Washington, D.C., area, and so they wrote the story from that angle.
KING: But you're very at home...
BAKKER: The black community all my life, in my ministry, they would come to Heritage USA, and B.B. and C.C. Wynan (ph), who are two of my best, dearest friends, they started their ministry through us. I didn't pretend -- I mean, I didn't have quotas or anything like that. I just wanted everyone to come and be with it. And I believe the black community knows reality. I find the inner city, they know a fake when they see it. I mean, you can't fake it out there. There's a rawness about that. But the black people honestly have an ability to forgive.
KING: Do you ever -- are you ever frightened?
BAKKER: In the inner city?
BAKKER: No. I don't -- a few weeks...
KING: Well, white America...
BAKKER: ... a few months ago...
KING: ... fears to walk...
BAKKER: A few months ago I had a bullet in my windshield of my Jeep, but it was something from away off somewhere. It was just dropped right down. It cracked the windshield, but it dropped right down. We found the bullet there. So it was a long ways away. But I feel more safe, actually, in the inner city than I do anyplace else.
KING: We'll take a break, come back and go to your phone calls for Jim Bakker. And in a little while, we're going to meet Lori Beth, as well. Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Let's include some of your phone calls for Jim Bakker.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, hello.
CALLER: Yes. Hello, Larry. My question for Jim is this. What is going to be your new approach and style in this new venture of yours? And what makes you think that it's going to be different this time? And why should we believe that it's going to be different? And I guess I say this because not everybody is as forgiving... BAKKER: I missed that first -- what is she saying...
KING: OK, what is -- what is going to be the new approach when you -- let's say you're back on television.
KING: What's going to be different from the past, and why should they believe?
BAKKER: Well, what'll be different from the past, I think, is we're hoping to have no fund-raising over the air. And we've been talking to many people of how to do this, and I think there's just...
KING: You won't be pitching people for money.
BAKKER: Yes. That's -- that's our number-one goal, you know? And first of all, I don't want anybody to believe in me. I don't want...
KING: You don't want them...
BAKKER: No, I don't. I don't ask them to believe in my. I want them to believe in God. That was one of the big mistakes I made before. I wanted people to believe in my dream, and my dream became more important than the people. You know, I thought the people -- I was doing all for people, but Diedrich Bonnhoffer (ph) says, you know, that when the dream of Christian community becomes more important than the community, that's when it's a sin.
KING: Charlotte, North Carolina, hello.
CALLER: Can I ask -- tell Jim one thing first?
CALLER: I was a member -- I was a member of the Towers Club, and I still have my old card.
KING: What's your question?
CALLER: Listen, are you ever going to come back to Charlotte, Jim, and stay, or, are you going to stay away from Charlotte?
BAKKER: Well, we -- we have a restoration house there in Charlotte right now, and Charlotte was really -- I'll be honest with you -- was the last city I wanted to go back to. It's, like, where the pain was, the court case and everything. But if God wants me in Charlotte, I will go wherever I sense that God would have me...
KING: Well, you're there a lot, then, right...
BAKKER: Yes, very much.
KING: ... with the restoration house.
BAKKER: Oh, yes.
KING: How do they treat you, the people?
BAKKER: Awesome! I have had -- I've been there now for about seven months, and I have had no one be cruel to me in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are wonderful people.
KING: Carmi, Illinois, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. I had a question for Jim. Does he still see and have a relationship with Tammy Faye?
BAKKER: No. No, I don't see Tammy Faye at all.
KING: Do you hear from her at all?
KING: No? She's married again now, isn't she?
BAKKER: She married Roe (ph) Messner, uh-huh.
KING: And you know him, right?
BAKKER: Yes. He was the builder at Heritage USA.
KING: Do you still hear from a lot of bitter people...
KING: ... angry people?
BAKKER: No. No, I've -- in prison I would have people write me and say, "I hope you die in prison." I got one letter said, "I hope you're raped by the biggest" and the ethnic slur "person in prison."
KING: A real religious person.
BAKKER: Yeah, but they did. And they'd sign it, "I love God," you know, "so don't judge me, but I hope you die in prison. I hope you're raped in prison." And those really -- it was like I was dead. You wanted more out of this corpse.
KING: By the way, a question all Americans are talking about. Be interested in your opinion. What do you think of the Elian Gonzalez case? What should happen with that boy?
BAKKER: I don't want to play God. I just -- I want every child to be with their parents, you know, and what's best for them, where they find the love. And I don't know -- you know, I just don't know the whole situation. You know, under certain circumstances, the mother's wishes should be -- other circumstances, the father is the father. I know my son, Jamie -- I'd want him at any cost.
KING: You're a father.
BAKKER: I'm a father. You can't change that.
KING: What's your biggest regret, Jim?
BAKKER: Wow. There's so many. Took a 700-page book to write it. One of the biggest regrets is that I brought disgrace to God's kingdom and that I didn't guard money properly as a preacher, didn't -- even in -- you know, even though I knew what was in my heart, the perception was even far different than my heart was. But I take full blame for whatever I did, even the perception.
KING: And do you think there's a judging God who is looking down on you, and is he angry at you?
KING: Has he forgiven you?
BAKKER: I thought he was. When I went to prison, I didn't even know if there was a God. And as I've studied the scriptures, I've fallen so deeply in love with Jesus Christ and with God through this whole thing. And in the Book of Colossians, it says that through Christ's death, we are made holy and pure.
And there's this thing -- my son would call me on the phone because he is a preacher of grace. And I'd be out on that farm, practically dying, just saying, "I'm through with life. I'm not going back out." And Jamie got on the phone. He'd say, "Dad, did you know the Bible says we're saved by grace, and it's not works? We don't have to do anything. And God covers all of our sins."
KING: Doesn't it make it easy? Don't have to do anything. God is in charge. He'll forgive you.
BAKKER: But that's the kind of God -- that's what the Bible's all about. That's why we have a God because he knows our (INAUDIBLE)
KING: But you said you learned a lot from the Holocaust.
KING: The Holocaust is one of the big things people who question God use. If there is a God...
BAKKER: Since a child...
KING: ... how? How?
BAKKER: ... I studied the Holocaust. My best friend, Sonny Singer (ph) down the street from me, and his parents -- one day the most shocking thing Mrs. Singer told me. She said "How come Christians hate Jews?" I was just a kid. I was a Christian, and Sonny was a Jewish boy. And I didn't know Christians hated Jews. And this really -- I mean, it hurt me because I didn't -- I didn't hate them. I didn't hate anybody.
KING: How do you explain a loving God and the Holocaust? Or you just say it's man's will?
BAKKER: Man has done horrible things. As one judge friend of ours said, man's inhumanity to man always never ceases to amaze me. But I believe, as I studied the Holocaust and Eli Wiesel's book, "The Night" trilogy, I read in prison -- and as I studied that book of the Holocaust in those -- he said the real heroes are the ones that died. He said everyone that came out of the Holocaust, really, they were either atheist or very spiritual.
I believe personally that every person who died in the Holocaust is in heaven. This -- I can hear the people screaming out at me all over...
KING: ... don't you? If you didn't believe that, you couldn't believe in God.
BAKKER: I believe that they -- their blood brought Zion, brought about Israel. The state of Israel came from the Holocaust, really. That was the driving force. And every drop of blood is the precious cost of Israel today.
KING: Savannah, Georgia, hello.
CALLER: Larry, my question for Mr. Bakker is, why didn't Tammy, his wife at the time, which was his partner, serve any time or have any responsibility for the things that went on, supposedly...
KING: Yeah, why was she not charged with anything?
BAKKER: I don't know. Everything was the court's decision.
KING: Oh. You had nothing to do with...
BAKKER: No, it was just the court's decisions.
KING: We'll be back with more of Jim Bakker, more phone calls, and then we'll meet Lori Beth.
This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 7, 1996)
TAMMY FAYE MESSNER: Jim told me himself. He said "It's going to be in the papers tomorrow, and I've got to tell you something." And we went in the bedroom, and he told me what had happened. Well, of course, you don't ever believe it, you know? It was -- it was probably the greatest shock of my whole life.
KING: Did you know then the marriage was over, too?
MESSNER: Well, no, because I feel like when -- you know, I wanted to be there to support Jim. I knew he was going through hell in every way. And I felt like I needed to be there to support him and not leave him at a moment of his most desperate need.
KING: Even though you had anger.
MESSNER: Even though I was terribly angry, terribly angry. I cried for -- I could not stop crying for three days. And finally, they brought someone in to help me through that period, and I got through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So before we take the next call, what you're saying, in a sense, is you don't have to believe in Christ to go to heaven because if the Jews died -- if a Jew dies and doesn't believe, he goes to heaven.
BAKKER: I believe that decision is in God's hand, not mine.
KING: But you believe in the Holocaust, they're all in heaven.
KING: And if they all...
KING: ... died Jews or many, most died Jews...
KING: ... then they're in heaven.
BAKKER: That's right.
KING: Martyrs are in heaven.
BAKKER: Well, I mean, the prophets of God are all Jews, too, you know.
KING: Well, Christ was Jewish.
BAKKER: That's right.
KING: Lexington, Kentucky, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry.
CALLER: My question for Mr. Bakker is, in regards to your future plans, including television, what makes you feel that you are fit to morally lead people in an evangelical nature, especially with your moral failures and in light of the fact that there are many other clergymen who have set a better moral example for others?
BAKKER: Well, I -- I absolutely agree with them.
KING: Caller, are you Christian?
CALLER: Yes, Larry. I am.
KING: Do you believe in forgiveness?
CALLER: Yes, I do.
KING: Do you forgive Jim?
CALLER: Yes, but...
KING: So why can't he lead?
CALLER: Because especially in the light of the fact the biggest problem that I have with it is the book that he has now that he is trying to sell seems to me hypocritical...
KING: We're not selling any book tonight.
CALLER: What's that?
KING: What book?
CALLER: The book that he said that he wrote about his experiences in prison and (INAUDIBLE)
KING: Oh, yeah. That was some time back. What about it?
CALLER: It seems to me that he is making money off of his sin, and it seems very hypocritical to me.
KING: I see. Did you make money off that book?
BAKKER: No. I -- the -- up until the last few weeks, I have not been able to have one penny from any books. I did not make one penny from that book. The...
KING: You're not allowed?
BAKKER: I -- yeah, I -- no, I signed an agreement in prison. The lawyers had me sign it -- that they took between the IRS and my lawyers, they took 100 percent of the money from the books.
KING: So how do you make money? How do you make a living?
BAKKER: When I go out to speak.
KING: Is it a -- and you say he's right.
BAKKER: He is right. I don't want people to look to me. Lori and I are not examples. We are examples...
KING: But you are an example of...
BAKKER: You know, Humpty-Dumpty...
KING: ... of redemption.
BAKKER: ... you know, made a great fall. And it says all the king's horses, all the king's men couldn't put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. That means all the efforts of man -- when you break an egg, you can't put it back.
KING: But you're saying you are back.
BAKKER: We were broken so much that you can't undo what we did.
KING: You're still broken?
BAKKER: I'm put back together by my faith in Jesus Christ. He forgives everyone. And if I don't receive his forgiveness, how can I teach anyone else that God will forgive them. I work in a ministry where we have a young man from the ghetto working with us who was a part of killing 20 people. He is now out of the gangs. He's accepted Christ. He is in the school. We have him in a Bible school. He goes to Denmark. He's speaking to 20,000 people in coliseums, in the streets, to the gangs. He's winning thousands of people to Christ.
If my sins can't be forgiven, how could I tell this young man "God'll forgive you of murder. God'll forgive you of what you've done"?
KING: Do you think when you walk in, or people turn on the television tonight and see you, you start with two strikes.
KING: So you have to make a case convincingly, don't you?
KING: Not for you, for your belief, right?
BAKKER: I just want to give them the word of God and -- and I'd ask...
KING: But you start...
BAKKER: I'd ask this man to forgive me because I don't know him. And I obviously...
KING: But he obviously is very angry at you...
BAKKER: It hurts him -- yes, but...
KING: ... and he's obviously been hurt by you. BAKKER: ... anger is -- yes, anger is such a killing force. The Bible says if we don't forgive, we won't be forgiven. And it doesn't hurt me for him to be angry with me because I'll probably never meet him or never see him. And yet he has this anger. I know people that are mad at dead people. They're mad at a parrot or something. And it's killing them. Anger is a greater prison than...
KING: It beats the anger...
BAKKER: ... the prison that I was in.
KING: We'll take a break, come back, and Lori Beth Bakker will join us. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now with Jim Bakker is his wife, Lori Beth Bakker.
Let me just tell you a little bit about this lady. She's had five abortions before she was 22, left her unable to bear children. In the February issue of "Charisma" (ph) magazine, she said she was raised in a good Christian atmosphere until divorce raised its ugly head and devastated her, did drugs and alcohol.
What changed you? What brought you around from this devastating early life?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Jesus.
KING: But how did that happen?
LORI BETH BAKKER: How did that happen? After -- after trying everything there is to try and everything there is to do in the world to fulfill that -- the emptiness that I was feeling inside, I went to church on Easter Sunday because doesn't everybody go to church on Easter, you know?
KING: How long ago?
LORI BETH BAKKER: And -- that was Easter Sunday, 1989.
LORI BETH BAKKER: And that was the day that I went to Phoenix First Assembly, Tommy Barnett's church. And I walked down the aisle when hue gave the invitation to come to know Jesus as your personal savior. And being born and raised...
KING: But you'd heard that invitation before.
LORI BETH BAKKER: Oh, I heard my whole life growing up.
KING: So what changed that day?
LORI BETH BAKKER: I believe it was just time. I knew that God had never, ever -- he never left me, Larry. He never left me. Even though I chose to go do all these other things in my life, he still had his hand on my life.
KING: How'd you meet Jim?
LORI BETH BAKKER: And then we met when I went to go speak at the Los Angeles International Church, which is called the Dream Center. That's where we met, and our dreams came true! But we met...
KING: Was it right away did you click?
BAKKER: Oh, wow. Yes. I met her -- it was in the alley behind the church, where my son, who had met her four years before, introduced us to each other. And I mean, I fell in love like a 16- year-old and...
KING: You, too?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Yes, I did.
KING: Now, you must have had questions. You knew you had your own horrible past. But you -- this was a man who'd been in prison. Everyone knew the Jim Bakker story. You knew about Tammy Faye and all -- didn't you approach this hesitatingly?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Not really because -- it's that old saying. I was just talking to one of your staff earlier. You just know that you know that you know when it's the person that you're supposed to spend the rest of your life with. And I had waited 13 years. I had been married and divorced and was single for 13 years. And when I met Jim, it was, I believe, a God thing. And I just knew that I knew. And I really wanted to believe and trust that I could be a part of this life.
KING: But you must have had doubts. No doubts? You put the doubts away?
LORI BETH BAKKER: I really did put them away. I really did. I just really -- I really -- not to sound so super-spiritual or use what I call "Christian-ese," but I really saw God on it. I said, "God, if this is not supposed to happen, then close the doors right now. This man obviously doesn't need to be hurt anymore. He's been hurt so much in his life, and I certainly don't need to be hurt anymore. I've been hurt so much in my life. So if it's not meant to be, close the doors, and -- but if it is meant to be, then open them all the way."
BAKKER: I think it's been harder for her, in some ways, than what she thought because I told her ahead of time, I said, "You know, the media's going to be there." They were there -- we were trying to have a few days by ourself, and the -- I mean, they found us in our bathing suits out...
LORI BETH BAKKER: I forgot about that!
BAKKER: ... at the ocean, you know. And there was somebody from one... KING: Well, public figure.
BAKKER: ... from the "Enquirer," I think it was, was there, you know, snapping pictures secretly of us.
KING: No kidding! The "Enquirer." What a shock.
LORI BETH BAKKER: Can you imagine that?
BAKKER: But she -- you know, she had never experienced this. And then -- you know, so the first months really were I think different than -- you knew you could make it, but yet it was...
LORI BETH BAKKER: Yeah.
KING: I think it was pretty tough in those first days.
LORI BETH BAKKER: I'm a pretty adventurous person, so...
KING: Do you have any guilt, Lori, about the past?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Oh, I can honestly say now I don't have guilt and shame. But that simply is because I allowed God to go into the deepest places of my inner being and heal them. There's no way I could come on a television program such as this or stand before audiences of thousands and thousands of people and say "I went through five abortions. I had to have a total hysterectomy as a result of my last abortion. I, you know, had"...
KING: Drug problems.
LORI BETH BAKKER: Drug problem, alcohol problem. I mean, you name it, I did it, practically. And there's no way I could come and say that if that shame wasn't gone.
KING: Do you know you're completely OK?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Every day. Every single day. You have to take it a day at a time.
KING: Do you know, Jim, you're OK?
BAKKER: Oh, only because of Christ. I mean, I'm a...
KING: But you don't fear tomorrow.
BAKKER: Oh, yeah. Well, I'm a melancholy (ph), and so I -- you know, I have tendency to take this stuff on...
BAKKER: ... and the hardest thing was to forgive myself. And what's why when this man comes on and says, you know, "You're not fit," I'm the first to agree with him. I am not fit.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with the Bakkers. Don't go away.
This week on LARRY KING LIVE, tomorrow we'll be live after the debates with Senator John McCain, plus reaction and analysis with Bill Kristol, E.J. Dionne, Tucker Carlson and Michael Beschloss. Then on Thursday, we'll be live after the State of the Union with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart and others. And Friday night, Naomi and Wynona Judd will take your calls. That's all this week on CNN's LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Somebody called and said you look so great. Have you had surgery?
KING: Someone reported that.
BAKKER: Dr. Georgovic (ph), oh, several...
KING: Give him credit. He did a great job.
BAKKER: Several years ago, when I got out of prison, he said, "Jim, you have unnatural grief lines," and they were running, like, sideways.
KING: You had a lot of them.
BAKKER: Yeah. And he said, "You really look like" -- he said, "It's caused by grief," because he's a student of people's faces. And so he did it free, and I probably shouldn't have done it. It was one of those things that...
KING: Why not?
BAKKER: ... you know...
BAKKER: ... vain for a preacher to do those things. But I'm not a preacher of that type anymore, so I -- it was free, and my dad's a Dutchman, and he always told me to take everything free, so...
KING: What's life like together, Lori Beth? Do you argue?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Oh, we -- I'm sure we have our disagreements...
BAKKER: Oh, yeah.
LORI BETH BAKKER: ... from time to time. But I mean, that's every relationship.
KING: Are you bugged that the name Tammy Faye comes up, or when you see clips tonight, you have to show that because that's part of the Bakker story? LORI BETH BAKKER: It's part of the story.
KING: So you accept that.
LORI BETH BAKKER: I accept it.
KING: Do you know her?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Sure. Oh, yes. I do. We've been together for Jamie's wedding, which was back in June, and for...
KING: How'd that go?
LORI BETH BAKKER: It was -- it was beautiful. It was incredible. Jim performed the ceremony, and it was just a special, special moment. It was an incredible experience to...
KING: How do you look back on his earlier life?
LORI BETH BAKKER: I guess I just look back on it that that was his life, just like my life...
BAKKER: She learns -- you learn stuff every day...
LORI BETH BAKKER: I learn stuff every...
BAKKER: ... and she's, like, "Was that you?"
LORI BETH BAKKER: Yes.
KING: "Did you wear that jacket?"
BAKKER: Oh! That's -- and that hair! You know, in the '60s...
LORI BETH BAKKER: We have more fun with the hair and the glasses and the clothes.
BAKKER: At least I had some.
LORI BETH BAKKER: Yeah, you did. But no, it's really -- it's real interesting meeting all -- so many different people who come and visit us, or we go different places and I meet, that have known Jim for many, many, many years. And they all have their stories.
I only wish -- you know, I was telling my mom the other night. We were sitting around a few nights ago and talking. And I said, "I can't imagine that''-- you know, I'm 18 years younger than Jim. Everybody always wants to know, you know, "How old is Lori? How old is Jim?" And so he married a younger woman.
But what's so amazing is I have the opportunity to sit with some of the greatest leaders in this day that have been around for a long time. And the stories that they have to tell about, you know, the early years in the Christianity -- in the world of the Christian world. It's so interesting to me. I think how many people my age ever get to hear these great stories that will go down in history?
And I'm, like, "God, I can't believe you chose me." You know, there's a girl from Phoenix, Arizona, that had all this past. "Why would you ever choose me to be with this man, who I believe is the greatest person I've ever known in my life, to be his wife?" It's the greatest honor next to being a Christian.
KING: And she's meant to you what?
BAKKER: The absolute love. I did not believe that a man my age, first of all, could fall in love like a teenager. And to be loved 24 hours a day -- the loneliness -- when I was on that farm, the prison years, were -- the loneliness -- that's the hell of prison is lonely. And then on the farm, I had -- I was -- I lived between a cemetery and a cow pasture, so I had no neighbors. And the loneliness, literally at night, would be physical, aching in my heart. I don't know if you understand that or not, but literally physical. And to have a woman that loves me -- I mean, I have never known this kind of love.
KING: Do you feel the same about black America as Jim does?
LORI BETH BAKKER: Yes. Absolutely.
BAKKER: Oh, yes.
LORI BETH BAKKER: I -- you know, they are the ones that have -- I hate to use "they" and "we" and -- but that's just the way it is.
KING: That's the way it's been.
LORI BETH BAKKER: That's the way it's been. That's right. But you know, it's -- wherever we go, it's the little gals that'll come up and go, "Is that -- is that Jim Bakker?" And I'm, like, "Uh-huh. It is." And they always ask me...
BAKKER: Lori worked in the ghettos...
LORI BETH BAKKER: Yes. Oh!
BAKKER: ... before she met me for 10 years.
LORI BETH BAKKER: I love it.
BAKKER: She's worked with master's commission (ph), and she had families that she took care of and ran bus routes. She was a shoeshine girl at the airport.
KING: You are both terrific. We will do it again soon.
LORI BETH BAKKER: Thank you. Thank you.
KING: Thank you so much.
BAKKER: So fun to be with you.
KING: Jim Bakker -- he's got a book coming out soon called "The Refuge," and his wife, Lori Beth Bakker.
Tomorrow night again, we'll be on one hour later. There are two debates on CNN tomorrow night, so we'll be on at 10:00 o'clock Eastern, 7:00 PM Pacific, a whole panel and Senator John McCain.
Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND." They're going to reveal Al Gore's secret weapon.
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