Mike Warnke may be killing his career with silence. Since July, when an article in Cornerstone magazine alleged Warnke fabricated his Satanist past and misused donor funds (CT, Aug. 17, 1992, p. 50), many Christian-bookstore owners have pulled the comedian’s books and tapes from their shelves, and some churches and producers are canceling his shows. Confused consumers have been querying retailers. “The big question is, ‘Is it true?’ ” notes Tony Massey, director of the music department at the Christian Armory, a Christian bookstore in Tucker, Georgia.
Jim Reimann, the new chairman of the board of Christian Booksellers Association (CBA), owns and operates the Christian Armory. He has pulled Warnke’s products. “We feel there is enough basis for this [action],” he said, cautioning that he spoke only for his store and not CBA. “It is a very unfortunate thing. The message Mike brought through the years was certainly good and valid, but I think his integrity has been brought into question.”
Word, Inc., has suspended sales, and is accepting returns, of their 13 audio and two video recordings of Warnke. Bridge Publishing, Inc., which distributes Warnke’s original best seller, The Satan Seller, and Victory House Publishing, which distributes two recent Warnke books, have not suspended sales, but are accepting returns.
Like many others, Reimann says he has eagerly waited for Warnke to address the specific allegations raised in the Cornerstone article. “I think if Mike were to basically come clean … and really just share the truth as opposed to trying to avoid the issue and cover it up, I think that would go a long way in the minds of store owners.”
But Warnke continues to deny CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s request for an interview. His spokesperson, Pat Cole, says Mike’s “administration” told him not to grant any more interviews. “I don’t think there are any answers we could give … that would satisfy anybody,” she told CT.
When pressed, she acknowledged that Warnke’s “administration” consists of him, his former (and third) wife, Rose, her brother Neale Hall, and Hall’s daughter. All four are the subject of a second round of allegations published in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.
The Herald-Leader reported in late July that “the Internal Revenue Service revoked the tax-exempt status of Warnke’s organization last fall,” and that the Warnkes have appealed the ruling. The ministry “pays nearly $1 million in salaries” to Warnke, Rose, Neal Hall, and his daughter, asserts one Herald-Leader article.
Despite these claims and those by Cornerstone, Cole told CT that Warnke stands by his original, 12-page reply to the Cornerstone article. But that statement, issued on July 15, did not directly answer many of the most potentially damaging questions raised by Cornerstone, including whether Warnke could reconcile his assertions that he was in bad health from drugs and alcohol, had long hair, and was leading a Satanist group at a time in 1966 when photos show him as being clean-cut and in attendance at a friend’s wedding with a date.
By Joe Maxwell.
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