Both Jim Bakker, the disgraced televangelist now on parole after five years in prison, and Tammy Faye Messner, his former wife, published separate autobiographies last month detailing the fall of their multimillion-dollar PTL empire nine years ago.
In his 647-page I Was Wrong (Thomas Nelson), Bakker, 56, repeatedly apologizes to those he has offended by his financial and sexual misconduct. In the 337-page Tammy: Telling It My Way (Villard), Messner, 54, blames other religious broadcasters, primarily Jerry Falwell, for permitting the bankruptcy of what had been the largest Christian satellite network.
Bakker agrees that the PTL ministry was stolen from him, but he blames himself. "Had I simply stopped long enough to think, to seek God's direction, to surround myself with a group of wise counselors as the Bible instructs, I would not have allowed a group of men, many of whom I barely knew, to take the reins of PTL," he writes.
His imprisonment occurred after he bilked 116,000 "lifetime partners" at Heritage USA theme park in Fort Mill, South Carolina, out of $158 million. Bakker still believes he did not conspire to defraud anyone, but he does confess to succumbing to the "arrogance" and "foolishness" of an excessive standard of living. In prison, where his work assignment was cleaning toilets, Bakker says he had the opportunity "to see things in the Bible I had never seen before."
He calls the 15-minute sexual encounter with 21-year-old church secretary Jessica Hahn in 1980—which contributed to his downfall seven years later—as "completely consensual." Bakker and Messner differ on the circumstances of their 1992 divorce, each saying the breakup of their 30-year marriage was the other's idea. The following year Tammy Faye married Roe Messner, who since has been convicted of bankruptcy fraud.
Bakker will not see any royalties, which will go into an escrow account for the IRS and outstanding attorney fees. Meanwhile, Messner has been trying to resuscitate her career, and the book jacket gives an address for fan club mail. After being diagnosed with colon cancer, she quit cohosting a talk show earlier this year.
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