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1988: TV evangelist quits over sex scandal

VIDEO : Swaggart defies church to preach again

Jimmy Swaggart, America's leading television evangelist, has resigned from his ministry after it was revealed he had been consorting with a prostitute.

In front of a congregation of 7,000 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he sobbed and confessed to "moral failure" without actually going into any detail.


"I have sinned against you and I beg your forgiveness"

Jimmy Swaggart

"I do not plan in any way to whitewash my sin or call it a mistake," he told shocked members of his Family Worship Centre.

Turning to his wife, Frances, he said: "I have sinned against you and I beg your forgiveness."

Mr Swaggart's confession is all the more scandalous since he himself unleashed fire and brimstone against rival TV evangelist Rev Jim Bakker a few months ago for committing adultery with minister and secretary Jessica Hahn.

Rev Bakker was subsequently defrocked and fired from his multi-million-dollar Praise the Lord TV station.

This time it was Mr Swaggart's turn to repent after officials from the Assemblies of God church were given photographs showing him taking a prostitute to a Louisiana motel.

They were handed in by rival TV evangelist Martin Gorman who was also defrocked after Mr Swaggart accused him of "immoral dalliances" in 1986.

Mr Gorman, who ran a successful TV show from New Orleans, had launched an unsuccessful $90m law suit against Mr Swaggart two years ago for spreading false rumours.

He also suggested Mr Swaggart was trying to undermine rival TV shows.

Big business

TV evangelism is certainly a lucrative business.

The Jimmy Swaggart Hour is watched by up to two million families and donations raised amount to about $150m a year.

After the Bakker scandal, donations from the faithful dropped dramatically and the same is likely to happen to Jimmy Swaggart's show.

The resignation will also displease Republican presidential contender Rev Pat Robertson. He is currently trying to drum up support in the "Bible Belt" southern states ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries on 8 March.

Rev Robertson has threatened to sue anyone who calls him a TV evangelist and prefers to be described as a businessman.

In Context
Four days later Debra Murphree, the prostitute photographed with Jimmy Swaggart, told a New Orleans TV show he was a regular customer but insisted they had not had sex.

She said he liked to watch her undress.

Along with his son Donnie, Jimmy Swaggart continues to broadcast to 30 countries but viewer numbers are not what they used to be when he was preaching to more than 100 nations around the world.

Pat Robertson at first said the Swaggart scandal was engineered by his rival Vice-President George Bush to scupper his chances of entering the White House.

A week later, Mr Roberston retracted this accusation and flew to Louisiana for a public show of support for the shamed religious TV star.

Mr Robertson's presidential bid failed but in 1989 he launched the Christian Coalition, a conservative Christian pressure group that has some influence in the Republican Party.


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