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Haggard to King: I'm guilty enough of so many things

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  • Pastor Ted Haggard says he's working out issues through counseling
  • Haggard says he first had feelings about men in high school
  • Haggard's wife says she was shocked, but has forgiven him
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(CNN) -- Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard spoke to CNN's Larry King on Thursday about Haggard's relationship with a male escort, which resulted in his being fired from the influential megachurch that he founded. Haggard also spoke about allegations of another relationship with a man. Haggard's wife, Gayle Haggard, also shared her feelings. Here are excerpts of the interview.

Ted Haggard tells Larry King, "I'm guilty enough of so many things that I just said, I'm a deceiver, I'm a liar, I'm a hypocrite."

Ted Haggard tells Larry King, "I'm guilty enough of so many things that I just said, I'm a deceiver, I'm a liar, I'm a hypocrite."

Larry King: February 2005, Time magazine lists you as one of the 20 most influential evangelicals in the United States.

What happened?

Ted Haggard: Well, I made the worst mistake in my life. I embarrassed my wife and violated her and my children and everybody that trusted me and myself. I -- I did some things that were contrary to the things that I believe. And -- and I made a mess of my life.

King: Were these feelings about men, were these feelings that you had for a long time?

Haggard: Well, the first I remember them is in high school. And -- but I never acted on them. I married Gayle in college. It was a wonderful relationship with Gayle through the years. And -- but I would, I'd wrestle with it and I would have to deal with it and struggle with them. And then I reached a point where I...

King: Gave in?

Haggard: Gave in. I did it. And I'm guilty of many of the things that -- but I'm guilty enough. Many of the charges against me are exaggerated, but it doesn't matter. I'm guilty enough of so many things that I just said, I'm a deceiver, I'm a liar, I'm a hypocrite, I've got to work these things out. And we've spent the last two years in the desert personally and going through counseling and working it out.

King: Did you not, though, preach against homosexuality?

Haggard: Yes, I did. And I...

King: Wasn't that hypocritical?

Haggard: It was hypocritical. Absolutely, it was. And the reason I did was because I have a belief system that I still have. I believe the Bible is the word of God. I believe Jesus is the son of God. I believe in being born again, those things that are fundamental to Christianity.

And I knew that the Bible was a set of ideals. The Bible says God hates divorce, but we know that lots of fine, wonderful people have to go through the horrible experiences of divorce.

We know that the Bible says pray continually. And I'm not giving it as an excuse, but I knew -- I knew that the Bible taught that sexuality was -- I felt like God's plan was for sexuality to be in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage. And I wanted that for myself. I wanted to please God. But at the same time, I had these other things going on and I ended up violating my wife and family and everything.

King: And since you didn't know why you had them going on -- no one knows why they are...

Haggard: Right. No, we didn't know.

King: So you didn't choose it. You didn't say, boy, I want to be -- have these feelings.

Haggard: Right. Exactly.

King: Didn't you question your beliefs?

Haggard: I -- especially in the last two years, I've gone through quite a struggle. Prior to the scandal, just I thought if I were more spiritual, I would be OK. So I would pray and fast. I'd read my Bible.

I'd memorize more scripture. I'd do things like that.

And it actually made me worse -- the struggle was worse on the inside of me.

And since then, my counselor has explained why. And -- and so I'm really grateful to be where I am now. I should have gone to counseling years and years and years ago to work it out.

King: In recent days the revelation of what you called an inappropriate relationship between you and a young male church volunteer back in 2006. That was Grant Haas.

Haggard: Yes.

King: He told CNN about what happened. True?

Haggard: Fundamentally true. The specifics aren't quite right, but it doesn't matter.

What matters is that -- that is an indicator of the compulsive behavior that was going on in my life during that time period.

King: How long ago was this?

Haggard: Over two years ago. Since that time, I met with him and one of the church overseers and Gayle and asked for his forgiveness. And all of our children -- when he decided to come out and talk about that -- as our kids came in the other night, I said Grant Haas is going to go public. And every one of them knew about it. And they said oh, really -- and went on about their evening.

King: Did that get you in more trouble with the church?

Haggard: No. They knew about it. They knew about it two years ago. And I wasn't involved in their dealings with that. I was already out. But no, that's all over two years old.

King: You could have spoken two years ago, right? It was just the church that stopped you?

Haggard: Yes. Uh-huh. Yes, the church. And I think they wanted to protect me from myself. They knew I was confused, disillusioned, disappointed in myself. And -- and they did the best they could.

(Begin video clip)

Pastor Brady Boyd, New Life Church: I want to tell you something from my pastor's heart to you -- that I'm sorry that this wound has been reopened for many of you. I'm very sorry. And I want you to tell something, one day -- we may have a little scar tissue, but the wound will not always define us. The wound will not always be with us.

(End video clip)

King: Comment?

Haggard: Well, he's a good man and he's doing a good job and we highly respect him. He's -- he's visited our home a couple of times in the last few weeks and we love him deeply. And he's doing a good job.

I think the wound has not healed. And I don't think we're reopening it. I think what's happening is it's been festering. And we needed communication. And we needed to process it. And it can't process.

Separation and lack of communication never heals broken relationships. And so I appreciate what he's saying there. And I want people to heal. So I think in this process what we're doing is we're just kind of cleaning out some of the things and making it so it can heal.

And I mean, at my Web site, I have loads of New Lifers writing to me now. And they saw me on "Oprah" or have seen some of the shows where I'm saying I'm sorry. And they're writing about how healing it is to hear my voice and hear me say I am sorry for what happened.

King: What -- what's the Web site?


(Begin video clip)

Mike Jones: My name is Mike Jones. I am the man that exposed Pastor Ted Haggard. I wanted to expose the injustice and the hypocrisy. That's why I did it. I didn't do it for fame and fortune.

(End video clip)

King: We reached out to Mike in advance of this interview. He e-mailed us a couple of questions. One thing Mike wanted to know was whether Ted Haggard is prepared to state absolutely that Grant Haas is the only other young man whom he engaged with inappropriate conduct during his leadership of the New Life Church.

Haggard: Yes. I have thoroughly discussed all of my sexual history with my wife and my therapist and, to some degree, the family.

And -- and we think that's an appropriate boundary for that.

King: So you're not going to comment?

Haggard: And so -- it wouldn't be right. And so -- but -- but it's certainly not a secret. We have discussed that thoroughly with -- the whole sexual history with my counselors. And I've had very good counselors -- and with Gayle.

King: What do you consider yourself, Ted?

Haggard: Yes.

King: Are you bi?

Are you gay?

Are you...

Haggard: It's a great question. And I went through...

King: What are you?

Haggard: I went through a year of seriously asking that after the scandal. And different therapists have said different things to me. My first therapist said you are a heterosexual with homosexual attachments.

And I wasn't sure what that meant.

Now that we've processed this through, my current counselor says you're a heterosexual with complications. And -- and so I don't think the boxes work for me. I think I have -- I have some thoughts in my life and some processes in my life that just don't fit neatly into the boxes, which I think is true for a lot of people.

And I know that I'm in a process. I am changing. And so I know I went through -- I was different in college than I was in my 20s and 30s.

And then this happened in my 50s. And -- and -- but I can tell you this.

Today, I'm 100 percent satisfied with my relationship with my wife and I have no compelling things in my life toward others.

King: Do you think this whole story would have been different if Mike Jones were Michelle Jones?

Haggard: Oh, yes.

King: If it were a woman?

Haggard: I do. I do.

King: Your wife might have left you.

Haggard: It -- I don't know.

King: We'll ask her.

Haggard: I thought Gayle would leave me over this. Actually, I recommended that she leave me over this. I do know with this homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual discussion, when there is a homosexual man that has something go on with a woman, people don't demand that he come out and admit that he's really a heterosexual. And I've had a very satisfying relationship for 30 years with my wife. This did not happen because of dissatisfaction with Gayle. This happened because of something else going on inside of me.

King: Do you know all the answers yet?

Haggard: Not at all. And I think I'm still deeply wounded and scarred and somewhat confused. I'm going to need at least another year to get my bearings.

King: Do you still get attracted to men?

Haggard: I have thoughts from time to time, but not compelling thoughts.

King: Fear it might happen?

Haggard: No, not anymore.

King: Like the alcoholic...

Haggard: I did probably up until a year ago.

King: ...fears taking a drink?

Haggard: Yes. Not anymore. I probably did up until a year ago.

I thought, could this happen again?

But I -- I don't think that anymore.

King: Do you think you're -- you're over the hump, you're on the way?

Haggard: I do. I'm very pleased with where I am. And, of course, life is a process, as you know and as all of our viewers know. And one guy's processing along like I am, but another guy may be processing along with another set of issues. And I'm very happy with -- of course, I'm a Christian. So let me word it this way, I'm very happy with the way the scriptures have come alive to me during this process, the way the Holy Spirit has walked me through this process and the way Jesus has never, ever, ever withdrawn from me.

King: Have you ever thought of leaving Christianity?

Haggard: No. Never.

King: Never?

Haggard: Never. Well, there were times when I couldn't seek, as I mentioned earlier. But I never -- I never have thought of leaving the faith.

Interestingly enough, during this time, I read a book written by an atheist. And in his book he called all faith superstition. And that actually helped my faith, because I was able to sort out many of the superstitions I had had prior to the crisis and my real core faith. So this actually got me to my core.

King: And we're joined now by Gayle Haggard, Ted's wife of 30 years. They have five children.

Why did you stay?

Gayle Haggard: Well, actually, for two reasons. The first is that I really do love this man. And I know that he's more than any complications, flaws and sins that he's committed. And the second reason is because of my faith. And it teaches that -- or, actually, the teachings of Jesus are that we forgive and that we love.

King: No matter what?

Gayle Haggard: Well, 70 times seven is what Jesus says, you keep forgiving. And I think we're the better for it when we do forgive. I'm not saying it was easy. It was a real challenge for me.

King: How did you react when this story broke?

Gayle Haggard: I was shocked. Well the first I heard of it, I didn't believe it and Ted was denying it. But when he finally told me, which was the second day that the story was out, I felt as though the carpet had been pulled out from under me. I just didn't believe it. I felt as though Ted -- this could not be true of my husband. So the first words out of my mouth were, who are you?

King: That had to be hard to do.

Ted Haggard: Very painful and I didn't know who I was.

King: What was the setting? Where were you?

Ted Haggard: We were still there in Colorado Springs.

King: At the house?

Ted Haggard: When that conversation went on, that happened at our attorney's office. And I just told her, I said, I'm confused. I don't know how to answer that. And so she had to make core decisions within herself about me while I was still wavering.

King: Did her reaction surprise you?

Ted Haggard: It pleasantly surprised me. I fully expected to lose her. I kept my struggle secret from her for decades because I so wanted to please her. I so wanted to be the perfect husband for her.

King: There's one thing. But Gayle, when you hear him say, as he said five minutes ago, he still has those tendencies; he still has those feelings; he still -- he doesn't act on them, but he might. I'm not sure he won't.

Gayle Haggard: I do know he's a human being. And I know that every one of us has struggles in our life. And every one of us are going to mess up and we are all sinners. But what I also know is that we have a great sexual relationship in our marriage. We had a growing intimate relationship in our marriage, throughout our marriage. It certainly had its seasons, I think, of distance. I think all marriages go through that.

I knew that Ted had some struggles in this area, particularly in his thoughts. I never knew that he acted on them. But I just -- I just believed that everybody is a sinner. And so I'm willing to go through the process with him.

King: You had to be doubly shocked, Gayle?

Gayle Haggard: Doubly shocked. However, I do think that our sexuality is complex. But I don't like is when we put labels on each other, because I am here to say that 99 percent of Ted's sexual experiences were with me. So I'm not willing to deny that. But I am willing to explore, why is he having these other feelings?

King: What about the drugs?

Gayle Haggard: That was the biggest shock of all.

King: Bigger than gay?

Gayle Haggard: Well, as shocking, however when I heard that accusation, I laughed, because I thought, this guy cannot know my husband, because everyone who knows my husband knows -- I mean he didn't even smoke cigarettes or pot in high school. I mean, my husband would not have anything to do with drugs. And so that was the shock.

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