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The Best of Interviews With Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner

Aired June 24, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Through disgrace, divorce and disease, they say they have kept their faith. Highlights of some incredible conversations with evangelist Jim Bakker and his former wife Tammy Faye next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. Think what you will about Jim Baker and his ex-wife Tammy Faye, you've got to admit they're each a one of a kind character. And their life stories, you couldn't make them up. We've had some fascinating interviews with them together and individually over the years. In June of 1996, I sat down with Tammy Faye, now Mrs. Roe Messner. I asked her to talk about the moment when she found out her then-husband Jim had been unfaithful to her with Jessica Hahn.


KING: Were you shocked when you learned about Jim?

TAMMY FAYE MESSNER: Learned about Jim?

KING: With Jessica and that whole -- a side of you...

T. MESSNER: Oh, every woman is shocked when she hears about her -- if her husband has had an affair, you know. Of course the thing that you think about, is you put yourself down right away. And you think, well, I was not good enough. I was not pretty enough. I was not thin enough. I was not funny enough. I was not -- you know, you immediately internalize it and put yourself down. And I think that's just normal, and that's what I did.

KING: How did you hear about it?

T. MESSNER: I didn't hear about it until nine years later.

KING: What do you mean?

T. MESSNER: I didn't hear about it when it happened. And they kept it from me for all those years. And so when we lost PTL was the first time I ever heard about it.

KING: Who brought the first news that this had happened to you? I mean, how did you confront -- how did you deal with it?

T. MESSNER: Well, 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 probably the greatest shock of my whole life.

KING: Did you know then the marriage was over, too?

T. 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.

T. 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, but...

KING: Was it disappointment, plus hypocrisy?

T. MESSNER: I think it was just terrible disappointment. And I was disappointed that I was the last one to know because I felt, here so many people knew, how could I be so stupid not to know?

KING: On reflection, Tammy, what went wrong? What happened to PTL? What happened to your organization? What went wrong?

T. MESSNER: Well, I think Jim became a victim of his own insecurities. Jim never felt good enough. He never felt as smart as everyone else, he never felt as good as everyone else. He always felt a little less-than. And I would always tell Jim, I'd always say to him I felt he was the -- I mean, Jim has a genius mentality, and he never trusted his instincts. And I think that's what happened, he just became a victim of his own self.

KING: Insecurity.

T. MESSNER: Insecurity. So he let other people -- he hired people that he thought were better than him, and they weren't better than him.

KING: Were his beliefs false?

T. MESSNER: No, definitely not. You mean, in himself?

KING: The God, the...

T. MESSNER: No, no, no...

KING: Was any of that...


KING: ... come on for -- because that's the way he's viewed today. T. MESSNER: No, and that's very sad because Jim loves God, loves God with all of his heart. In our home, in every situation I've ever seen Jim in, the first thing in his life has always been God.

KING: And you have no doubt that that was always a part...

T. MESSNER: Absolutely.

KING: Then why all this interest in things mercenary?

T. MESSNER: Well...

KING: Gold bathrooms...

T. MESSNER: Well, we were kids, you know, we were young people, and had never had anything. I was the oldest of eight children. Jim was brought up in a very poor family. And I think any time that they want to pay you well, and you're working hard, you don't even think, you just accept it, you know. We were working very hard, you know, around the clock most times, most of the time. And...

KING: How about living ostentatiously, though?

T. MESSNER: Well, we didn't live any different than Oral Roberts, we didn't live any different than Jimmy Swaggart. We lived no different than anyone else. We had a big old house that we bought. And we, you know, made it more modern. When we bought it the sinks -- the refrigerator was falling through the floor in the kitchen. But we loved it, because it was on a lake. And so we just took and...

KING: But you weren't Cleopatra, you weren't, you know, the stories?

T. MESSNER: I wish people could have seen what they called our mansion. They would have been so disappointed, because it was just an old house that we fixed up, and I love the old house. But it was just an old house we fixed up. And we lived no differently than anyone else -- as far as evangelists.

KING: More of the life and times of Tammy Faye Messner. We shall attempt in the next portion to bring her out a little more. She's very shy. Don't go away.


T. MESSNER: I often wondered if the Gospel that we preached would work for us. And I'm glad to stand here today to stay that the Gospel that we preach really does work. And the peace that passes all understanding really is there. And the joy unspeakable and full of glory that the Bible talks about is a possibility in spite of circumstances. And if I've learned nothing else through this, I have learned that I can trust in God, I can trust in Jesus. And this Gospel that we preach does work.




T. MESSNER: I talked to Jim last night, and his faith is so high in the Lord, and together him and I were praising the Lord on the telephone as we talked together. So remember Jim today in prayer. We need your prayer. We need it constantly, we need people to be praying, morning, noon and night. We need you to be praying around the clock as this trial gets ready to start.


KING: More from our June 1996 interview with Tammy Faye. In 1989 Jim Baker was convicted of cheating his PTL followers out of $158 million. I asked Tammy about his trial and what it put her through.


T. MESSNER: Well, hell. It was probably the most horrible time of my life because people had so many misconceptions of what was happening. And the news media -- actually the real story of what happened, I thought, was much more interesting than the story that the news media concocted, you know.

KING: Did you know Jim would be found guilty?

T. MESSNER: No, in fact I had no idea he would be found guilty. No one that was in our inner circle felt that he would because we felt that we had run -- that Jim had run the corporation honestly. And we, ourselves, were not aware of some of the things that we found out that came out in the trial.

KING: Are you saying that he was taken in by others?


KING: He was not fooling anybody?


KING: He didn't know...

T. MESSNER: Jim was probably -- is one of the most honest men I've ever known. And I mean that. I don't need to say that Larry, because we're divorced. I'm married to a wonderful man...

KING: Who is here tonight.

T. MESSNER: Who is here tonight. Hi baby.

I have no reason to stand up for Jim, but I believe in him. And I know what went on. I know what was behind the scenes, and I know that he tried to run PTL the best he could. He hired the best people he could hire. He hired people that he believed in, and those people let, you know, they...

KING: But the buck has to stop...

T. MESSNER: It has to stop -- yes it does, it does. And he had to pay the price, and was willing to do that.

KING: Were you in the courtroom when the jury came back?

T. MESSNER: Yes, oh, talk about your heart being in your throat, you know. Some of them came in crying.

KING: You knew then he was guilty.

T. MESSNER: Oh yeah, I knew then. And some of them came in with -- they wouldn't look at us. And when they won't look at you, you know that there is something. And when they handed him basically a life sentence...

KING: Did they handcuff him right there and take him out?

T. MESSNER: Oh yeah, they take him right there. They just take him -- they don't let him say goodbye, there's no goodbye kiss, there's no nothing.

They take him and then they don't tell you where they're taking him. And I did not know for two days, me and my children, where he even was. And they wouldn't tell us. And so it's a terrible, horrible thing. You know, I see people laughing about men going to prison, and they laugh at Jim being in the shackles bound hand and foot and all. It's not funny when it's happening to you.

KING: Why did you get divorced?

T. MESSNER: There was so much hurt that had gone on in our marriage that I just felt I couldn't -- in order to forgive Jim I had to get away from him. I -- and that's another human failure of mine. But I would have been -- and I told you so person -- I know me.

KING: So, every day would have been hell for him.

T. MESSNER: Every day would have been hell for him...

KING: This is the best deal he ever got.

T. MESSNER: It is, getting rid of me is the best deal he ever got -- some people say, boy that's for sure.

KING: You wouldn't have -- we're all pretty sure as far as for Mr. Messner. I'm starting to wonder, what did I...

T. MESSNER: What did I get into.

KING: So you were saying, this was better for both of you.

T. MESSNER: It was better for both of us. We had to move on. Otherwise if we would have stayed together, we would have continually lived in the past. And I don't believe in living in the past.

KING: Did he want the divorce too?

T. MESSNER: No, he did not.

KING: Was he in prison when you got divorced?


KING: Was that harder to do? Do you have to file? How does he respond?

T. MESSNER: It was really -- it was a very easy thing to do because there was no assets, there was nothing for...

KING: You mean, as long as he signs the papers...

T. MESSNER: He just -- he signed, as long as he signs the papers, and he signed the papers. It was -- and the people say, well, why did you leave him? You good for nothing person, why did you leave him while he was in prison?

Because I felt like Jim has always been very dependent on me. And I knew that when he got out of prison it was going to be a very horrible, hard thing for him to readjust to society again. And I felt it would be very cruel of me, when he walked out of prison having to adjust to society again and then having to adjust to me saying, I'm leaving you, would have been very cruel...

KING: So you were honest enough...

T. MESSNER: I was honest enough, and I gave him two years to live with that and know that he was coming out alone.

KING: Have you spoken to him?

T. MESSNER: No I haven't.

KING: At all?

T. MESSNER: No, isn't that interesting?

KING: When was the last time you spoke to him?

T. MESSNER: When I said I was getting a divorce.

KING: In -- he was in prison, you spoke to him on the phone?

T. MESSNER: Yes. Yes.

KING: Aren't you interested -- just, what's he doing?

T. MESSNER: He's preaching again, and he is getting standing ovations everywhere he goes.

KING: This you know from people...

T. MESSNER: From my child, my children. Tammy sings in his meetings sometimes. Tammy Sue is a singer -- hi baby, hi Jay.

KING: If he called you, would you take the call?

T. MESSNER: Oh, of course. Oh, we're still friends. We'll always be friends.

KING: But you don't talk.

T. MESSNER: No. I'm a happily married lady now, and in deference to my wonderful husband I wouldn't do that.

KING: Do you expect Jim to remarry?

T. MESSNER: Oh, I hope he does. I hope he gets a wonderful girl. I wish only the best for Jim.

KING: Richmond, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hello, hi Tammy.


CALLER: The PTL partners would like to know if your book will cover the takeover by Jerry Falwell of the PTL ministry in 1987?

KING: Yes, and what are your comments on that, the Falwell takeover?

T. MESSNER: Yes, it will cover that, and I've gone into great depth with it. And I didn't want to hurt Jerry Falwell in any way, but I had to be honest about it. And so, I can't explain it all here Larry...

KING: But briefly, was he taking advantage?

T. MESSNER: He definitely took advantage of us when we were down. I had just gotten out of Betty Ford, and had had pneumonia. I had been in a...

KING: You were at Betty Ford for what?

T. MESSNER: For a little pill called Ativan to try to calm me down a little bit.

KING: Didn't work, huh?

T. MESSNER: I got stuck...

KING: Did a lot for that pill.

T. MESSNER: So much for that pill.

KING: Did they help you at Betty Ford?

T. MESSNER: They did, I got off of it immediately. I just needed to understand what was happening to me. And when I did I... KING: Falwell did what, he took advantage of a down...

T. MESSNER: Yes, he definitely did. He came in and took advantage of us when we were down. And told a lot of things that were simply not true. And Jerry, if you're watching, you know that. And I had a hard...

KING: You were shocked by that?

T. MESSNER: I was not only shocked. I have had a hard time. I'm a Christian, and I really love God, but I've had a hard time forgiving what Jerry did. And I work with that daily, asking God to please help me to forgive Jerry for what he did.

KING: Your feelings are different about him then about Pat Robertson?

T. MESSNER: Yes, oh sir...

KING: For Pat you feel just...

T. MESSNER: Oh, I...

KING: Jumped off a sinking ship.

T. MESSNER: Yes, I like Pat, I really do. I think Pat is a wonderful man. But I think Jerry...

KING: Because he stuck up for you.

T. MESSNER: But I think Jerry did something that was really unforgivable, and I thank God that God is a forgiving God because I don't know -- I'm glad I'm not God in this situation.

KING: He did it to take advantage?

T. MESSNER: Yes he did.


KING: Falwell didn't last very long at the top of PTL; he resigned from the organization in October of 1987, just nine months after taking over. He did provide one special moment: After 1,000 supporters pledged $1,000 each, Falwell took a fall.

KING: Next: how Jim and Tammy Faye met.





KING: The former sweetheart of Christian TV Tammy Faye Messner was back with us in October of '96. She wanted to talk about her new autobiography, the title -- no real surprise, considering her candor -- "Tammy Faye: Telling it My Way."


KING: Let's go back a little with the Tammy Faye story.


KING: You were born, raised where?

T. MESSNER: International Falls, Minnesota.

KING: Were you raised in a Christian home?

T. MESSNER: Yes, and I was the oldest of eight children. And we had an outdoor bathroom and took baths -- daddy bought an old tub out that hung in the garage. And brought it in on Saturday nights and Mom filled it with hot water and gave us all baths. And the cleanest one went first, so thank goodness it was usually me.

KING: When did you -- did makeup come before any of this? Were you into makeup in high school?

T. MESSNER: No,, it was a sin. Oh, it was a sin in our church. And if you put makeup on, God would strike you dead. And so I was scared to death to even get near anything called makeup.

But one day I was -- it was my last year in high school and my girlfriend Ada Derod (ph) -- oh God Bless you, Ada -- called me into the bathroom. And she said, Tammy come in here, I've got something to show you. So I went in and I looked, and she had this little black tube of stuff from Woolworth's.

And she said, I got -- you've got eyelashes. And I had never thought of eyelashes. I helped mom raise seven kids, you know, and I wasn't thinking about eyelashes. And she put this stuff on my eyes, and all of a sudden I realized, oh, I have big eyes. And it was so exciting, and I became a candidate for makeup right from there.

KING: But were you labeled a sinner at home?

T. MESSNER: Yeah, but God didn't strike me dead, so I didn't believe in that after that.

KING: What took you out of Minnesota?

T. MESSNER: Bible college, actually. I went to Bible school when I was 17 years old.

KING: Where?

T. MESSNER: North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

KING: And then from there, where? T. MESSNER: From there then I married Jim Baker -- I was engaged to someone else, and I went to Bible college, good old Stanley (ph).

KING: Whatever happened to Stanley?

T. MESSNER: I don't -- oh, I told you what happened to Stanley, remember? He's a mortician.

KING: Be the death of me. OK. Is he doing well?

T. MESSNER: I don't know.

KING: Naturally, he's doing well.

T. MESSNER: He must be doing well, there's always people to work on.

KING: Mortician school.

T. MESSNER: And if I was a mortician's wife, everybody would be buried in eyelashes, full makeup.

KING: So, you were engaged to Stanley?

T. MESSNER: Yes, I was engaged to Stanley.

KING: And Jim came along.

T. MESSNER: And when Jim came along -- well, I got to Bible school and Stanley started looking around. And I thought, Stanley is not ready for this yet, you know.

And so I had seen Jim in the hallway, and I thought he was a really neat looking man. And so when I broke up with Stanley, Jim sent a note up to my room if, you know, if I would meet him.

KING: And?

T. MESSNER: And we were married three months later.

KING: Was it quick -- obviously it was quick. Was it love at first sight?

T. MESSNER: Yeah, it was.

KING: Strong attraction.

T. MESSNER: Strong attraction, yes.

KING: Did you both plan on this ministry?

T. MESSNER: Yes, and that was one of the things that drew me to Jim, because he had a calling on his life like I did. He really wanted to serve God more than anything in the whole world. And that was my calling. And when I found out that his calling was the same as mine -- and I felt, you know, that we worked well together. We were just good together, you know.

KING: When the Jessica Hahn thing erupted, do you at all blame yourself?

T. MESSNER: Oh of course I blame myself. Because, you know, Jim and I were having some really bad marital problems, and I felt -- I felt very lonely. And a man came along in my life, and we did not have a sexual attraction, but we became -- we did something that I think was even worse than a sexual attraction. You know, you get mentally involved with someone. And get involved in your heart. And I think sometimes that's more serious...

KING: More...

T. MESSNER: Yes I think that is more serious than just a one- time sexual affair...

KING: So you loved Gary...

T. MESSNER: Yes I did.

KING: Would you -- did you want to marry him?

T. MESSNER: Well, I don't know. I guess probably I -- to be honest, maybe I did at the time.

KING: So if the marriage was going bad, and you had someone you liked very much...


KING: Why all the big shock over what happened with Jim?

T. MESSNER: Well, I don't know. Jim was -- I would have based my whole life -- Jim wasn't a womanizer. I had never even heard him talk about another woman, you know. And -- but I didn't know about -- see, I didn't learn about it until after, when everybody else did, seven years after it happened.

KING: You told us the last time, he was lured into it by her.

T. MESSNER: I felt like he was, and I have no reason not to believe that he wasn't.

KING: So to this minute, you don't blame him for that? Or do you, I don't know what the words are?

T. MESSNER: The only thing I blame him for is the fact that he could have said no. You know, and I should have said no. And he should have said no. That's the only place I blame him.

KING: Did he know about Gary Paxton (ph)?

T. MESSNER: Oh yes, of course he did. And I think maybe he was trying to get back at me, you know, even though ours was not a sexual liaison, I still think he was trying to get back at me. KING: When we come back, we'll find out what happened when it fell apart, and Tammy Faye's rebuilding of her life. We'll be taking your phone calls as well.

This is LARRY KING LIVE in Los Angeles. Don't go away.


T. MESSNER: And four months ago we left, and I have not walked into my house, I've not seen my puppies or my kittens or all those things, and our dear friends that we love so much. So to the people at home we love you, we miss you...

JIM BAKKER: And we hope all of the people we love so much will forgive us, and help us to -- to go on.





REV. JIMMY SWAGGART: In one sense of the word, it's a sad day for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in another sense of the word, it's a very glad day because this cancer has been excised, that I feel has caused the body of Christ -- untold reproach on the body of Christ. And it's been very painful, it's been like a surgical procedure.


KING: We're back with Tammy Faye Messner.

Now, what part of the whole falling down of the castle lays at the feet of Jimmy Swaggart?

T. MESSNER: Well, I think he sort of started instigating it. He somehow found out about the Jessica Hahn thing with Jim, and threatened to make it public.

KING: Isn't that ridiculous that he was the moralist?

T. MESSNER: Yeah, isn't that -- what do we say, what do we say?

KING: Incredible.

T. MESSNER: And I understand -- I don't know if this is exactly how it went, but I understand that he went to Falwell -- and this is the story Falwell told -- and told Falwell that he was going to bring Jim down. And so Falwell comes to us, and says Jimmy Swaggart is going to bring you down, he said, and so I want to help you.

He said, I talked to other people who ministers were after, and I'm going to help you. And Jim believed him. I didn't, because Jerry Falwell brought along a very high-powered lawyer. He brought along all of his men in black suits. And I didn't believe Jerry. I said there's something wrong here.

Now, his children had been visiting us the year before this happened. And he had acted like he was our friend. And, you know, we were kind of naive, and believing that everybody that said they were our friend and said they liked us actually did. Never aware that maybe somebody might be jealous of what we had, you know.

KING: Was Swaggart jealous too, do you think?

T. MESSNER: I think so, yes.

KING: So Falwell was looking to take it over?

T. MESSNER: Yes. I think Falwell had been planning it for a long time. In the book, there is -- Falwell's best friend comes to him and says, Jerry, I understand you're going to try and take over PTL. He said, you are wrong. And Falwell says, I don't care if I'm wrong. He says, I don't believe in PTL, and I'm going to do anything I have to to destroy it so that I can have the network for the "Old- Time Gospel Hour." And his own friend told that in the pulpit.

KING: Were you greedy?

T. MESSNER: I don't think...

KING: It's not dishonest...

T. MESSNER: No, I honestly don't think he was greedy. He gave more to charity, he gave more to other ministries than any man I've ever known. He gave away millions of dollars. He built hospitals, he bought airplanes for missionaries. He had a home for unwed mothers. He took care of the street people. He had a home for the people that -- love shelters all over the country. He was a giver.

KING: But 24 counts of fraud.

T. MESSNER: Yeah. Well the jury was not able to be on the jury -- if they had ever been to PTL, they couldn't be on the jury. If they had ever watched PTL, they could never be on the jury. If they professed to be a Christian they couldn't be on the jury. And so they picked a jury -- a very...

KING: Stacked.

T. MESSNER: Yeah, a very stacked jury.

KING: As you look at yourself...


KING: Has life's been, what to you?

T. MESSNER: Life's been a little bit hard on me.

KING: OK. What keeps your faith?


KING: Why?

T. MESSNER: Because when I don't -- didn't have anyone else, Larry, God was there for me. And my -- you know, friends will fail you. Everybody will fail you, but there's one person who will never fail you and that is God. And that's where I keep my faith. If I didn't love Him, I wouldn't have nobody sometimes.

KING: This is the age-old question. If you praise Him for the good, why do you not blame Him for the bad?

T. MESSNER: I don't blame him for the bad because bad doesn't come from God. God only gives good things.

KING: Bad comes from?

T. MESSNER: The devil.

KING: You a big...

T. MESSNER: And he's alive and well.

KING: So there are two forces?

T. MESSNER: Yes, I definitely believe it.

KING: Winter Haven, Florida, for Tammy Faye, hello.

CALLER: Hi Tammy Faye.


CALLER: Why do you wear so much makeup, honey?

T. MESSNER: Because I like it so much. If you knew what was under here, you would be so glad I was wearing it.

KING: OK, how bad is it?

T. MESSNER: It's bad, Larry.

KING: How bad under there?

T. MESSNER: It's really bad.

KING: Let it hang out. Take it off.

T. MESSNER: Larry!

KING: Come on, Tammy Faye, take a television first, America demands it!

T. MESSNER: Honey, I am going to my grave with my eyelashes and my makeup on. Nobody's ever going to know.

KING: Now, Mr. Messner...

T. MESSNER: He likes it. He always says, what makeup.

KING: Do you jump up early in the morning and put it on before he...

T. MESSNER: No, actually I jump up early in the morning and take it all off. He's seen me without it.

Do I look OK, honey? Huh, he's not speaking...

KING: He's gone. Are you -- you would never go -- do you ever go out of the house without it?

T. MESSNER: No, because I don't want to disappoint people. You know, I've been disappointed by so many...

KING: People expect makeup.

T. MESSNER: They do. I've been disappointed by so many movie stars that I've seen, and they go out and they don't do it up, you know. And they don't -- I just get so disappointed. I want to see them the way they look on TV.

KING: How long does it take you?

T. MESSNER: Five minutes.

KING: Come on, come on.

T. MESSNER: I promise you. In fact, I'll do it sometime for you. I'll do it sometime in five minutes for you.

KING: Five minutes: lipstick, makeup.

T. MESSNER: Yes, all I do: line my eyes, put a little brown right here, line my lips, put a little lipstick on and do the blush, and I'm off.


KING: When we come back, highlights from our interviews with Tammy Faye's ex-husband Jim Baker. Stay tuned.


JIM BAKKER: I think the devil was mad. I think something so wonderful and beautiful was being built, that the devil was mad. And then when we broke ground for the largest church ever built in the history of the world, I think the devil said this is it. I think I've got to smash Jim and Tammy Bakker.

T. MESSNER: Well you know Jim, too many marriages were being put back together, too many babies were being saved, too many street people -- their lives were being totally turned around. Too many people were getting saved. I think the devil was just angry.

JIM BAKKER: I do too.




JIM BAKKER: I feel like God has forgiven me of so much, that I will forgive everyone who has hurt us. And so we just want everyone to begin to love one another, and that the church world will love one another, that the people of God will not fight.

KING: Welcome back. A couple weeks after Tammy Faye came on to talk about her autobiography in 1996, Jim Bakker sat down to discuss his memoir. Two years after his parole from prison, memories of life behind bars were still fresh.


KING: What was it like -- I guess everyone must think about it -- to be deprived of freedom?

JIM BAKKER: First of all, I don't want people to feel sorry for me. You know, but when you're facing 45 years...

KING: Your original sentence.

JIM BAKKER: My original sentence. It's like a death sentence. In fact, at one point, I would have rather had a death sentence than 45 years sentenced in prison.

KING: Could you believe it when the judge said 45 years?

JIM BAKKER: No, I was stunned.

KING: This was white-collar crime.

JIM BAKKER: I was stunned.

KING: Why did he -- did he say something when he said that? He really leveled you, didn't he?

JIM BAKKER: Yes. I write about it in the book and, you know, explain that. But that was the technicality that actually got my sentence reduced -- that Alan Dershowitz used to have my sentence -- it came down eventually to eight years.

KING: Statements made by the judge?


KING: Prejudicial?

JIM BAKKER: That's what saved me from a 45-year prison sentence. KING: So when you went in, you went in expecting to do at least half of 45 years, right?

JIM BAKKER: At that point, I just thought I would die in prison. It was -- I was devastated mentally.

KING: When you went in, you were so shaken. We all remember those pictures of you, and Tammy Faye saying that you couldn't handle prison. A lot of people thinking that there would be suicide -- were you on a suicide watch? Were you totally depressed?

JIM BAKKER: Well, the main pictures that people saw -- remember that one picture where I was having a nervous breakdown...

KING: Couldn't hardly stand up.

JIM BAKKER: Yes, that happened during my trial. That was a devastating moment. In fact, I wrote it in the book. Writing that book was like reliving it. I about collapsed.

KING: And there we see...

JIM BAKKER: Oh dear God, I can't believe you're running that. That is lowest moment. I hate that. I just...

KING: Anyone who watched this said, he's not going to make it.

JIM BAKKER: I called the doctor, during writing the book, the psychiatrist who treated me at that time, Dr. Jackson. And I said, Dr. Jackson, whole pieces are missing. I don't understand what happened to me. And just a few months ago I found out for the first time I had had a complete mental breakdown at that moment. That was what was going on in my life.

And they ordered me to be placed in Butner Prison for evaluation. I didn't know where I was going. They put chains on me; they chained my waist, my legs. Put me in the back of a squad car, and I literally blacked out. I didn't even -- there's whole pieces missing. I was put in a holding cell for a few hours that I didn't know about, then moved across the state. And when I got there, they pulled me out of the car. And I remember my nose -- what do you call, stuff comes out of your nose?

KING: Dripping, yes.

JIM BAKKER: It was dripping and, you know, and there was a whole line of cameras and microphones. I felt like -- you remember the honor guards, only it was a dishonor guard. And my brain began to shut down, as I went into that prison. And I just don't remember a thing after going in the doors, until I, sort of like came to in a room filled with men watching me. And they were stripping me naked. And one was taking my wallet and counting the money.

And I remember asking them, could I please have the little picture of my grandson, James. And he just grunted something back, well we'll see, or something like that. And I stripped naked in front of these people, and then they gave me a pair of underwear and an orange jumpsuit to put on. And then they took me in another room and stripped me naked again. And went into every cavity of my body.

KING: For what purpose?

JIM BAKKER: I don't know, examination I guess. And then they put the jump suit back on me again. I went through the compound -- I remember somebody shouting, Jim don't let them break you. I thought my, they're too late. I'm already broken.

And then they stripped me naked again. And one of the men said, let him leave his underpants on, and they photographed me. And then they gave the pictures, the Polaroids, to a couple women, and they put me in -- admitted me to an insane asylum.

And when they brought me into that insane asylum, people were screaming. One man was singing, la, la, la, la, la, la, like 24 hours a day -- eyes peering out from the cell doors, demon-possessed eyes. I mean, eyes like I've never seen before. If you're not crazy before they put you in one of these places, you'll be crazy afterwards.

KING: And that was for evaluation?

JIM BAKKER: That was during this -- yeah, during this evaluation during the trial. And then when I was put into this cell, there was no pillow, an open shower, a toilet next to the bed. And just a slab to lay on.


KING: More interview highlights with Jim Bakker after this. Stay tuned.


QUESTION: What about this experience today? What do you think about having to come here today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't comment about that. We're going to have a conference. We'll have a conference after court. So we'll cover all those things...





QUESTION: Jim are you just here to see, just to see? Is this all you're going to do, you are just going to drive in and say hello?

JIM BAKKER: No, we kind of wanted to say goodbye to it all.

QUESTION: Is this goodbye? T. MESSNER: Maybe.

JIM BAKKER: Well, unless Jerry Falwell changed his mind, I guess it is.


KING: Jim, what went wrong? What took you down this path to being the image of the televangelist who put money in front of ministry? What happened?

JIM BAKKER: My dream became bigger and bigger. And the box got bigger than the message, than the Gospel. The -- what's in the box was supposed to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Well, the wrapping got bigger. The box got bigger, the outside, the buildings. And all that we were doing. I had to raise about $1 million every two days just to stay alive. And you know the old saying, you've got a tiger by the tail.

KING: Got too big.

JIM BAKKER: It just got too big too fast.

KING: And you lost control of it, or you weren't a businessman to begin with?

JIM BAKKER: Oh, I was never a businessman. I was a visionary, a dreamer.

KING: Did you have bad people around you?

JIM BAKKER: No, I don't think so. I think -- there's always going to be a percentage of people who maybe aren't as good as others.

KING: When did you know something was wrong, or didn't you know?

JIM BAKKER: I don't think you ever know, until it was over, until the very last. But near the last months, it was getting more and more strenuous. I could hardly walk at the end of the day, I was so exhausted. I was moving in burnout. And I look at it as the grace of God, what happened to me. I would not want to go back the way it was.

KING: Would not?

JIM BAKKER: No, I would not.

KING: The high living and all that?

JIM BAKKER: No, no, no.

KING: Did you ever think, when the living was really high, and if those stories were true that, you know -- opulent, and -- this isn't Christ's message.

JIM BAKKER: No. No. Because I was preaching a message that I believed God wanted his people to prosper. That was my message, and I believed that.

KING: The richer you got, the better?

JIM BAKKER: Yes, the -- John:2 says, above all, I want you to prosper and be in health. That was one of my foundation verses.

KING: The incident with Jessica. How do you like with it now? Is it just a place in you?

JIM BAKKER: God's grace. God's forgiveness is the only thing. And, well, I take full responsibility for the adultery. It was my fault and, you know, no matter what went on, the man has to take responsibility; and I do.

KING: Simple as that. You goofed.

JIM BAKKER: I goofed. I talk about it in the book, but my kids told me I can't talk about sex on the air, so that's about as far as I can go.

KING: DO you hold any bitterness toward those who jumped on the spoils -- and I think of Falwell.




KING: Because Tammy does.

JIM BAKKER: I did. I did. I had -- in fact, as I was studying the Bible through prison, one of the things I realized, that if I didn't forgive, I would not be forgiven. And God knows I needed to be forgiven. So I had to forgive everybody. And then God -- as I read in the word, you're supposed to pray for your enemies. Try that one on.

And then so I would, every day, pray for these people and I'd pray -- and then I'd pray for God to bless them. And I really did; and I did. You can't fake it when you're alone with God, you know.

And I was angry with Tammy at times. I'd go from love to hate. These letters -- I'd write her love letters and I'd write her hate letters, I'd write her preaching letters. And I wrote Roe several humdinger letters which are in the book. And he never did answer them, and I don't blame him.

But I think Roe was one of the hardest people for me to forgive; but I forgive him...

KING: Because he's the one...

JIM BAKKER: Well, he married my wife.


KING: Coming up next: Jim and Tammy Faye together; a family reunion of sorts when we return.


T. MESSNER: The sorrow and the grief and the hurt. And we had absolutely nothing left; reputation destroyed. Everything gone. My God, oh my.

JIM 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."



KING: Jim and Tammy Faye came back on our show in May of 2000. It was the first time in 15 years they had been on together on television they were accompanied by their new spouses.


KING: Is this a rough night for you?

T. MESSNER: Well, it's an interesting night for me. It's a very interesting night for me.

What else can I say?

KING: Interesting?

T. MESSNER: Yes, interesting.

KING: For you, Jim? What does it feel like? I mean, you know each other. You have children. Obviously, you're all friendly, you're all here together.

T. MESSNER: Yes, we all like each other.

JIM BAKKER: Well, it brings back so many memories of the past, of the prison years and all. You know, I try not to look back, because looking forward is so much better than looking backward.

KING: All we are, though, is a history of our experiences?

JIM BAKKER: Yes. Thank God for those (UNINTELLIGIBLE), prison and all. I learned so much. And I want to use that, though, to go forward now.

KING: Boy, Tammy Faye, you've had to put up with some tough things, illness, prison, ups and down, what keeps you going?

T. MESSNER: The joy of the Lord. The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is my strength. And when we lose our joy, Larry, we lose our strength.

KING: Do you ever feel the Lord has done you wrong?

T. MESSNER: Well, I have been disappointed in God sometimes, but I've never ever not felt his presence. I've been disappointed, but I trust God with me. That's a real secret. You can trust God. I feel I love the Lord with all of my heart, and he will not put more on me than I can bear. And so I always say, Lord, I trust you with me. So I figure, anything that happens in my life, I must be able to bear it or he wouldn't allow it to happen.

KING: And what's the affect of that kind of thinking on you, Roe? What does that do for you?

R. MESSNER: I feel the same way Tammy does.

KING: Oh, you have the same belief she does?

R. MESSNER: Yes, exactly.

KING: So even though you may have a disagreement as to whether one has surgery, that does not affect...


KING: ... your love for each other...

T. MESSNER: Not at all.

KING: ... or belief in the Lord.


KING: Do you two do the same thing?

JIM BAKKER: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

KING: Can you explain this, let's say, to someone who questions it? Where can -- what can the Lord do to help someone forgive someone? What can the Lord do if someone is sick or someone's -- what can the Lord do?

JIM BAKKER: When you put your total faith in God, no matter what happens, to a person who's a true believer, if you die, you know you're going to heaven to be with God.

KING: So you're not afraid of death at all.

JIM BAKKER: So you know, and you're not afraid of death.

T. MESSNER: You can't lose.

JIM BAKKER: So you can't lose serving God, and that all things work together for good. As I see with Lori's testimony, you say what good could come out of all these abortions and all what she's been through? But she has been a part of a new Bible for women, a mentoring Bible. She's asked to speak all over the world now. She has seminars for women who've been through abortion that are scarred.

And so because of her problem that she's been through, she's able to help other people, like myself.

L. BAKKER: And that's the key. That's the key. And being healed yourself is getting out of you and everything being about you and going out and helping other people.

T. MESSNER: That's right. That's right.

L. BAKKER: That's the key to healing.

KING: And that removes things like, there's no jealousy in this room now, right?

T. MESSNER: No, no.

KING: You don't feel any feelings?

L. BAKKER: No, no, no, no.

KING: Would you say you're all friends?

T. MESSNER: I would say we're friends, yes?

R. MESSNER: Definitely.

KING: How do you explain that? I mean, with all...

JIM BAKKER: It's God. You have -- only God can help people truly forgive and go on. In the book of Colossians, it talks about that because of what Christ did, we are pure. We are without judgment on ourselves. And only through him can we do something like this.

KING: You think God's going to help your illness?

R. MESSNER: Definitely, already has.

T. MESSNER: We really believe God to keep that contained within the prostate. You know, I believe God's able to do that, Larry. I -- as you know, I went through colon surgery. And once the cancer was gone, I trusted God. I did not go through the chemotherapy and the other things. I really trusted God.

KING: You didn't blame him for the cancer?

T. MESSNER: Absolutely not. No, it opened so many doors for me.

KING: You never got angry at God, Jim?

JIM BAKKER: When I first went to prison, I was even questioning where, God, where are you?


KING: Because you were a wreck that day. JIM BAKKER: But -- yes, but as I went through the months of studying the word of God, I realized that prison was God's favor, that God is saying, I want you to come to sight. Everybody in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, has either been in a pit or a prison or a back side of the desert.


JIM BAKKER: They've all been through bad things. So bad things happen to people. They happen to all the great men of God.

KING: I'm amazed. We'll be back with more of Mr. and Mrs. Messner and Mr. and Mrs. Bakker.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Their children are going to be here later, too. Don't go away.







KING: It's a historic night. They're here together, and they are, of course, Jim and Tammy Faye.

We've met their spouses. We are now joined by Tammy Sue Bakker Chapman, Jim and Tammy Faye's daughter. She works with her father in his ministry, and she is the mother of two children. And Jay Bakker, Jim and Tammy Faye's son, he has his own ministry in Atlanta.

Tammy, you're 30, right?


KING: How old are you, Jay?


KING: So you're the elder?

CHAPMAN: I'm the elder, yes.

KING: What was it like when all this happened to your dad? How old were you?

CHAPMAN: I was 16, so I had been raised -- my whole life was television from day one, before I was even born, and was the ministry, and was PTL, Heritage USA. And so it was -- it was very, very devastating to say the least for me. KING: Have you four been on together?


KING: Never been on together?

T. MESSNER: Never.


KING: Devastating?


KING: Did you -- were you angry at father or mother?

CHAPMAN: No, I wasn't angry.

KING: Hurt?

T. MESSNER: She ran away.

CHAPMAN: No, but -- no, it wasn't really anger or hurt. It was more of just being confused at losing everything overnight, literally overnight.

KING: Did you forgive your father as well?

CHAPMAN: I didn't have anything to forgive him.

KING: You never felt you had to forgive him for anything?

CHAPMAN: No, no.

KING: Were you too young, Jay, or did it hit you hard?

JAY BAKKER: No, it hit me really hard, like a ton of bricks.

KING: You were how old?

JAY BAKKER: I was 11 when it happened.

KING: And what happened to you? Friends at school?

JAY BAKKER: Twenty-four hours, my school had changed because my school was at Heritage USA. So my school had changed. I had bodyguards -- they were gone. I watched my parents' best friends -- I -- some of their best friends who have not talked to them to this day all disappeared. Hundreds of people disappeared. And it was quite a shock. I mean, I was in amazement. For the first time in my life, I was not surrounded by people being positive. I was barely surrounded by people at all. And it was a very negative feeling.

KING: And how did that effect play on you?

JAY BAKKER: It caused me to just somehow want to change my whole persona and become someone else.

KING: And tune out?

JAY BAKKER: And tune out, yes.

KING: Did you get rebellious?

JAY BAKKER: I did. I drank...

KING: I noticed you're tattooed.

JAY BAKKER: Well, these tattoos aren't really rebellion. These tattoos are all tattoos I've had since I have been a pastor.

KING: So they're pastoral tattoos?

JAY BAKKER: They're pastoral tattoos, yes.

KING: They're new-aged tattoos.


CHAPMAN: That's right.

KING: And I notice you have the -- what is that on your lip?

JAY BAKKER: That's a lip ring, piercing.

KING: Lip ring, you have an eyebrow ring. All this is new or did this happen when you were 11?

JAY BAKKER: Oh, no. I just went all downhill -- cigarettes, tattoos, biking bars...

KING: Did you go wrong, though? I mean, did you have a tough time?

JAY BAKKER: I had a tough time. I think I had the normal tough time that any teenager would have with drinking and drugs, but I also had the affect of my father being in prison. And that was the hardest thing, and watching my parents going through a divorce and everyone knowing about it and talking about it in school. So that was really, really devastating -- and the rejection of the church was very devastating.

KING: What was it like for you with your dad in jail?

CHAPMAN: Well, it was -- it was very hard. We lived in a home out in the country with my children. And he was there for the birth of my first son, James, but the second, my second son, Jonathan, my family was not able to be there.

We're very -- we had been, you know, a very close-knit family, and so he wasn't there for that. And there was -- it was a lonely time. It was a lonely time.

KING: Did the divorce affect you, upset you?

CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. I mean, it -- it -- divorce, it affects, no matter if you're 5 years old or 30 or 25, you know, divorce affects you.

KING: And at 11, Jay, boy, your friends -- friends that weren't friends anymore, right?

JAY BAKKER: Yes, and parents who wouldn't let their kids hang out with me anymore. And for some reason, it felt like the parents always needed to express to me why they didn't like my mom and dad anymore. And that was very hard to go over to someone's house, and I became a professional defender of my mom and dad because of that.


KING: At that age?

JAY BAKKER: At that age. And I spent most of my life, even some to this day, defending my parents.

KING: Were you not angry at your dad?

JAY BAKKER: No, I wasn't, not at all.

KING: Did you hit low skids?

JAY BAKKER: Yes. I'd say the lowest was when I started to get acid flashbacks. I thought I was going crazy.

KING: How old?

JAY BAKKER: About 15 -- about 16.

KING: Your father was in jail?


KING: He had no knowledge of this.

JAY BAKKER: I -- we actually flew out to tell him. I thought I was going crazy.

JIM BAKKER: Yes, it was unbelievable to be in prison and not be able to...

KING: You can't help him.

JIM BAKKER: To try to raise a son from inside the prison walls is a very difficult thing. But I want to say to the world my son at 16 was the one who tried the most to get me out of prison. He wrote every -- the president, the senators. He called president -- he called the White House. He called ever every major Christian leader in the world.

And he's writing a book right now that's going to be a little bit stronger than my book. But he really went through hell to get me out of prison.

T. MESSNER: Larry, I would like to say something. When we lost Heritage USA, I didn't care about me and I didn't care about Jim. But I asked God what's going to happen to my children. And I felt in my heart, God promised me, I'm going to take care of your children, and the most wonderful thing in my whole life today is that my children are serving the Lord.


KING: A quick update: Jim and Lori Beth Bakker recently opened a camp for disadvantaged youth in Florida. Jay Bakker released his autobiography, "Son of a Preacher Man," earlier this year; it's being made into a movie. Jay continues to minister in Atlanta. Tammy Sue is spreading the word in North Carolina.

As for the Messners, we're happy to report Roe is in remission from prostate cancer, and Tammy Faye is still cancer-free after her bout with colon cancer five years ago.

That's it for this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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