A new show explores how the Jessica Hahn sex scandal took down a multi-million dollar televangelist empire.
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were famous in the 1980s for their successful TV ministry PTL (Praise the Lord) Club, later called The Jim and Tammy Show.
But the Christian conglomerate was all but destroyed after a local newspaper unearthed a shocking scandal – that Jim Bakker had paid $279,000 to Jessica Hahn, a church secretary.
That thread quickly unraveled an even bigger scandal after the Charlotte Observer found that Hahn had allegedly been paid the cash as hush money, after she was allegedly raped by Bakker in a hotel room in 1980 when she was 21. Bakker would later acknowledge that he’d had sex with the secretary but claimed it was consensual.
A new show explores how the Jessica Hahn (pictured in 1988) scandal took down a televangelist empire
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker (pictured together in 1986) built a multi-million dollar empire in South Carolina called the PTL Club, later called The Jim and Tammy Show, in the 1980s
The sex scandal forced him to resign from his long time, financially successful ministry, and the investigation eventually uncovered that Bakker had been siphoning church funds and had defrauded his flock out of $158 million.
The upcoming episode of Scandal Made Me Famous will examine the scandal and speak to the Charlotte Observer reporter Charles Shepard who first uncovered the alleged sex assault and fraud.
Shepard says he was first tipped off after a call from Hahn herself ‘telling us that something had happened between her and Jim Bakker.’
The reporter told the show he was threatened by PTL management several times, including one occasion, when he claims an executive pulled a ‘handgun out of his pocket and dropping it on the desk, kind of in front of me, as if to let me know who is in charge and I better be well-behaved.
But the Christian conglomerate was all but destroyed after a local newspaper unearthed a shocking scandal – that Jim Bakker had paid $279,000 to Jessica Hahn (pictured), a church secretary
Celebrity sex scandal survivor Jessica Hahn poses during a 1988 West Hollywood, California, photo portrait session. During her brief celebrity, Hahn became a Playboy Playmate and starred in several ‘B’ movies
Busted: U.S. marshals escorted the former PTL leader from his attorney’s office to a waiting car in 1989 in Charlotte, N.C. Bakker. He was taken under order to the State Correctional Institute at Butner, N.C., for psychiatric evaluation.
The disgraced 77-year-old pastor served five years of an original 45-year prison sentence for fraud and conspiracy.
The ministry had paid for practically everything, including $100,000 to charter a private jet merely to collect some clothes from the couple’s North Carolina home.
But it was the sex scandal that ultimately led to Bakker’s downfall.
Hahn was just 21 when she accused Bakker of raping her in a Tampa, Florida hotel room.
She claimed he pinned her down for an hour as he attacked her, repeatedly telling her: ‘By helping the shepherd, you’re helping the sheep.’
Hahn later went on to use her public profile, to become a Playboy Playmate and star in several ‘B’ movies.
Rival preacher Jimmy Swaggart – later defrocked for his own sex scandal – discovered Hahn had been paid $279,000 by Bakker’s ministry to keep quiet and tried to use that to get his hands on the PTL empire.
His wife Tammy Faye died of cancer, aged 65, in 2007. She has been replaced by lookalike blonde Lori, (pictured with Jim) 18 years Bakker’s junior, who he married after a whirlwind 50-day romance
Ultimately Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell took over the ministry – only to discover it was millions in debt and money raised for hotel time shares had been diverted elsewhere.
Bakker’s scandals made headlines around the world – the secret bisexual had been caught by a professional clown enjoying an orgy with three much younger men in a sauna, meanwhile Tammy Faye had taken to throwing herself sexually at the hired help and popping prescription pills by the handful.
She was so out-of-it on one plane trip she attempted to open the door and, according to Wigger’s book, sedating her took enough Valium to ‘kill a truck driver.’
As the feds closed in, Tammy Faye was rushed into emergency detox, close to death. She initially stood by her errant husband when he was found guilty of conspiracy and 23 counts of wire and mail fraud in 1989 and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
But three years into his sentence, which was later reduced to eight years, Tammy Faye divorced him and married their close friend Roe Messner, who had ironically come up with the hush money to pay off Hahn, then billed the ministry for non-existent building work.
Scandal Made Me Famous airs this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on the Reelz Channel (pictured is a reenactment on the show)
Messner was later jailed for bankruptcy fraud and Tammy Faye reinvented herself as a reality TV star, self-help author and – after being described as ‘the ultimate drag queen’— an unlikely gay icon.
Bakker ultimately served just five years in prison and was released on parole in 1994. After quietly working with a ministry in California.
His wife Tammy Faye – famous for her giant false eyelashes and makeup that appeared to have been applied with a paintbrush – died of cancer, aged 65, in 2007. She has been replaced by lookalike blonde Lori, 18 years Bakker’s junior, who he married after a whirlwind 50-day romance.
Today Lori sits alongside 77-year-old Bakker on his latest TV show, doing the hard-sell on their buckets and books, constantly plugging the Bakker website where end-of-times preppers can stock up on supposedly tasty treats that require nothing more than water to cook.
Of course, survivors of nuclear war might be hard pressed to find uncontaminated water. But on Bakker’s TV shows, he promotes Morningside – home to both his studio and 700 acres he is developing as a Christian community, complete with its own water tower.
Scandal Made Me Famous airs this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on the Reelz Channel.
Today Lori sits alongside 77-year-old Bakker on his latest TV show, doing the hard-sell on their buckets and books, constantly plugging the Bakker website where end-of-times preppers can stock up on supposedly tasty treats that require nothing more than water to cook