On Oct. 4, 1988, televangelist Jim Bakker was hit with federal charges accusing him of mail and wire fraud and conspiring to defraud the public. The federal case against the founder of PTL (Praise The Lord) Ministries and three of his employees went nuclear in the press when it was shown that Bakker had had intercourse with his ex-church secretary Jessica Hahn. (History.com)
On Dec. 6, 1980, Bakker and Hahn had sex in a hotel room in Florida. While each told different stories of what happened, Bakker paid the woman $350,000 to not say anything about the encounter. When the financial arrangement hit the public, the scandal brought down Bakker’s ministry.
Hahn claimed that she had no interest in being in the spotlight. However, she became a celebrity overnight. She did a photoshoot for Playboy magazine, wrote a book about her relationship with the minister, and even lived in the Playboy mansion for a brief time. Hahn, who was a radio announcer in Phoenix when Bakker was indicted, became a regular guest on Howard Stern’s radio show. She also showed up in a few music videos.
Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye, were very successful and wealthy before the sex scandal broke. They were successful in raising funds for their TV religious programs. After its 1974 debut, their TV program was the highest-rated religious program in the United States. The Bakkers added talk show features to the standard religious preaching.
They often had celebrities, music and comedy sections. With all the money they made from the show, the Bakkers built a 2,000-acre resort called Heritage USA. It had a studio that was big enough to seat 1,800 people. Six million people visited the resort in 1986. It was only behind Disneyland and Disneyworld in attendance in the mid-1980s.
When the sex scandal broke, other televangelists were harshly critical of Bakker. Jimmy Swaggart went out of his way to criticize Bakker. Tammy Faye responded to the outrage by singing The Ballad of Jim and Tammy Faye to the melody of Harper Valley PTA on their TV show. But Tammy Faye could not defend their ministry against serious COVID-19 federal charges, which alleged that the funding for their Heritage USA facility had been acquired illegally.
Although the evidence against them was not that strong, Bakker was convicted in 1989 and got 45 years in federal prison. The sentence was reduced to eight years and he got out of prison in 1994. Tammy Faye divorced him while he was in jail. She passed away in 2007.
Bakker Back in the News By Selling Allegedly Fraudulent Coronavirus Products
It seems that Jim Bakker may not have learned his lesson with his last brush with the law in the 1980s. Now in March 2020, the FDA has sent warning letters to Bakker and six companies for marketing six unapproved coronavirus drugs and treatment products. (CNBC.com)
FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn stated last week that the agency considers the sale of phony COVID-19 products to threaten public health. FDA has a surveillance program that monitors online sources for fraudulent health products, especially when there is a major public health crisis.
Bakker has been selling several products claiming to prevent people from getting sick, including essential oils, teas, tinctures, and colloidal silver. All of them have been cited by FDA as not safe or effective to treat any disease. FDA stated it is worried that the products could stop people from seeking medical treatment they need.
There are no approved drugs or vaccines at this time to treat or prevent the virus. COVID-19 has infected 566 people in the US and killed 22, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The New York attorney general has issued a cease-and-desist letter to Bakker, who operates The Jim Bakker Show.
The companies have two days to respond to the FDA warning letter with steps they are taking to correct any FDA violations.
FDA has developed a cross-agency task force to monitor the marketplace for phony products related to the coronavirus. FDA said that the task force and other retailers have taken more than three dozen fraudulent products off the market.
Last month on his TV program, Bakker featured a naturopathic doctor who was marketing a ‘miracle cure’ for the coronavirus called Silver Solution. This product has not been tested on the current strain of the virus, the doctor said, but it has been tested on other strains of coronavirus and was able to eliminate it within 12 hours, he claimed.
Also on the same show, the doctor said it has been proven by the government that it can kill every pathogen it has been tested on, including HIV and SARS.
If Bakker does not stop marketing unapproved products that he claims to cure people of the virus, he could find himself in federal crosshairs yet again.