Falwell Takes Control, Bars Bakker From PTL

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By Art Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 29, 1987

FORT MILL, S.C., APRIL 28 -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell today placed himself firmly in control of the PTL empire and barred its founder, Jim Bakker, from retaking the pulpit.

Beneath crystal chandeliers in the ballroom of the grand hotel built by Jim and Tammy Bakker with money from their flock, Falwell announced that the board had cut all payments to the Bakkers, who have received $4.8 million since January 1984 in salaries and bonuses.

But Tammy Bakker, in a telephone interview from her Palm Springs, Calif., home, disputed the account of their salaries. "The lies have hurt us the worst, because it's so hard to prove a lie is false," she said, and suddenly laughed: "We haven't sweated blood yet, and Jesus sweated blood."

Said Tammy Bakker, "In the last four years, they {PTL officials} say we would have made $9.5 million if we had taken royalties from our books and records, but we gave it all back to PTL." She said her husband was not home, but was in California today.

As a team of outside accountants examined the books of the embattled $129 million ministry, Falwell also announced that in a "tearful, heart-rending meeting," the Rev. Richard Dortch, Bakker's successor as PTL president, had stepped down and that another top Bakker aide, David Taggart, had been dismissed. Dortch negotiated the $265,000 hush-money payment to Jessica Hahn, the church secretary with whom Bakker committed adultery.

Falwell, asked by Bakker to take over PTL last March when Bakker resigned, said, "We intend to stay and will not step aside . . . His ministry here has ceased." And Falwell added: "If God Almighty had let me quit, I would have told you that today. I am going to lovingly and scripturally lead on until God says, 'Get out of there.' "

He added that all bonuses to other executives had been stopped as of today, and that all compensation will be scrutinized.

Harry Hargrave, a Dallas businessman who took over as chief operating officer today, said five accountants from the firm of Arthur Andersen are studying the books.

"We've reviewed operating statements through February," Hargrave said, "but we're going to have to break it down further" to understand the cash flow. Also underway are physical audits to track down titles to cars, land and homes in possession of the Bakkers.

At a packed news conference at the Heritage Grand Hotel in the sprawling 2,300-acre Heritage USA, a Christian resort carved from a cow pasture, Falwell pledged to honor debts to creditors and "prayer partners." And he said that another PTL board member close to the Bakkers, evangelist Rex Humbard, had quit.

Humbard, he said, told him, " 'I'm just a little bit older than you are and I'm not willing to ride this horse.' " Humbard left the board meeting before it ended and was seen carrying luggage to his car.

Falwell looked puffy-eyed. "I slept two hours last night. Not because I didn't have a bed, but because I couldn't sleep," he said.


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© 1987 The Washington Post Company

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