TV Preview: Ted Haggard, Patrick Swayze & Other Winter Press Tour Hot Topics

Fallen evangelist Ted Haggard ends his silence in Alexandra Pelosi's HBO film.
Fallen evangelist Ted Haggard ends his silence in Alexandra Pelosi's HBO film. (Hbo)
By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, January 10, 2009

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif., Jan. 9 Ted Haggard danced around every question he was asked about homosexuality during a Q&A session here for his upcoming HBO documentary, "The Trials of Ted Haggard."

The documentary offers the first interview by the former religious bigwig since he fell from grace in 2006, when it came to light he'd bought crystal meth from a male prostitute with whom he had sex.

After more than two years of silence, Haggard -- founder and former pastor of Colorado's New Life Church and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals -- agreed to do the documentary with celebrity-documentarian Alexandra Pelosi (daughter of House Speaker Nancy), who apparently never read the Showing Yourself Hugging Your Interview Subject Tends to Destroy Your Cred chapter in "The Basics of Journalism."

"People don't really understand Ted had an agreement with the church [that] he would not tell his story, and he was recently released from that," said Pelosi, when one critic at the Winter TV Press Tour asked Haggard why he was doing this, and why now.

Pelosi noted that the press "continued to stalk him" after he was ousted from his various religious offices. That, she said, included reporters who had been "living in his driveway."

"Reporters had been basically stalking" Haggard, she said.

Pelosi, on the other hand, was "so helpful," Haggard said after the Q&A, including frequent, um, phone calls to the family. Pelosi's husband, Michael, phoned one day when "I was in the back yard sobbing, and he was alarmed," Haggard said; he even accompanied Haggard one day while the former minister was selling life insurance -- his new vocation. Alexandra and Michael also helped Haggard's family move, Haggard said.

"We're really grateful for the opportunity Alexandra gives us, and HBO . . . to tell our story," Haggard's wife, Gayle, told critics.

Haggard explained that he had signed two contracts, one with religious "overseers and restorers" and one with the church in which he and his family agreed not to speak to the media. In exchange for their silence, the church gave Haggard one year's salary; continues to help pay for the care of one of his children, who is disabled; and gave him the church-owned truck he was driving at the time he was ousted. Over the course of 14 months, ending Dec. 31, 2007, New Life Church paid the Haggard family $309,020 in salary and benefits, the Associated Press reported, citing a church document.

Every time a reporter attempted to get Haggard to address his position on homosexuality, he began to pitty-pat verbally. Afterward, he explained that he did so because he wanted to be accurate. One critic asked about Haggard's "own hypocrisy" and wondered whether he'd gone back to some people he used to "preach against."

"You mentioned the word 'hypocrisy' -- we heard that word a lot," Gayle Haggard said. "I would say that every man is a hypocrite, and some women as well, because none of us seem to be able to be the best person that we hope to be."

"What do you feel you are now -- gay, straight, bisexual, tri-sexual -- and what do you think now of homosexuality?" another critic asked.

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