NASHVILLE, TENN., APRIL 24 -- Television evangelist John Ankerberg said today that he was told that former PTL Club leader Jim Bakker was involved in homosexual acts and had used prostitutes.
Ankerberg, a Southern Baptist minister from Chattanooga, Tenn., also said a "little circle" of 50 within the PTL ministry had swapped spouses and diverted funds from the organization's treasury.
He said Bakker's wife Tammy knew of her husband's infidelity and at one point attempted to leave him.
Bakker resigned as PTL president last month after acknowledging he had had a sexual liaison with a female church secretary. Ankerberg made his allegations in interviews on two television programs, CNN's "Larry King Live" and ABC's "Nightline."
Bakker and his wife have remained in seclusion at their home in Palm Springs, Calif., since March 19. Efforts to obtain a telephone number for them were unsuccessful, as were attempts to contact them through the PTL organization.
Officials with the Fort Mill, S.C.-based PTL, which stands for Praise the Lord or People That Love, were not available for comment, but the organization released a statement read by a spokeswoman.
"We have no knowledge of any such problems and are not able to comment on Mr. Ankerberg's accusations at this time," the statement said. "Our ministry at PTL is that of love and restoration, and we hope you will pray with us that God will help all of his people during his time. Again, it is only Mr. Ankerberg's accusations."
Ankerberg said that witnesses had told him of homosexual encounters by Bakker, and that he brought the witnesses to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, PTL's interim leader. Falwell did not return phone calls Friday night.
Nightline host Ted Koppel, who said he had spoken by telephone with an aide to Falwell, said Falwell had learned of the allegations in the past week. Koppel said Falwell plans to make an announcement Tuesday, but did not elaborate.
Ankerberg, whose "John Ankerberg Show" is broadcast weekly by three satellite television networks, claimed in March that he had evidence PTL officials had tried to cover up evidence of Bakker's adultery. Ankerberg also denied reports that he and another evangelist, Jimmy Swaggart, had conspired to seize the PTL network.
He said on "Larry King Live" that his own investigation had led him to believe what he had earlier thought were rumors of homosexual activity by Bakker.
"I talked to people that were there and people that ought to know who have said they have been witnesses to the fact," Ankerberg said. Asked whether he believed them, he said, "Yes, I do."
He also said Bakker "did participate, according to people I talked with, with prostitutes."
He said that he had tape recordings of interviews with the witnesses, and that he had promised he would protect their identities as best he could.
Ankerberg said he had interviewed several people who had worked at PTL between 1976 and 1985, and based his statements on those interviews. He alleged that an inner circle of top PTL officials had sex with each others' spouses and used prostitutes. He would not name the individuals.
"There's about 50 people, a little circle I would call them, that there's been wife-swapping that's gone on, I've seen testimony from that," Ankerberg said on "Nightline."
He also said some PTL staffers he would not name were involved in misappropriation of funds. He gave no specifics as to what the money was used for, but said many top officials in the PTL organization knew about the funds.
Bakker, 47, resigned as president of PTL on March 19 after acknowledging he had sex six years ago with Jessica Hahn, a 27-year-old church secretary from West Babylon, N.Y.
Bakker belongs to the Assemblies of God, a Springfield, Mo.-based Pentecostal denomination that has 2.5 million members and 11,000 churches in the United States.
A top official of the Assemblies of God, Rev. Everett Stenhouse, said on "Nightline" that the organization's investigation of Bakker was not complete, and that he could not comment on the new allegations.