6 Greedy Televangelists Taken Down By Their Own Debauchery
Well, sort of…this is America, after all.
During a 2015 episode of John Oliver‘s Last Week Tonight, Oliver explored the storied American tradition of televangelists and other religious con artists. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look, but for those of you who don’t have 20 minutes to spare, I’ll give you a quick run down.
After giving the viewer some backstory on these wonderful grifters, who have bilked millions via from their unsuspecting viewers via megachurch donations, Oliver sets up his own bullshit megachurch to see how difficult it is.
The answer? Not difficult whatsoever.
I’ve seen People Magazine crossword puzzles that were harder to figure out. To think that our government readily gives any “legitimate” church massive tax exemptions this easily is gobsmacking. Can you imagine how the GOP would react if we were this lax about, say, immigration? Abortion providers?
I’m not a fan of religious tax exemption but I understand them. What I don’t understand is why there seems to be no regulation on which organizations have legitimately earned tax-exempt status and which are just cheeky British comedians or three-squirrels-in-a-trench-coat pretending to be a human.
This got me thinking about the many outlandish televangelists I’ve witnessed over the years. I figured there would be might be 10, or even 15 at most. But when I started reading I realized that I could probably milk this thing for another three or four listicles. Because there are way too many shady preachers for just one.
6. Jonathan Bell
Rev. Jonathan Bell, also known as “Screaming Boy,” was lesser-known but still a fixture in the televangelist world of the early 1990’s. And let’s just say Bell’s nickname was well-earned because, boy, did he scream.
He screamed about Jesus, ‘the gays,’ hellfire, brimstone, abortion, hellfire, abused children, going to hell, Satan, and the apocalypse. Did we mention hellfire?
This ‘best of’ segment from The Daily Show says everything you need to know. Thankfully, Bell is now a former televangelist (and a hell of a lot calmer, apparently).
5 . Benny Hinn
Benny Hinn is a legend in the televangelist community. He’s also a legendary piece of garbage.
First off there were Hinn’s tithing abuses. Tithing is the religious practice of giving money to one’s church and Hinn’s abuse of the practice is well-known. He’s gone as far as telling followers to stop supporting their local churches in favor of sending their meager social security checks to him instead.
Hey, go big or go home, eh?
Hinn’s faith healing antics are so famous there are even YouTube videos dedicated to making them. This one, set to “Bodies Hit The Floor” is my all time fave.
4. Pat Robertson
I think we all know who Pat Robertson is. He’s Toxic Christianity Incarnate, Mr. “homosexuals caused the holocaust” himself. But while he does seem to favor them as the bearers of the apocalypse, Robertson doesn’t just hate the LGBTQ community. He also has some lovely words for feminists. Lovely words that turned him into even more of a national laughing stock;
Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.
I’m sure you’ve seen the meme. You can even get it printed on a t-shirt.
Nice guy, right? Like all the other bozos on this list the only thing Patty Boy loves more than spewing hyperbolic bullshit is bathing naked in YOUR MONEY.
Are you an 80-year-old who can’t pay his bills? Too fucking bad you broke bastard because Pat needs your money or you will go to hell. Tithing is serious business.
Of course, besides the whole laughing stock thing Robertson hasn’t really faced much in the way of consequences for his blatant bigotry, sexism, racism, and spray-tan-abuse. Whelp, I guess you can’t win em’ all.
Or even win em’ most, judging from the rest of this list…
3. John Hagee
Televangelist John Hagee is the guy whose infamous for blaming Hurricane Katrina on Black people and (who else?) “the gays.”
Of course, this didn’t stop John McCain from kissing his ass during the 2012 election because Republicans are nothing if not consistently awful.
Like Pat Robertson, however, Hagee is generous with his bigotry. He’s also made disparaging remarks about the Jews, Catholics, women, and even the Bible itself. He’s really a giant amongst men. And by that I mean he’s a giant asshole who should be shamed into exile then left to fend for himself on that island with the giant crabs that Amelia Earhart probably died on.
Unfortunately for us Hagee is also like Pat in that he’s faced few consequences for his epic douchebaggery. You can even follow him on Twitter.
You shouldn’t, but you can.
2. Jim Bakker
The late-80s Jim Bakker sex scandal is one of my earliest memories thanks to my family’s love of cheesy talk shows (mostly Geraldo Rivera, that mustachioed bastard). And to this day I genuinely feel sorry for poor, mascara-challenged Tammy Faye Bakker. But putting aside Jim’s wayward wang, the couple made a LOT of money from religious schlubs who bought their holier-than-thou bullshit.
When the sex scandal broke in 1987, we learned that Jim had paid a lot of money to his former secretary Jessica Hahn (who was also a victim, in my opinion), to keep quiet about a sexual encounter from 1980.
Unfortunately for Jim and Tammy he paid her with church funds and thus his weaving of lies and deceit began to unravel. Questions were raised about the Bakker’s finances and in 1989 Jim was sentenced to 45 years in jail for scamming a massive $158 million from his congregation.
In the true American tradition of Rich-White-Men-Getting-Away-With-Everything Jim served a mere five of those 45 years and went on to scam another day.
1. Jimmy Swaggart
What I remember most about Jimmy Swaggart from my childhood was seeing his big plastic-looking face weeping all over my family’s 24-inch Zenith T.V. Boy, could that man put on the waterworks. Swaggart’s story is interesting because he was one of Jim Bakker‘s most vocal critics after the Jessica Hahn scandal broke. I remember when Swaggart famously claimed to have never kissed a woman besides his wife, he was such a devout husband and Christian.
I think we all know where this is going…
Almost immediately, it came to light that Swaggart frequented a number of New Orleans hookers, a sin to which he tearfully confessed on national T.V. to our collective schadenfreude. He paid the small price of humiliating his wife but secured (for the time being) his massive fortune. A fortune that included $12 million a year in salary and over 10K employees.
This would have been the end of it but then he was caught AGAIN with yet another prostitute in 1991. This was the beginning of the end for America’s favorite emotional scam artist.
A few lawsuits and an IRS tax lien later and…well, not much. Swaggart can still be found on television preaching about Jesus while (probably) still boning paid-by-the-hour women on the side.
Originally published at wittybitches.com on August 18, 2015.