Televangelism has a strange history, and a big part of that history comes from Jim Bakker. Alongside his former wife, Tammy Faye, Jim rose to prominence hosting the seminal Christian program The PTL Club. At the height of that show’s success, Jim and Tammy Faye were making enough money that they were able to create their own amusement park, Heritage USA. Though numerous controversies in the 1980s caused the Bakkers’ reign to come to an end, Jim is still on the air today in a diminished capacity. Join Facts Verse as we explore what happened to Jim Bakker after PTL.
Jim Bakker was born on January 2, 1940, in Muskegon, Michigan. As a young adult, Jim attended North Central University, which was a notable bible college in Minneapolis. While attending the school, Jim met a woman named Tammy Faye LaValley. In 1961, the two married.
North Central University frowned upon it’s students getting married, so Jim and Tammy Faye were kicked out of their school after tying the knot. The two began working in children’s ministries at local churches, and eventually caught the attention of televangelist Pat Robertson.
Pat Robertson immediately took a liking to Jim and Tammy Faye. He hired the couple to begin working for his channel, the Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN. Pat hired Jim and Tammy Faye in 1966. At the time, Pat’s television channel was nowhere near the success that it was soon going to become thanks to the superstar couple.
The Bakkers’ first contribution to CBN was the children’s show Come On Over. Come On Over was a variety program that featured various sketches involving puppets that were performed by Jim and Tammy Faye. After the show became a massive success, Jim managed to talk Pat into giving him his own talk show reminiscent of late night programs of the time. That show was The 700 Club, which has long since become CBN’s most successful and longest-running show.
Jim and Tammy Faye had turned CBN into a major success for Pat Robertson, but the couple wanted something of their own. In 1974, the couple branched off from CBN to develop the PTL Satellite Network. With the help of local affiliates across the country, this station began broadcasting the Bakkers’ very own show, The PTL Club, in 1976.
The PTL Club was essentially a clone of The 700 Club, but with more direct emphasis on Jim and Tammy Faye. The PTL Club was filmed out of a studio that Jim had built called Heritage Village. As The PTL Club became more and more successful, Jim expanded Heritage Village into a full-blown amusement park. That amusement park was named Heritage USA, and opened up to the public in 1978.
At the height of The PTL Club’s success, the Bakkers were rumored to have been taking in over a million dollars in donations from fans per week. However, the couple’s success would come crashing down in the 1980s due to two separate scandals that destroyed Jim’s reputation.
The first of the two scandals that destroyed The PTL Club involved allegations of sexual misconduct. In 1987, Jim was accused of behaving inappropriately with a woman named Jessica Hahn, whom had worked as a church secretary. Jessica alleged that not only had Jim molested her under the pretense of hiring her as a babysitter, but that she had been molested by other members of his operation, as well.
It was revealed that Jim had paid Jessica a sum of nearly $300,000 to keep her allegations to herself. Once this was revealed to the public, Jim was immediately disgraced. The televangelist went on to claim that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with Jessica, but that the sex had been consensual. Whether consensual or not, the news proved damning upon the reputation of the supposed Christian.
After the disgrace of the sexual misconduct allegations and subsequent payoff came to light, Jim stepped down from his role on The PTL Club. He hired the Reverend Jerry Falwell to take over for him on the program for the time being, with the intention of coming back once things had cooled down regarding the sexual misconduct scandal. However, things didn’t turn out the way that Jim had been planning with Jerry. Jerry eventually cut Jim out of the program entirely, and the network later filed for bankruptcy under Jerry’s control.
After losing the PTL Satellite Network, The PTL Club, Heritage USA, and his reputation as an honest Christian, it may have seemed like Jim Bakker had hit rock bottom. However, things were about to get a good deal worse for the influential televangelist. If you’re enjoying this video, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Around the same time that the sexual misconduct allegations against Jim Bakker had come to life, the televangelist became engaged in another controversy that would eventually see the influential religious leader put behind bars. The controversy came about from annual memberships that Jim had sold to his followers under false pretenses.
From 1984 to 1987, Jim sold lifetime memberships to Heritage USA that entitled whoever purchased them to an annual three-night stay at one of several luxury hotels that were supposedly going to be built upon the premises. Not only was there only one single hotel that was ever built on the premises, but the entire park was shut down in 1989. This meant that the people that purchased these $1000 memberships had essentially paid for just a few trips.
There were apparently multiple tens of thousands of lifetime memberships that had been sold to Jim’s followers. In 1988, Jim was charged and found guilty on 24 counts related to fraud and conspiracy, and was subsequently sentenced to serve 45 years in prison and pay a $500,000 fine. However, Jim wasn’t satisfied with the verdict and sought an appeal.
Jim was able to get his case brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Though the court upheld the verdict that Jim had been guilty of his crimes, they took issue with the judge’s sentencing. The judge had made a remark regarding his own personal faith, which gave the courts reason to believe that the judge may have imposed excessive punishment upon Jim vindictively.
As a result of the appeal, Jim’s sentence was reduced from 45 years to eight years. The disgraced televangelist only served five years of the sentence before being let out on parole, thanks to a heartfelt letter that Jim’s son had written to the parole board. Jim was released in 1994, and promised that he would never return to his fraudulent ways. However, he still owed the IRS around $6 million.
Jim and Tammy had two children during their marriage. There was daughter Tammy Sue, and son Jamie. Jamie was the one that wrote the letter to the parole board on behalf of his father. This was despite the fact that his parents had acrimoniously split in 1992, in wake of the misconduct allegations. In 1998, Jim remarried to a woman by the name of Lori Beth Graham. Lori was a former televangelist herself, and the two were married within fifty days of meeting. Since becoming married, the couple has adopted five children.
With the help of Lori, Jim started a new show in 2003. Leaving behind his old brand, the new show was simply called The Jim Bakker Show. Along with his new show, Jim seems to have developed a new interpretation of theology. Jim’s new preaching comes with a much heavier emphasis on the apocalypse. Instead of simple donations and memberships, Jim’s new show continues to profit by selling it’s audience survivalist supplies. These survivalist supplies are meant to come in handy during the apocalypse, which Jim claims is liable to occur at any moment.
The Jim Bakker Show is still on the air today, and Jim recently found himself entangled in a completely new web of controversy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Jim had been selling colloidal silver supplements on his show for some time. When COVID-19 began taking up airtime in early 2020, Jim jumped at the opportunity to claim that his colloidal silver supplements could be used to cure the virus.
In March of 2020, Jim was ordered by the Attorney General of New York to stop saying that his supplements could cure COVID-19, and he was also sent a letter by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the most devastating impact came from the attorney generals of Arkansas and Missouri, who both filed lawsuits against Jim for the claims.
As a result of the negative attention that Jim was receiving from the press, credit card companies began prohibiting him from receiving transactions, and numerous channels began making the decision to stop airing The Jim Bakker Show. Perhaps from stress, Jim suffered from a stroke in May that caused him to step down from his role on the program. However, Jim recovered and returned to the show in July.
The lawsuits against Jim came to their conclusion in June. As a result of the lawsuits, Jim was prohibited from making any more claims about his colloidal silver supplements being able to cure any disease or condition, whether COVID-19 or not. As well, the televangelist was forced to pay out settlements totaling $157,000 to anyone that had purchased the supplements in question during the period that Jim had been making the false claims.
Despite the multiple and incredibly damning controversies that televangelist Jim Bakker has faced over the course of his life, he still has an audience. Comment down below to share if you think Jim deserves to still be on television after all that he has done, or if you think that he should be kicked off the air for being a false prophet and a con artist. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!