Jim and Tammy Bakker said today they resigned as heads of the 500,000-member PTL television ministry to thwart the first step of a hostile takeover of PTL, not because Bakker was blackmailed in a sex scandal.
"The first part of the plot of the downfall of PTL was to be this scandal," Bakker told followers in a taped message with his wife, fighting back tears, sitting by his side. The message was aired on a cable television station.
"I would have faced you if it was just this problem seven years ago in our marriage," he said.
The Pentecostal minister said PTL attorneys have documents signed by a "well-known individual" detailing the plot. But the schemers made a mistake, he said.
"They called too many honest ministers, too many people to be a part of this scheme," he said.
Roy Grutman, a New York attorney who represents Bakker, confirmed in a telephone interview that he had the documents, and said that the Rev. Jerry Falwell was one of the "honest ministers" referred to by Bakker. Grutman repeatedly has refused to identify who proposed the alleged hostile takeover, saying only that the person is an evangelist.
Bakker on Thursday handed over control of the traditionally Pentecostal PTL ministry to Falwell, fundamentalist Baptist founder of the Moral Majority, after admitting being blackmailed over a sexual encounter seven years ago.
Two weeks earlier, Bakker, who spent 13 years building PTL into a $172 million empire, disclosed that his wife, Tammy Faye, was being treated for drug dependency at a clinic near their home in Palm Springs, Calif. Falwell said she was at the Betty Ford Center.