Jim Bakker Profiteering From Toxic Garbage: The Shameless Televangelist Slogs On. His Only God is the Almighty Dollar.

September 6th 2019

 
Heritage USA entrance ( Toddbarwick )

Heritage USA entrance (Toddbarwick)

By Bill Berkowitz

Shameless huckster. Convicted felon. Master of secrets and lies. Greed-vangelist. Trump fan-boy. In the 1970s, Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye were the King and Queen of televangelism. They went from being modest hosts of Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club to their hugely profitable religious talk show called the The PTL Club (short for Praise the Lord). The Bakker’s were in the catbird’s seat: raking in dough; riding around in Rolls-Royces; buying up vacation homes; building a super-sized Christian theme park.

Then, they hit bottom.

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Thirty years ago, Bakker was found guilty on 24 accounts of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy, mostly revolving around Heritage USA, the Bakker’s predatorily oversold huge theme park, which was open from 1978-1989. Bakker was sentenced to forty-five years in prison and a fine of $500,000. He only served five of those years and was paroled in 1994. 

These days, the disgraced televangelist – who was also involved in a highly publicized sex scandal involving the alleged assault on Jessica Hahn – is hosting a new television program, funded entirely by viewer donations. Bakker and his wife Lori are hailing the coming apocalypse, hawking buckets of survival food, having conversations with evangelical preachers exalting paranoid visions about liberals trying to destroy Donald Trump, and branding French president Emmanuel Macron the Antichrist.

According to Alex Nichols’ post at The Outline, Bakker’s “broadcast Monday through Friday, is often little more than an extended infomercial for alternative medicine, Christian paperbacks, and, most infamously, two-to-six-gallon buckets of end-times survival food.” As Nichols reported, “A 2015 NPR article about Bakker’s survival food contained phrases like ‘felt like eating wet cement’ and ‘one of the worst things I've ever eaten in my life.’ Buckets contain either one type of slurry in bulk, like the $290, six-gallon ‘Cheesy Broccoli Rice’ offering, or an assortment of dried foods in a particular style, like the $79 ‘Thanksgiving Feast’ bucket.”

One of the medical miracles Bakker appears especially fond of talking about is a special cream that will get rid of venereal disease. Bakker is calling it, "a miracle in a tube."

So who is the audience for Bakker’s “miracle in a tube?” Clearly, one of the things Bakker has done well with over the years is sizing up his audience, comforting, soothing and calming their fears. When you boil it down, targeted marketing is a combination of science and hunches. According to the website technopedia, “Targeted marketing is the process of identifying customers and promoting products and services via mediums that are likely to reach those potential customers.”

In promoting the cream, Bakker told his television audience: “Do you know the one thing we never talk about, really, is one of the few gels and products that cures, or gets rid of, all venereal diseases. This is like a… miracle in a tube!”

After his guest said that the gel was tested at an unnamed university, Bakker chimed in: “… he couldn’t say that if it wasn’t guar–backed up… I mean, the crazy thing is — and I know I shouldn’t say it on television — but it’ll — you’ll kill venereal diseases! All kinds–all of them!… I’ve read up on it… This is what’s–if it’ll do that–but it has no real side effects that we know of.”

According to Patheos’ Hemant Mehta, “Those last four words may be the most frightening thing Bakker has ever said because the list of things he knows is absurdly small. If he’s not familiar with the side effects, maybe he should check out the product page on his own website, because there’s a link specifically for California residents — a Proposition 65 Warning — that says ‘This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.’”

Another miracle product Bakker is shilling is Bee Alive Royal Jelly, “a natural remedy derived from beehives that, according to the FDA, has no known health benefits but can cause adverse reactions like hives and anaphylactic shock,” Nichols reported. “The Bee Alive company, which attributes its name to divine inspiration, has been targeted by the FDA for making false health claims as far back as 1989. On Bee Alive’s website, three jars of honey with trace amounts of royal jelly, which does not do anything, sell for $99. On the Bakker show, viewers get a lecture on how founder Madeline Balletta was told not to include prayer in her marketing materials but did it anyway, and a special one-time deal — three small jars of slightly adulterated honey for $85.”

Despite being a major league Trump fan-boy, Bakker is not being received by Team Trump’s White House in the same way Paula White, Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham are. Bakker’s television studio and headquarters is bereft of any materials reminding his audience of his sordid past. And the studio audience is way up there in years. As Nichols pointed out, “His convictions and prison sentence can be waved away as a learning experience, even as he engages in the same profiteering behavior that brought him down the first time. He has a new show, a new bleach-blonde wife, and a new luxury compound, but the business model remains exactly the same, and no one seems to care.”

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