PALM SPRINGS — Controversial television minister Jim Bakker said Friday that he and his wife are emotionally exhausted, financially drained and do not plan a return to the PTL television ministry and theme park that they founded.
With his tearful wife, Tammy, at his side, Bakker emerged from a self-imposed seclusion early Friday and appeared before dozens of reporters to say: "Without a miracle of God, we will never minister again."
Bakker's statement came at a hastily called press conference held at the front gate of the couple's $600,000 Spanish-style home here.
'Smearing of My Name'
Later, in a telephone interview with The Times, Bakker said, "Because of the complete smearing of my name and reputation, I am not sure the public would let me minister again."
When Bakker resigned March 19 as PTL chairman and host of his nationally televised show, he admitted that he had been involved in a single sexual encounter in 1980. But Bakker said Friday that he was "tired of fighting" additional allegations that he consorted with prostitutes and engaged in homosexual acts.
"I could spend my whole life responding to these charges," Bakker said. "Forget it. I am out of the arena. Jim and Tammy Bakker are going to put their lives back together."
He added that "I don't want to be a part of tearing down the church world anymore."
"I have failed, I have sinned in my life. God has forgiven me of my sin," he said.
Of his tryst seven years ago with Jessica Hahn, Bakker said in the interview, "I did it to get my wife back." He apparently was referring to Tammy Baker's crush on flashy country singer Gary Paxton, who helped her with her singing career.
"It was a stupid thing to do," Bakker said.
The disclosure of his encounter set off a chain of allegations and events that have eroded the credibility of television ministries throughout the nation, placed PTL under the scrutiny of federal tax officials and made the Bakkers the subject of intense media coverage.
Bakker said that he has plowed most of the money he and Tammy had earned as leaders of the PTL back into the organization or spent it on personal wardrobes and social gatherings connected with the ministry.
Now that the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who took command of the PTL, has cut off the Bakkers' salaries and bonuses--which amounted to $1.6 million last year--Bakker said he expects to lose the home the couple maintain here.
"I have a big mortgage on the house, and unless we can do something, there is no way we can hang onto it," Bakker said. "If I can pay the normal things off right now, I'll be at zero. But God will take care of us; He always has."
PTL officials have said that they are considering selling off the Bakkers' other homes, including their parsonage at the PTL amusement complex at Fort Mill, S.C.
"Tammy is so homesick for the parsonage," Bakker said. "Our little dog is there and cat. The house is just as we left it. According to the newspapers, they are going to sell it."
Bakker said he and his wife are considering taking jobs at a hospital complex similar to the Betty Ford Center in nearby Rancho Mirage, where Tammy Bakker was treated for an addiction to tranquilizers. Jim Bakker said she used the tranquilizers to alleviate her fear of flying. Previously, she had said her drug problem began 17 years ago while she was pregnant and started taking pills for an allergy.
"I would like to someday get involved, perhaps with that sort of program," Jim Bakker said, "where people help others get their marriages and lives back together."
In their appearance before the reporters, Bakker said he hoped "that the work of Heritage USA will go on . . ." and that "our main desire is that it will not be destroyed."
"We built PTL for the people," Tammy Bakker said. "We did not build it for Jim and Tammy."
Jim Bakker reported that "they (PTL officials) said that they may give us some of our royalties. . . ."
"We have about $8 million to $9 million in royalties (from books and records) . . . but we don't know if they are going to do that or not," he said.
In the telephone interview, Bakker said they had donated the royalties to PTL. But now, he said, there is "a possibility that they would pay something out of that that we could live on for a little while."
"But they haven't promised me anything, so I don't know if I'll get anything," he said.
Bakker said he has some regrets about the lavish life style that he and Tammy enjoyed. He insisted, however, that "I never had anything to do with (the decision as to) what I was paid. . . ."
"When the (PTL) board of directors voted (on salaries), I walked out of the room," he said.
"I like quality; I like nice things," Bakker said. "But if I had it to do over again--even if the board gave me those things--I would turn around and give them back again."
Bakker said he also regretted once buying a 1953 Rolls-Royce.
"It was a dream of mine," he said. "I realize now that it was a buzz thing. I shouldn't have done that."