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Televangelist Paul Crouch Attempts to Keep Accuser Quiet

A former worker at TBN threatened to disclose an alleged 1996 homosexual encounter.

September 12, 2004|William Lobdell | Times Staff Writer

Friends said Ford wanted to expose what he viewed as Crouch's hypocrisy. They said he also needed money and hoped to earn some by selling the manuscript. It's unclear how Ford spent his 1998 settlement, but today he leads a modest existence, living in a room of a Lake Forest home and working as a mortgage salesman.

Ministry officials learned of the book in April 2003, when Ford walked onto the set of TBN's Costa Mesa broadcast studio and handed a copy of the manuscript to Crouch.

Ford's attorney, Eugene Zech, said that Brewer, the TBN lawyer, called him the next business day. In court papers, Zech said that Brewer asked "if Ford might be willing to accept $1 million in exchange for the manuscript."

Zech said in the court filing that he suggested $10 million.

When the parties went to arbitration, Crouch's lawyers argued that publication would violate the 1998 settlement and cause irreparable damage to Crouch's reputation. Ford's lawyers argued that the secrecy agreement was overly broad and violated his free-speech rights.

Arbitrator Robert J. Neill ruled that Ford's right to make his allegations public "was sold to [Crouch] for $425,000." Ford "bargained away his right to speak on certain matters and now suggests that his right to free speech trumps that bargain.... [His] right to discuss these matters was bought and paid for. He relinquished that right."

Paul Crouch Jr., a TBN executive and the televangelist's oldest son, said that despite the favorable ruling, he wished his father had never entered into the settlement with Ford.

Crouch said advisors persuaded his father that it would be cheaper to settle than to litigate. He said TBN was particularly anxious to avoid negative publicity because the ministry was celebrating its 25th anniversary that year.

"In hindsight, we should have fought Lonnie tooth and nail," the son said in an interview. "We should have drawn the battle lines right there."

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