Bakkers Not Waiting On Falwell, Looking For Place To Start Over With AM-PTL
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) _ Jim and Tammy Bakker are looking in California, Florida and Tennessee to begin a new ministry, and they say they’re leaving the battle over their old PTL empire in the hands of God and their attorneys.
Dressed in red, white and blue, the Bakkers signed a 20-foot replica of the U.S. Constitution in a rare public appearance in this Smoky Mountain resort, where they told reporters they will come to live permanently in a few weeks.
Bakker said his attorney, Melvin Belli, would handle the legal side of the fight with the Rev. Jerry Falwell for control of the PTL ministry, which Bakker relinquished after admitting to a night of adultery in 1980.
″I don’t want to fight Jerry Falwell. I’ve committed that to God,″ Bakker said. ″We want to go on with our life.″ Bakker wore white pants and a blue shirt while his wife, Tammy Faye, was dressed in a red jumpsuit for the signing ceremonies on the front porch of the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce.
A 25-minute news conference afterward was their first meeting with reporters since coming here last week.
″We’re actively looking at about three areas of the country right now. And if we can fund the proper studio buildings and center, we’re going to go as soon as we can,″ Bakker said. ″The areas we’re considering is Florida, California - I will tell you that much - and Gatlinburg is high with us.″
″There are very few areas in the country where you can shop to your heart’s desire ... ,″ Bakker added, referring to his wife’s penchant for shopping, ″and then in five minutes be in the most beautiful park in the world.″
Gatlinburg is next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited national park, and is less than a day’s drive from Tega Cay, S.C., where the couple lived for the last eight years.
Mrs. Bakker acknowledged that the South Carolina home belonged to PTL, then added that the house was a legal matter being disputed by their attorneys.
″It’s no big deal,″ she said.
Bakker added that another home in southern California is up for sale.
The Bakkers have been living in a house provided by a friend while a mountainside home is renovated with extra rooms, a 12-foot stone-and-iron security wall and a swimmming pool.
Bakker, who paid $148,000 for the home and later deeded it to Kansas contractor and PTL creditor Roe Messner, said he had worked out a plan to repurchase the house and that it was imperative he return to work.
Bakker did not say when that would be but that wherever he works, the family’s permanent home will be in Gatlinburg.
″There’s no harassment here. This is where mid-America and the family America comes for a vacation,″ Bakker said. ″The kids who want to tear things up don’t come here. They go the other way.″
The Bakkers deflected questions about money paid to Jessica Hahn, the young woman with whom Bakker had sex in 1980, and federal investigations of PTL’s affairs.
″In order to take PTL from Jim and Tammy you’ve got to make Jim and Tammy look as bad as possible,″ Bakker said. ″And the people who .. have taken it are working day and night to destroy us they have to destroy us to keep PTL.″
Bakker said questions about money paid to Ms. Hahn were ″inappropriate on a festive occasion like this,″ at which point Mrs. Bakker interjected ″and with his wife standing right next to him.″