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Notorious televangelist Jim Bakker and his church in southwestern Missouri was ordered to pay $156,000 in restitution to viewers of his religious talk show who were convinced into purchasing a fake Covid cure during the early stages of the pandemic.
(Original Caption) Gatlinburg, Tenn.: Jim Bakker, founder of the PTL television ministry and his … [+] wife Tammy Faye stand in front of a replica of the Constitution after signing a scroll to commemorate the bicentennial of the signing of the constitution.
Under the settlement, which was filed on Tuesday, refunds will be made to people who paid to obtain a health supplement called ‘Silver Solution’ in February and March 2020.
Bakker and his company Morningside Church Productions Inc. are also banned by the settlement from advertising or selling the Silver Solution product “to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any disease or illness.”
However, under terms of the agreement Bakker did not admit to any wrongdoing.
Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt originally sued Bakker in March 2020 in order to prohibit the TV minister from selling Silver Solution — which came in gels, lozenges and liquids — as a treatment for the virus on The Jim Bakker Show, his streaming TV show. Schmitt’s suit said Bakker and a guest named Sherrill Sellman, referred to by Bakker as a “naturopathic doctor,” falsely claimed the product would cure Covid in 11 episodes of the show in February and March of 2020. In those broadcasts Bakker offered to supply the product to viewers who contributed $80 to $125 to the church. Bakker’s attorney, former Missouri Governor and attorney general Jay Nixon, earlier claimed his client was being unfairly targeted in the litigation. Nixon told St. Louis public radio last month that Bakker had a “First Amendment” right to encourage viewers to prepare their bodies for the “end times” and that Bakker was only acting on his religious beliefs. Nixon, who filed an injunction to halt the lawsuit, said the government was impinging on Bakker’s right to practice his faith. Nixon further claimed that the suit was an attempt to “crush” Bakker’s ministry and “force his Christian television program off the air.”
Bakker, a protege of the Rev. Pat Robertson, became a well known national figure in the late 1980s when he was forced to resign his ministry, the PTL Club, in Charlotte, N.C., in the wake of sex allegations. Bakker claimed he had been blackmailed and “wickedly manipulated” by former friends to engage in an illicit sexual encounter in December 1980 with Jessica Hahn, then a 21-year-old church secretary. Prior to his resignation, Bakker’s fund-raising techniques reportedly generated more than $100 million annually, allowing he and his first wife Tammy Faye to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Bakker and his wife were also longtime co-hosts of The Jim and Tammy Show, a daily religious talk show distributed around the country through the PTL network. Bakker’s fund-raising activities led to an indictment by a federal grand jury for multiple counts of fraud in the late 1980s. In 1989, Bakker was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. However, an appeals court later voided his prison term and he was eventually paroled in July 1994 where he had Alan Dershowitz as his attorney. By 2003, Bakker returned to televangelism with his second wife Lori.
Disgraced Televangelist Jim Bakker Is Now Selling Real Estate and $150 Water Bottles (Fortune)