During the 80s televangelists, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker had one of the highest watched Christian ministry shows on TV. The Bakkers started The PTL Club in 1974 which continued all the way until 1987. The show reached a peak in the 80s. Contributions from viewers have been estimated at over 1 Million dollars a week. The Bakkers turned this into a television empire and even built a Christian Theme Park called Heritage USA which became the third-most-successful theme park in the US at the time. The Bakkers live a lavish lifestyle of glitz and glamor which even included air-conditioned dog houses for their pets.
Tammy Faye Bakker was often spoofed by comedians for wearing lots of makeup and having extremely long fake eyelashes. However, as a husband and wife tag-team duo, their show broke new boundaries for Christian programming because it came across more like a late-night talk show which included guests from other ministries and celebrities including even Mr. T on one episode.
However, scandals would rock their ministry and essentially bring their empire to the ground. A strictly confidential 1985 I.R.S. report found that $1.3 million in ministry funds were used for the Bakkers’ personal benefit from 1980 to 1983. On top of that, A $279,000 payoff for the silence of Jessica Hahn, who was a church secretary who alleged that The Co-Founder Of PTL, John Wesley Fletcher had drugged and raped her and was paid through the ministry funds by Jim Bakker’s associate. After the disclosure of a payoff to Hahn, Bakker resigned from PTL in 1987. Criminal charges were filed against Jim Bakker and he was indicted in 1988 on 8 counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud, and 1 count of conspiracy.
Former church secretary Jessica Hahn became a celebrity of sorts who posed for Playboy magazine and later married comedian Sam Kinison.
Jim and Tammy divorced in 1992. After serving almost five years in federal prison, Jim Bakker was released and in 2003 returned to restart his ministry alongside his second wife.
Tammy Faye Messner (Bakker) died in 2007 after an 11 year battle with cancer.
Currently, Jim Bakker is still involved in his ministry and has recently been involved in a controversy over supplements that he allegedly claimed would cure Coronavirus. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA sent warning letters to Bakker about his claims regarding the supplements and coronavirus.