For the better part of April, Jim Bakker has been begging his followers to send him donations by check. He claims that the companies processing his credit card payments have dropped him after he was busted for billing a silver solution as a coronavirus cure. While we have to take this with a generous helping of salt given Bakker’s history, there is a very real sign that his ministry may indeed be on life support. The nation’s largest satellite provider, DirecTV, is dropping a very loud hint that it’s losing patience with Bakker.
Since returning to television in 2003, Bakker has drawn the bulk of his audience from satellite viewership on DirecTV and Dish Network. On Monday, he turned to that base and told them he was on the brink of bankruptcy. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Bakker claimed that he was at the point that he was going to have to consider selling buildings at his Morningside complex in Blue Eye, Missouri–near Branson–to make ends meet. However, he needed his viewers to open their wallets in order to stem the tide. “Don’t let me have to file for bankruptcy,” he wailed.
We don’t know whether Bakker is blowing smoke about being on the edge of the financial cliff. But even if he is blowing smoke, a report in Monday’s Springfield News-Leader should probably set off alarms in the Bakker camp. Earlier this week, DirecTV parent AT&T told several networks that carry Bakker’s daily program to “carefully review this programming to ensure that it complies with their contractual and legal obligations to us.”
The move came after Faithful America, a progressive Christian activist group, launched a petition urging DirecTV and Dish to drop Bakker after word got out that he was billing his “Silver Sol” as a cure for coronavirus. The petition also asks Roku to delete Bakker’s PTL TV Network from its service.
Faithful America made its move after the attorneys general of New York and Missouri, as well as federal regulators, pressured Bakker into pulling his “Silver Sol” from the market. Faithful America has long been critical of Bakker for hawking “snake oil” and overpriced survival food, as well as for his slavish loyalty to Donald Trump. However, it deemed Bakker’s hawking of Silver Sol as a coronavirus cure to be “his most dangerous action yet,” and argued that he shouldn’t get a second chance to peddle “something else that endangers public health.”
Faithful America campaigns director Nathan Empsall, an Episcopal priest, told the News-Leader that he and his colleagues see this as “a religious issue” rather than a political one. He said that he and his compatriots have had their fill of “seeing their scriptures distorted and their faith hijacked” by the likes of Bakker.
Just before Easter, AT&T’s vice president of global public policy, Brent Olson, wrote Faithful America to say that his bosses had reached out to seven networks that carry Bakker’s show–Christian Television Network, World Harvest Television, Daystar, GEB America, Impact Network, Upliftv, and The Word Network. According to Olson, AT&T had put the networks on notice that they needed to ask themselves whether Bakker had any business on their air.
At least one of those networks has decided the answer to that question is “no.” Empsall told the News-Leader that officials at World Harvest Television had decided to drop Bakker after consultations with its legal team.
It is literally impossible to overstate the stakes here. If Bakker were to lose enough of his satellite audience, it would literally drive him out of business. Anyone who has watched Bakker has seen the opulence of his sets at Morningside. He simply won’t be able to afford it if his satellite viewership were to dry up.
Bakker appears to be learning the hard way that media companies have no tolerance for coronavirus misinformation. For instance, the deplatforming of InfoWars and Alex Jones was officially completed in March, when Google deleted the InfoWars Android app over a video questioning the need for social distancing.
It was amply established long before the coronavirus pandemic mushroomed that Bakker has learned and forgotten absolutely nothing since being packed off to prison for bilking his PTL supporters in the 1980s. If he is indeed on the verge of having his mic shut off, it is long overdue.
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