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Designing Women S4 E7 Extra Sugar - Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

Throughout “Designing Women”, we’ve heard the Bakkers referenced more than a time or two. That’s Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, to be exact. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, they were two of the most famous televangelists in the United States, until their empire came crashing down under scandal in the late-80s. We’ll talk about the highs, the lows, and their remaining legacy in this week’s segment.

Here’s some of our source information, if you want to fall down the rabbit hole with us:

Come on, let's get into it!



Hi, welcome to this week's edition of Extra Sugar.

Hi, Salina.

Hello, she's here.

Uh Throughout the course of designing women, we've heard a few references to Jim Baker or his once wife, Tammy Fay Baker.

We've probably touched on it a time or two in references, but we've never really given it the full extra sugar, you know.

Uh And let me tell you if any tea deserves extra sugar.

It's this one, it's piping hot and at times it's bitter but there's plenty of it like that.

Let's get into it.


So to get us all on the same page from the beginning, the kind of too long didn't read version is that Jim Baker is an American televangelist.

So that is a person who uses media usually either radio or TV to promote Christianity.

He built a very successful ministry alongside his wife, Tammy Fay Baker through the seventies and eighties.

You usually hear their names mentioned among other names like Pat Robertson or Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell, and Jimmy Swaggart who we've definitely talked about on here.

Uh Jimmy, if you'll remember is the guy who cried on TV.

When it was revealed, he'd been seen at a motel with a sex worker.

Oopsie Poopsie.

Well, old Jim Baker had his own spectacular fall from grace in the late 80s. Um it was actually around the time that designing women aired, uh, he experienced a sex scandal of his own along with like some other shady business dealings which landed him in jail.

Tammy Faye stood by his side as long as she could but ultimately divorced him to marry his associate, a successful contractor.

Before during and after their divorce, Tammy Fey really went through it.

She was lambasted in the media.

A lot of times when you hear her mentioned like in a TV show or movies, they're making fun of her a little bit.

Um A lot of bit and then like in the news media, um a lot of times she was taken to task for what happened um with Jim, which is really unfair.

Um Anyway, when Jim got out of jail, he went back to tell evangelize.

Um And today he specializes in end of day ministry, including of course promoting survivalism gear.

Um She became an LGBT Q icon and experienced a little bit of a resurgence in her popularity until she died of cancer in 2007.

Um So we're lucky to have international listeners here.

So the reason I define televangelist is because my research tells me that's maybe a really American concept.

Um Our media is largely deregulated, which means that like anybody with enough money can secure time on network or cable TV.


So when you combine that with a large Christian population, that's sort of how televangelists became a thing.

Um The American nature of tele televangelism though, has shifted over time.

Um since TV, programming has become more international.

Um And even some American televangelists have found home on international TV.

So in other countries, they're watching people like Jim Baker, which is interesting.

Um Interestingly, I wanted to mention this, the term televangelist was coined by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Um because you talked about them at length before.

Um It was coined by them in 1958 to title a TV mini series associated with the group.

Um Though people had been using radio for a long time, that was just the first time they talked about it in the concept of TV.

Um So because of that, I want to plug your extra sugar in.

Um It was season two episode 20.

Um It's the episode where Charlene starts to question her minister.

Um So Salina did a pretty deep dive into the Southern Baptist Convention.

It's not duplicative of the segment I'm doing today at all, but they have sort of shades of similarity.

So it's probably like a good companion piece to consider.

So what I want to do with today's segment now that we all know who we're talking about is I want to share a brief history of The Bakers talk a little bit more about their rise and fall and then I want to end with some thoughts about their respective legacies.

Um Tammy phase in particular, like I mentioned a little bit earlier, took kind of a sharp right turn in my opinion after their marriage ended.

Uh And then I think sort of my last caveat to this whole segment is I think I really was going to just focus on Jim Baker because he was the specific reference in the show.

Um But I found myself so drawn to Tammy Fay's story.

Um which is really ironic because I think that was sort of Jim Baker's Achilles Heel a little bit.

It was like the Princess Diana Charles dynamic.

People loved her.

So, exactly.

Um So it's really kind of ironic, magnetic.

She is.

And so Salina and I were talking off mic and I'm going to get into this in a second.

I watched um the eyes of Tammy Fey or through the eyes of Tammy Fey in preparation for the segment and she watched it too separately, not related to the segment.

So if, as I'm talking, anything comes up for you feel free to jump in because there may be things I'm not covering that you think are important.

Um So first up, where did Jim and Tammy Faye come from?

Well, he was born in 1940, in Michigan and she was born in 1942 in Minnesota.

Does that surprise you I was very shocked when I saw that that's covered in the movie.

Um, like, not in depth or anything but it's definitely a part of it.

And I'm like, well, where do those southern accents come from?

Because they're very southern sounding in the movie or just in, in life?

I thought it was both.


You didn't think she sounded southern in the movie.

I have to tell you, I knew very little about Jim and Tammy Fay Baker going into either this segment or the movie.

I only know her eye makeup.

That's pretty much the extent of what I know about her.

And so I think I assumed and just putting my cards on the table, I assumed, um, kind of like a, a conservative Christian evangelism situation was going to be from the south.

So when she started talking and all she had was that, um, Minnesota accent.

I was like, what is happening, you know what I wonder if something's happening where I feel that way, so much that I am inventing a southern accent in my head.

But I really thought that, like, to me it's very like, uh, a bit like sing songy.

Like southerners are.

It was to me I got a lot of, oh, for sure.

Oh, yeah, a lot of, a lot of Minnesota to me.

So I was just surprised because that's not what I was expecting.

Now, I did watch a couple of interviews with her and like segments with her after and I think that Jessica Chastain was playing the accent up a lot, a little bit.

Well, I also wonder if things got muddled sounding from their time in the South.

That's possible.

And we'll get into that in a second.

They did spend quite a lot of time in the South.

Um, so I found a Chicago Tribune article that really spoke to Jim's childhood and upbringing because the movie didn't really talk about that at all from Jim's perspective because it's about her.

Um So Wikipedia just gave his parents names and the notes that he attended a Bible college in Minneapolis and that's really it.

So I almost took that to me and that was pretty much it.

And really, there's not much to see here, but because I'm committed to the cause I went a little bit deeper and I actually really am glad I did because I think it tells you a lot about this man and sort of why he would have been compelled to be a leader of a church and on TV.

And like why he would want people looking at him and paying attention to him.

Um So his grandpa Joe was a traveling Pentecostal evangelist in the early 19 hundreds.

Um But he did like fire and brimstone kind of stuff.

So I read a couple of anecdotes like he would stop smokers in the street to tell them they were going to hell for smoking like strangers.

Um And he also got a black eye um, evangelizing at a prison in prison.

And so like, yeah, so I don't know what he said to that guy, but probably something pretty, not so great.

Um So that's kind of the example that Jim's dad, Ray was working off of later.

Um The article says that Raleigh's beliefs quote bordered on eccentric.

Um, for instance, he claimed he saw angels on several occasions.

Um and Ray's wife who was Jim's mom for NIA, she also sounds interesting they had.

So there were four Children including Jim at the birth of her first grandchild.

When she was 41, she told her son, Bob.

So that was the oldest of her Children.

But Jim's oldest brother, uh she wasn't interested in being a grandmother.

So like get that away from here.

Uh When another one of her Children had a leg amputated, she didn't care for him at all in the hospital because she said hospitals made her quote nervous.

Um Jim was her fourth and final child and to say that he was a disappointment, sounds like an understatement.

Allegedly, she sobbed at his birth because she wanted a girl.

And so she wanted as little to do with him as possible.

A man, not every woman's maternal.

I don't know.

And I think that's fine.

I think that it sounds like she was almost a mentally abusive.

It's fine to not be maternal.

It's Yeah, um fortunately her parents live next door and I read some things that seem to indicate that like, his grandma was sort of that figure for him, like she doted on him and um offered him really a safe place to go.

I think also some of that behavior may be more common.

Then we think like um wanting one gender kid or sex kid and getting another and like, maybe like you could have kept that to yourself, but you decided to share it for some strange reason, like, you know, stuff like that and the other stuff might be a little weird or like, if you have a about the hospital, like that is going to get you past that.

So I'm not saying that's cool.

I'm just saying, I think people are super flawed and um and they, they might turn out a Jim Baker.

I don't know.

Well, you know, the other thing I read about his, like grandmother's influence is that, that might have that, like, one of the theories is that might have been why he was kind of drawn to televangelism because there were like older women who would come and like, do on him and loved watching his programs and stuff.

He was looking for love and acceptance, I think is sort of the point that I took away, man.

Aren't we different, different ways?

But yeah.

Uh so anyway, Jim attended a Bible college in Minneapolis, which was affiliated with the assemblies of God.

So I almost glossed over that assemblies of God bit because it just sort of feels like, I don't know.

Do you want to deep dive on the assemblies of God or do you want to talk about Jim Baker?

You know what I mean?

Like, there's only so many ways we can go, but I ended up just like looking into it a smidge just to make sure there wasn't anything relevant there.

Um And I do want to share a little bit about it because I think it also is relevant to the way he preached and what he preached.

Um So the assemblies of God was founded in 1914 in of all places, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

During a meeting of, there's like a lot of roads that lead to the bakers from designing women.

Just so, you know, during a meeting of Pentecostal ministers in 2011, I read that the assemblies of God was the ninth largest Christian denomination in the US and the second largest Pentecostal denomination.

Um according to a Wikipedia page about them, the assemblies of God holds to a conservative evangelical and Armenian theology as expressed in the statement of fundamental truths and position papers.

This is the part I want you to take away from this.

It emphasizes such core Pentecostal doctrines as the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, vine healing.

And the second coming of Christ, it defines for itself a fourfold mission to evangelize others, worship God disciple believers and show compassion.

So I wanted to share that because I think it kind of gives you some roots for from where Jim and and also Tammy Fey were preaching because Tammy Fey also went to the same college that he went to.

So her childhood sounds equally traumatic.

She was born Tammy Fey LaValley to Pentecostal preachers, Rachel and Carl.

Um they divorced after a couple of years, um which was really frowned on by the church.

So her mother Rachel didn't really have much of a relationship with the church for a bit and this plays out a little bit in the movie.

Um Though Rachel ultimately remarried to a man named Fred, which blended their families and made Tammy Fey the oldest.

So again to prepare for the segment, I watched The Eyes of Tammy Fey, which is a 2021 dramatization of a 2000 documentary about Tammy Fee.


So that little bit at the beginning of the movie she says, um which I think will become more relevant later.

She talks about her makeup and how it stays on.

That was actually in the documentary.

Uh So the film's on HBO Max, which is where I watched it.

If you want to watch it, it should have been able to put that together.

I guess I thought that was just an, it was an interview, but I don't think I realized it was an interview in a documentary.

It's very meta, there's a lot of layers to it.

Totally worth watching it though.

Um So we just talked about this, Jessica Chastain played Tammy Fey.

I thought she was really darn good in that role.

I think I read something that like her.

She said her eyes eyelashes have not been the same.

Oh, I didn't read that.


Oh, God bless her.


Um Anyway, I brought up that film for a lot of reasons but here because it tells like it includes a really jarring retelling of Tammy Fey's childhood.

So according to the film, her mother wouldn't allow her to, to attend church with the rest of the family because Tammy Fey was the product of a divorced relationship which the church brown on.

And so like in the movie, it sort of shows that her mom was separate from the church for a long time.

They finally let her back in because she plays piano and she's the only one who could do it.

So Tammy Fey doesn't get to go to church with them because her mom doesn't want to get kicked out again.

Tammy Faye has a very religious moment in the church in the film.

And that's sort of where she started her relationship with God.

But it's a sad childhood.

Well, it's almost like they smell the trauma on one another.


And we're drawn to each other from that.

And I think that happens a lot also.

I don't know if you're just holding to mention it.

So I hope I'm not whatever you hear, um, jumping the gun but like, uh Andrew Garfield as Jim Baker, I think he does such a good job.

I thought he was really good.

I am not really going to talk about that at all.

Um, so, no, you're not jumping the gun.

I thought he did a really good job.

I read a couple of pieces that indicated they didn't think he was all that great.

They thought his accent was weird.

They thought he overacted.

See, and I thought it was great because I, I think that's what they're known for is really pumping up the drama.

So I disagree with them.

I did have a performance.

I thought he was really good.

I don't know that I would have placed that as Andrew Garfield necessarily.

It took me a few minutes to recognize who he was.

Yeah, I just, I think he's a really good actor.

I don't think about Andrew Garfield all that often.

I, he's not really top of mind for me.

Um I also read that.

Uh I, I don't read, I also watched the, um the show that he did um about the Mormon church and the death.

Uh I don't know the names escaping me.

So I, and some friends and I were recently talking about that.

So I think he is a little top of mind for me.

I started, I wish I could remember the name that I wish I could help you.

Um, but anyways, yeah, I think he's really good.

Anyway, so Jim met Tammy Fey in 1960 near the bible college that they were, were both attending.

They both worked in nearby retail spots.

They married in 1961, which required them both to drop out of college.

Uh, since the students were discouraged from marrying one another.

Uh, the film covers the early days of their marriage pretty well, including acknowledgement that Rachel, um again, Tammy Fey's mother didn't particularly support the union.

Um One anecdote of sort of this early time that plays out um in Baker Lore and also in the movie is that Jim shared with Tammy Fey, how he came to God.

So as he told it, he left church early one night, stole his dad's car and went joy riding with a girl.

Um He says he ended up running over a boy and promising to God that if he spared the boy, he'd dedicate his life to the ministry.

So apparently, Jim went on to retell that story in a few places including his autobiography, but it's since been refuted specifically by family members.

So his cousin claimed the incident happened with him in the car.

Um And that they don't remember a significant like religious turnout at that moment.

Um But I'm sharing that not to call Jim Baker a liar or, you know, to question anyone's coming to God.

But it's really just to say that that's a pretty seminal moment in their courtship, at least according to the movie, which I assume is based in this autobiography or this documentary.

So must have been retold by her.

And so it's pretty jarring to me that the relationship one could have been built on a lie.

And two, if he started lying in his teens about religion and religious roots, that seems questionable and all that.

I do see like what you're saying too about like these, these reviews of his performance because I remember that particularly being like, all right, calm down, but I just assume that that's who he is.

I think you're right.

I think like, um he's high drama and I think that Jim Baker, you mean, I think that was his way of trying to like enrapture people and for some people that really works for me, it would have been a huge turn off, but we're just all different because it, it seemed very attention seeking, which I think really loops back to what you're saying about his childhood.

And because I can't let a thing go.

The thing that Andrew Garfield started was under the banner of heaven and now it's all a breath.

There you go.

I did go and watch a couple of um again, like I said, clips of Jim and Tammy Fey, maybe someone who's more of this generation and has a stronger, clearer memory of Jim and Tammy Fey from this time would be in a better position to comment on how realistic that they, their portrayals were in the movie.

But based on every clip I saw Jim is like up here in terms of drama.

So I it, I think it was not over the top.

I think that's just how he was.

Um anyway, after their marriage and spending some time with Tammy Fay's family, um, they took off to become traveling ministers and you sort of mentioned this a minute ago, they really traversed the Bible belt and found their way to the South.

Um So in particular, they developed a puppet show to preach to Children.

The puppet show was really successful and caught the attention of Pat Robertson who was much younger at this time than I know Pat Robertson as being.

Um But he, at this time had recently launched a Christian television station in Virginia.

Um And so he asked the couple to come on and host their puppet show on the station.

Um The station was the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Um Jim did that for a few years before he became host of the Daily News program, The 700 Club, which I is what I remember Pat Robertson.

I mean, he just recently stepped down, which I probably mentioned in a minute.

But um that's what I remember him from.

So it's really weird to see him very young.

I'm just excited to see if you mentioned it or not, will she do?

Will she not?

Will she get that tune in?

I struggled a little bit to validate the eyes of Tammy Fay's retelling of the roots of the 700 club.

According to the film, Jim pitched the show to Pat Pat was really lukewarm about it.

So Jim just like announced it during the puppet show to the delight of the audience and that's how it started and there seemed to be some jealousy there.

Yes, there was a, there was a definite um you could feel there was a conflict there.

Um Jim ended up hosting the 700 club for a few years until he and Tammy Fay left the Christian Broadcasting Network under the guise of quote philosophical differences.

Um but lots of other source material seems to indicate that Pat created a series of telephone telethons to save the network in the early sixties when they were facing financial ruin.

He called it the 700 Club because they were trying to raise the $700 of operating expenses for the network.

And that is what morphed into the daily news show.

So I don't, I don't really know, maybe a little bit of all of it is true.

But either way, do you want to say something?

I'm just trying to stay close to the mic.

Now, either way, Jim was the host, he was the original host of the 700 Club.

Like I said it's a program that remains on the air today.

And Pat just stepped down in 2021 at the age of 91.

I mentioned it for you, Salina.

I won 91.

And after whatever happened between them, Jim and Tammy Fey took their toys and left the playground, they landed in Charlotte, North Carolina where they started P T L Praise the Lord or sometimes people that love network in 1974 at the time they launched P T L only T BS, which we've talked about before and Atlanta Staple.

Um and HBO were broadcasting via satellite, which was a really big deal because it took their message and their personality beyond Charlotte, North Carolina.

Good, good, good, good.

Um So they reached a lot more people than they would have reached by cable or network TV.

And the donations really poured in praise the Lord along those lines.

It was during this time that the bakers lived a really lavish lifestyle.

Um According to one article I found in the early eighties, they had a 10,000 square foot home near Charlotte, a Florida Beach condo and vacation homes in Palm Springs and Palm Desert, California.

Along with one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, he shall provide, he shall provide.

Tammy was known for her proclivity for shopping, but I found several references including one that she like flat out, says it in an interview they do after all the things happened um that she was also a really big bargain shopper.

So, like she shopped at bargain places to save money.

Um, I think that's important to me because I think there's this misogynistic inclination to think like her shopping was the problem and the media really played that up.

Like that's why they were so greedy is because Tammy Fay needed to stock her closet.

That happens a lot.

It does.

It really does.


And that's why I say like in a lot of places she was really, in my opinion.

And based on all the facts, I can find really unfairly dragged in a way that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Um I told Salina off Mike that there was a whole other kind of thread to all this, which is part of their belief system is that God will provide.

And that um Tammy Fay mentions this in the, in the movie, like being a minister or being in ministry doesn't mean we have to be poor.

That was almost an essential part of their religious beliefs.

Now, whether that was for greedy reasons or because they genuinely, truly believed it.

I don't know the answer to that, but that kind of is sort of where that was coming from.

And it was true of lots of people in that world at that time, I guess we'll never know.

And I think that is why the story that you told about whether or not what led him to God is true or not?

Like, are they just misled in their beliefs or are from what we see or are they Charlatans?

And I think, I, I mean, I think that's the, we don't know, that's what makes it fascinating and it really, I mean, all of it is fascinating.

So it was also during this time, remember we're in the seventies at this point, they're starting praise the Lord network.

Um So in 1978 they launched Heritage USA a 23 100 acre Christian themed water park and theme park and residential complex in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

And what has struck me because I was remembering that part when you were talking about their lavish lifestyle, I was remembering that part from the movie and then it dawned on me how much the show, The Righteous Gemstones is really connected to them because there's a similar plot in that show.

But of course, it plays out much differently.

But yeah, that the entire time I was researching this segment and watching that movie, the Righteous Gemstones wasn't like top of mind for me.

I didn't even know you watched that.

Kyle Loves um Danny mcbride, Danny mcbride, like a lot.

We would watch anything in our house that Danny mcbride does as a South Carolinian.

This thread totally surprised me.

I have never heard of this place.

I've never heard of this place to be so, yeah, by 1986, it had grown to attract nearly six million visitors a year to be fair.

It, it like would have disappeared more or less by the time I was old enough to go.

So that would make sense why I'd never heard of it, but it had attracted about six million visitors a year.

It was um the third most visited theme park in the U SI should have double checked whether like where Dollywood was on this list.

Um Because Dollywood is another really big one for us in the South.

Uh Several references referred to it like consistently as Christian Disney World.


So as the theme park weird, it just blows my mind.

It's so come and take a picture with Jesus.

It feels like something which is why this whole thing surprised me.

This is 100% somewhere that I would have found myself in my childhood.

So the fact that I have no idea this existed is shocking to me.

I hear you.

Um As the theme park in the ministry grew though their marriage sank, the Tammy Fey movie depicted an affair of Tammy Fays with a music producer which I believe has actually been pretty thoroughly debunked.

But other source material indicates she did have affairs throughout the early eighties.

Um She also developed a prescription pain pill addiction during this time and actually overdosed at one point which she ultimately apologized for on air.

So for what it's worth, the movie shows her apologizing for her affairs but I read that it was actually this prescription drug use that she apologized for on air to the viewers.

So in the movie, they play it out that Jim Baker forced her to go on air and apologize.

Um, because he was so put off by this affair, which in a minute will put a really bad taste in your mouth.

Um But in fact, it was the drug use.

They asked her to apologize for him um throughout the late 70s and early 80s, sort of while their marriage troubles are happening, while the ministry is growing, they are also facing a number of charges um of misuse of funds raised by their ministry.

Um So it sounds like it started with charges that they allegedly raised money on air to support overseas missions, but they actually poured that money into heritage usa the theme park instead.

Um So those charges were sort of simmering on the back burner.

They were investigated, they were captured in reports, et cetera through the 70s and 80s.

It was for the park because I feel like, I mean, for me, I think it's uh so great.

Um So I might be like really a park but I feel like the group that they're catering to will be like, oh, like a park that's going to teach people about God and connect it to fun.


That's a great point.

That weird.

Yeah, I mean, I think that they probably, I, I don't, I don't know.

Let me just say, I don't really know, but I think there's something there, I think there's probably a rationale.

I mean, there definitely is a rationale but I think there's probably something to, like, not wanting to be seen as too ostentation, not wanting to admit how much money they've poured into this part because I think it was losing substantial amounts of money and they needed people to believe it was successful to have them buying into it.

Well, you know, like it's almost like they probably didn't have the right skill set to be able to do it.

So even if it was attracting people and they were just, and they were living these lavish lifestyles and then they were probably supporting other things and people.

Yeah, I think there was a lot happening.

So all these charges of financial misuse and financial concern were simmering on the back burner.

Then 1987 happened and the news exploded that Jim Baker had been accused by a church secretary of sexual misconduct.

So as his marriage with Tammy Fay fell apart, he allegedly had a sexual affair with the secretary and then tried to bribe her for silence using ministry funds.

What I wasn't able to figure out initially is why this came out in 1987 their sexual encounter allegedly occurred in 1980.

But in looking at another bit of their legacy, I think I might have at least found part of the answer.

So Salina, hold on to your hat.

We're going to come back to that one.


Either way it was 1987.

It was um that report that brought everything crashing down.

The secretary who was named Jessica claimed he was sexually inappropriate with her against her consent.

He never denied their sexual encounter as far as I can tell, but he did deny it was rape.

He said it was consensual.

Um It sounds like she's never agreed that it was consensual, but she did later say she was not comfortable using the word rape to characterize the either way.

No good, right.

Um Jerry Falwell, another successful televangelist who I mentioned a minute ago, he swooped in to save the day the best.

So you might recognize his name if not as a televangelist, maybe as one of the founders of Liberty University, a private Baptist University in Virginia.

Salina is making a face.

The school is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Liberty under the leadership of Jerry Falwell's son, Jerry Falwell junior strongly embraced Donald Trump in the lead up to his presidential run and then following his election.

So again, all of that could be a segment to itself.

Um But I'm bringing it up here because I feel like to understand current conservative leaning politics in our country that really is a deep dive into big religion.

The bakers were certainly a piece of that in the 70s and 80s.

Um but it was folks like Jerry who had a lot more influence.

So I want you to have that context in mind as Jerry comes in and presents himself as the solution to Jim and Tammy Fay's troubles in 1987.

Somehow an arrangement was struck that Jim Baker would step away from P T L Ministry uh and the network until the scandal blew over and that Falwell would take over what the Bakers didn't realize is that they would soon be entirely ousted from P T L by Falwell as he stepped in, he realized the ministry was like severely in debt and bleeding money daily.

This goes back to what I was just talking about.

Additionally, further rumors came forth alleging Jim Baker had engaged in a number of same set sexual encounters.

So in May of 1987 Falwell held an hour and a half long press conference claiming the Baker's unfit to return to the ministry for all these reasons.

Plus that they had allegedly made a number of unreasonable demands of Falwell as he tried to get them to reasonably step away from the ministry.

So that played out in the movie as well where basically he set them up to make these unreasonable demands.

He said, we really don't want to just cast you out.

We want to take care of you as you've taken care of our herd.

Basically, so you tell us what you need to live comfortably um and almost encourage them to like shoot for the moon, you know, just tell us what we can give you.

So Jim and Tammy Fay did and he used that as evidence that they were greedy and super unchristian in their conduct.

So he staged a coup and he took over.

So the Bakers went on a media offensive.

They did a really noteworthy interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline.

He claimed years later, this was his number one interview in thousands of interviews that said so much to me, Ted Koppel is like the news.

Yeah, and he said that was # 1.

It's not because he loved the Bakers or because he thought the interview was like amazing and you know, groundbreaking.

It was because of public interest.

He said he's never had more people interested in coverage of his than he did in this story.

So all of this plays out in um the Tammy Fey movie and it is a whole thing.

You can also watch um the original version of the interview on youtube.

So all this drama really was leading to more scrutiny of the Bakers and P T L s portfolio and finances.

Um And in 1988 Jim was indicted on a number of charges including a wire fraud and cons including wire fraud and conspiracy charges.

Tammy Fey was never indicted.

Um The trial itself brought its own fair share of drama.

Again, I was going to skip this.

And then I read a couple of these anecdotes and I was like, holy moly because I did jury duty last year.

And if I had been in this courtroom, I would have enjoyed jury duty a lot more.

Um So at one point, a longtime staffer of praise the Lord network fainted while testifying, they actually thought he died.

They were saying that um people were screaming for Jim to like pray over him because they thought like the people in the galley thought he could really save this man, man.

This must have been nuts.

And then apparently Jim himself had a psychological break at one point in the trial and it was paused for nearly a week.

So he ultimately returned to the courtroom and testified, but it was all for not on October 5, 1989, he was found guilty on all 24 counts for which he was being charged.

He was sentenced to 45 years in prison in order to pay a $500,000 fine.

He filed an appeal that the sentence was like way too long and ultimately, his sentence was reduced to eight years.

He served about five and was ultimately paroled in 1994.

So while Jim was imprisoned, Tammy Fey filed for divorce ultimately remarrying to Ro Messner.

And so she became Tammy Fey Messner.

Um He was the contractor actually who built heritage USA.

He himself was ultimately imprisoned for two years for bankruptcy fraud.

There's just so much so through all of this, I mentioned earlier, Tammy Fey was really dragged in the media.

Um Mainstream press had long mocked her for her excessive use of makeup and wigs, not to mention her ostentatious style of dressing um which you were talking about uh Jessica Chastain's eyelashes.

It really plays out in the movie.

You see how her makeup um morphs over time to kind of fit this personality.

I was thinking escalate, escalates.

Um So again, she was a lot of times blamed for all of this.

Um But while Jim was being tried in court with actual like proof for his actions, people were speculating about her role in all of it though.

Effectively, they both denied she had any knowledge of the situation.

I think there's something to that like people's willingness to blame her contrary to evidence against him, certainly how it's played in the movie, right?

You know, that I think like she does come across as the empathic one.

Um She comes across as truly not knowing and I think just being, um I mean, this in the nicest way possible, just ignorant.

Um And I guess we'll never really, never really unless you're about to roll out some evidence unless you've been doing some original reporting.

Um And so I think that's at play, but I, I did want to add to just thinking back about the movie and I was thinking particularly about Vincent Diao and he plays Jerry Falwell and one of the things that I really liked about the movie, I mean, we don't know what these conversations were like.


We weren't there, neither were the people who were making the movie.

Um, but, uh, I did like this way that she sort of pushes back on a lot of the sexism that's going on at the time.

Um, and it was very much so in the, you bet you, you know, kind of because you bet you, I'm gonna sit at this table with all the men and you bet you, I'm gonna sit here such an amazing scene.

I loved it.

So she was really like that.

It's really, it's really cool because it was also just like, it just didn't dawn on her and it shouldn't that like, because there is definitely this underpinning particularly.

And this is one of the things that I talked about in the Southern Baptist convention segments, like women are almost treated like Children and that they're to be seen and not heard.

I kind of wonder, uh, I think it did dawn on her and I think that she played into that a lot as I was saying it, like she demanded to be at the table so much.

Um, it is sort of as we're talking kind of hitting me.


So, yeah, I think she was really, um, sly isn't the right word because that sounds like I'm casting some sort of negative judgment.

She was very, uh what's the word?

Like she, she was on it, she knew the system, she understood the system she was in and she was going to make it work for her.

And in some cases she was a lot more to the point, especially with Jim, like we are, we are two halves of this hole and if I'm not here, you're not here.

Um, I think with some others, she was a little more nuanced about it, but I think she, I think she knew what she was doing anyhow.

Uh It sounds like she spent some time quietly alone even after she remarried because, you know, Mr Messner was off in jail too.

Um But by the late nineties and early two thousands, she had become more of a fixture in the press again.

She was on that vh1 show, The Surreal Life.

Do you remember that one?



She was on that.

Um She did daytime TV interviews the whole nine.

She also really publicly battled cancer.

In 1996 she announced she had been diagnosed with colon cancer and in 2005, she announced it had spread to her lungs.

And then she ultimately passed in 2007 just months after stopping treatments in a youtube rabbit hole that I landed at the bottom of I came across an interview with her that was allegedly the day before she died and it was intense a person in late stages of cancer is, um, it's tragic.


Um, I only watched a bit of it because it really was a hard watch.

Um, but it seemed really reflective.

Um, and also a little bit hopeful.

I think Tammy Fey really was looking to what she expected to see on the other side of this life and I think she genuinely, truly believed that's coming for her, which feels very on brand for her.

So for his part after he was released from prison, Jim headed to Missouri of all places to the Ozarks to explore a new ministry called Morning Side.

By this time, he had also remarried and in 2003, he launched a new Jim Baker show.

According to several articles, I found I mentioned this at the top of the episode, Jim and his wife Laurie now raise money for their ministry, selling survivalist type stuff like freeze dried food and such.

His ministry also focuses on the end of days revelations type stuff.

Uh It's worth saying that in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Jim got mixed up in even more legal scandal for pushing colloidal silver.

Oh, I remember that happening.

So he said that would cure COVID.

He settled all that legal trouble in 2021.

Uh But in that intervening year, he claimed the ministry was on the verge of bankruptcy because his all his legal trouble had blocked him from accessing credit card donations and he had a mini stroke which his wife said was brought on from the stress of all the criticism that had recently been heaped on him, which she said was worse than he had ever experienced in his life.

So one piece of their legacy I haven't yet addressed is their views on homosexuality within the context of what was essentially a con conservative, conservative religious approach I mentioned in 1987 it was alleged Jim had engaged in a number of same sex, sexual encounters to the best I can find he has consistently denied the sex part, but he did acknowledge quote, confusing thoughts in his mid two thousands autobiography.

So I'm not here to speculate on his sexuality at all.

The point I wanted to make was just that Jim and Tammy Faye seemed to consistently embrace the LGBT Q community despite that going against the grain within their religious universe.

Oh, I didn't realize he did too well, let me say.

Um so in 1980 five, Tammy Fey, apparently with Jim's cos signature hosted an interview on their network, the Praise the Lord network with Steve Peters, an openly gay church pastor in California who is living with HIV.

She leveraged the interview as an opportunity to bring awareness to the issue and to share God's grace through the man's struggle.

I found a 2021 interview with Steve who is still living and graciously reflected on that interview.

With Tammy Fey.

So I said earlier, I couldn't figure out why it took so many years between Jim's sexual interaction with the church secretary, Jessica to come to light.

Steve said he was told Jerry Falwell decided to do something about the bakers after he saw this interview.

And so he dug around a little bit and found some dirt and then everything starts to fall apart for the bakers.

So it took so long to come to light because it needed a powder keg.

And Jerry Falwell was that person?

Does that make sense?

Um So you just said you didn't realize Jim embraced the community and I tell you why, because I think I just, I didn't really fully understand the timeline.

And I know about that interview.

We've talked about that interview.

We've talked about the interview here.

Um Well, we need to revisit you saying it is how I remembered it.


Um But um I thought they were already divorced.

So I, I didn't realize he had like sanctioned that.

I say apparently his, his cos signature because I mean, he helped make decisions about the show.

So I assume he was OK with it.

And later in that TED Cop interview, I mentioned a few minutes ago in the midst of all the controversy and controversy in the late 80s, um he was confronted with the allegations of same sex interactions and was asked whether they were true.

And Jim really plainly said quote, people need to know that God loves homosexuals.

So, um, those are the nuggets that I can pull from.

For her part, Tammy Fey lived that belief out through ministry through the rest of her life.

So Steve Peters says she saw, she had a ministry to the LGBT Q community and took great joy in it.

She was the grand marshal of a pride parade at one point and she had all the drag queens and the gay people all singing.

Jesus loves me.


I know for the Bible tells me.

So she had them all singing along and I would have loved to have seen that.

So it's worth noting here that I found a CNN article about her legacy within the LGBT Q community which suggested that she may actually have offered at best a mixed message on homosexuality.

I'm offering this and I would love for the first part to be true, but I'm offering this to be like totally as transparent as I can be.

The article said she would appear at pride events but never in a pride parade.

And that when she was at these events, she would minister a message of forgiveness suggesting that folks should live their lives as they see fit on earth.

But they would have to confront their truth with God ultimately.

And that would be the true test.

So my thought is that, you know, sometimes we talk about people doing the best they can for where they are at a given time.

That's kind of what it hit me as because I've read those and I do agree.

It, it, it is a mixed message but like, um I also think it was progress for then compared to the Jerry Falwell version of what some sects of S E C T s of religion believe about people.

You know what I'm saying?

That these things can be trying to be.

I'm like, I'm trying to be sensitive because I'm not saying like, cool.

Yeah, go out there and say exactly what she said because it is a mixed message and it isn't entirely fair but it is better than you're going to hell.

And I think we have to like progress is not always sweeping, it's many times iterative.

So, so to the best I can tell Jim hasn't taken a public stance on homosexuality in recent years.

So I don't have any more evidence on that.

I love with you, Nikki.

I didn't know he was alive.

I didn't know the silver thing with him.

I remember it coming up um through the evangelical crowd again and uh that was the most I know about it.

So in closing, I had two thoughts to share.

First one is really random, but it brings a lot of things full circle in the eyes of Tammy Fay.

They show Tammy Fey presumably at her lowest living alone in an apartment eating TV, dinners and she's watching designing women.

In fact, it was this season, she was watching, it was um episode two from season 41 night with you.

Um It was that part where they're standing in the kitchen.

Uh and Suzanne is upset.

I think it's a peanut peanut butter situation.

They're talking about Suzanne being on a diet.

Anyway, she's watching it.

And Jan Hooks who comes to the designing women cast later was famous for her Tammy Fey impersonation on S N L.


All roads lead to designing women.

The second one is a little more cerebral.

So it's something I think we both think about and not insignificant amount as we consume news media and other information, an aura magazine article about the eyes of Tammy Fey attributes this quote to Jessica Chastain again who played Tammy Fey in this movie.

I had this judgment against her and I realized it's so fascinating how the media can give everyone a collective memory that may not really be the truth.

I wanted to do something about it to honor her.

So like you get told this narrative by the media and you sort of just assume it's true.

Like in my mind, Tammy Fay was just makeup, like I didn't really know I didn't have a strong feeling about her one way or the other except that she had makeup.

Um But I do know that I have a collective memory of the downfall of so many evangelicals with a lot of power.

So I was genuinely pleasantly surprised to learn about Tammy Fey in particular, just her genuine, true seeming quote unquote Christian spirit.

It felt to me like, what, what I want to get out of Christianity and what I want to get out of organized religion is a sense of community and love and grace.

And I feel like Tammy Fey really embodied that in a way that I'm not sure I believe some of the others do.

So I really appreciated that and I also really hated that she was ridiculed so much um and was only really kind of fully seen in death, but it feels like it happens so often.

So this week's extra sugar gave me so much to think about and process.

I hope it does the same for you.

I'm gonna leave you with one thought from Miss Tammy Fay Baker.

Honey, God loves everybody.

It's human beings who mess things up as always.

Please remember, you can follow along with us and engage on Instagram and Facebook at Sweet Tea and TV, tiktok, sweet Tea TV pod email, sweet Tea TV pod at gmail dot com and our website is W W W dot sweet Tea TV dot com and come back next week for a brand new sweet Tea and TV take on designing women.

This has been this week's extra sugar.


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