FORT MILL, S.C. -- Fire-and-brimstone evangelist Jimmy Swaggart admitted today he instigated a church investigation into rumors of Jim Bakker's sexual misconduct, triggering Bakker's resignation and launching a 'religious civil war.'
Bakker and his wife Tammy made no new videotaped appearance son the PTL Network's 'Jim and Tammy Show' Tuesday but at the close of the program host Richard Dortch received a whispered message and rushed offstage, saying, 'We understand Tammy is having a problem.'
The message bearer then told the audience, 'We don't understand what's going on but we understand Tammy's having some kind of major attack.'
The Bakkers are in Palm Springs, Calif., where Tammy has been treated for addiction to prescription pills.
Swaggart said he urged the executive presbytery to issue a statement distancing the denomination from PTL so the Assemblies of God would not 'be dragged through the mud' in any scandal but officials told him they needed proof first.
Swaggart and Bakker are both ministers in the Assemblies of God. Bakker resigned from the church Friday when he turned over his $172 million PTL empire to Jerry Falwell but church officials said his resignation will not be accepted until their investigation is complete.
Bakker has yet to name Swaggart but in a videotaped segment of Monday's 'Jim and Tammy' show on the PTL network he accused a well-known minister of a 'diabolical plot' to take over PTL.
The Observer, in Tuesday's editions, said it did not speak to Swaggart about the story until late Monday, when he revealed his part in it.
He said a March 12 memo outlined a meeting he had with Bakker's aide, Richard Dortch, in which Dortch denied any knowledge of a lawsuit against PTL over Bakker's sexual indiscretion with a church secretary seven years ago, or any payments to her.
Dortch told the Observer he did not consider a draft of a lawsuit sent to PTL by the woman's representative to be a legal document and denied Swaggart ever asked him about the $115,000 the PTL paid the woman, Jessica Hahn, in 1985.
Swaggart said he learned in early February that The Observer was planning a story on the allegations of sexual misconduct and payment. He said he and Baptist television evangelist John Ankerberg of Chattanooga, Tenn., discussed getting a group of evangelists together to approach Bakker in person.
Moral Majority leader Falwell, who took over PTL at Bakker's request, was to be one of those ministers.
The purpose, he said, was 'if it was true, to do anything we could help him to serve in a rehabilitation process,' Swaggart told the observer.
But Swaggart said he decided March 12 that he was uncomfortable signing the statement and drafted a note to Ankerberg. It is that note, he told The Observer, that Bakker called 'the complete game plan of those enemies of PTL.'
In the note, Swaggart told Ankerberg he feared Bakker and Dortch would show the note on the air, 'deleting the parts they do not want read.'
'Please believe me, there is absolutely no chance of Bakker and Dortch stepping down for any type of rehabilitation. First they will try to lie their way out of it but the documentation should be irrefutable,' the memo said.
Bakker claimed Monday that his resignation was an attempt to avert 'a hostile takeover of the PTL ministry.'
The Observer quoted PTL attorney Norman Roy Grutman as saying he called Swaggart Monday night to try to 'prevent a religious civil war.'
'I think it's extremely ironic that Jimmy Swaggart should be attacking Jim Bakker and if he goes forward with additional things I think he would regret it, because we would have to retaliate and there is information that I have which I think will paint Jimmy Swaggart blacker in the same particulars in which I think he's trying to daub Jim Bakker.'
Swaggart evidently assumed that Grutman, who called his attorney Monday night, was acting on behalf of Falwell, and not PTL or Bakker.
'I was greatly shocked,' Swaggart told The Observer. 'Here was a man I have held up and respected and we have worked together, and then he's having his lawyer to call me and threaten me. That hurts. My answer is, feel free to use any document you have and tell the news media and all concerned anything tt you think you have on me because it's a lie.'
Falwell, for his part, called Swaggert a 'great man of God' and said 'I did not instruct Mr. Grutman to talk with him. I have no knowledge of any convesation he may have had. It is my intention to call Jimmy Swaggert tonight to make every effort to correct any misunderstanding that may exist between the two of us.'
Swaggart, whose $130 million ministry is based in Baton Rouge, La., said he had no intention of taking over PTL and said his organization had nothing to do with the Observer learning of Bakker's sexual indiscretion.