BATON ROUGE, La. -- TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart Monday labeled a Penthouse Magazine article alleging he had an affair with a New Orleans 'strip-o-gram' performer a 'fabrication' and said a libel suit would be filed by the end of the week.
'Ministry lawyers have been instructed to file suit as soon as possible against all who publish this fabrication,' Swaggart said at his World Ministry headquarters. 'Our attorneys learned of this fraudulent story in December and had clearly shown Penthouse ... that the story was untrue.'
Swaggart's announcement was met with applause and shouts of 'Amen' from 500 ministry students and workers who gathered to hear the defrocked television preacher lash out at Penthouse for the article.
Catherine Kampen, 38, of New Orleans, claims in the March issue of Penthouse the affair with Swaggart began in July 1987 and lasted until January 1988, before Swaggart was defrocked last spring by the Assemblies of God for a tryst with a prostitute.
Swaggart, in making his announcement Monday, sounded self-assured and confident, in marked contrast to his tearful confession last year after the affair with the prostitute.
Kampen, who was employed by a 'strip-o-gram' service, alleges she met Swaggart on the street and he pretended to counsel her on her own marital problems. She said they never had sexual intercourse, but claims he conned her into performing sadomasochistic acts for his pleasure and that he often masturbated in her presence.
'This evangelist and this ministry is as clean as the blood of Jesus Christ can make it,' Swaggart said. 'I have never in my life opened a Penthouse magazine, a Playboy magazine or a Hustler magazine. But I am going to do everything in my power to rid America of the filth you spread.'
Ministry officials handed out an alleged copy of Kampen's criminal record, which shows a history of petty criminal activity dating back to 1972.
Swaggart flatly denied he ever had met Kampen, and scoffed at her allegation that he asked her to bring her daughter to their meetings because he wanted to have sex with her.
'They (Penthouse) knew what would incite the public to stop our support. But it's a lie and it's untrue.'
The preacher also warned reporters and publications that he would no longer turn the other cheek if they printed allegations about him or his ministry.
'Please feel free henceforth to publish anything you like, but be prepared to prove it in court.'
Frances Swaggart, wife of the beleaguered preacher who at one time reigned over the country's most-watched television ministry, also condemned Penthouse in a short statement.
'I am asking the Christians around the world to leave the garbage and trash on the newsstand and send your money to this ministry ... ' Frances Swaggart said to raucuous applause.
Ministry attorney Phil Whitman said a lawsuit would be filed by the end of the week, but declined to specify how much in damages they would ask for. He said they had hard evidence that Swaggart did not have an affair with Kampen.
'We're going to file a lawsuit. When we file it, that evidence will be coming out,' Womack said.
Operators of the service where Kampen works appeared to back up Swaggart's claim of no complicity.
The operators of the Hot Lines by Rhonda Shear strip-o-gram service said the story told by the former exotic dancer was 'a fairy tale' and 'a far cry' from the truth.
'It is a far cry different story, vastly different than the one that is set forth (in the magazine). It is night and day,' said Nona Pailet, manager of the Hot Lines agency in New Orleans.
Pailet would not elaborate, saying she has been subpoenaed in a lawsuit over the story but agreed with her sister Rhonda Shear who operates a similar business in Los Angeles that, 'It's a fairy tale.'
'She would know. She has known what was going on all along,' Pailet said. 'I am the first person to know because I do run the business.'
Pailet would not say if the lawsuit she was subpoenaed in was the Swaggart suit.
Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione said he stood by the story.
'We stand by the story. Art Harris, a Washington Post investigative journalist (who wrote the article) has found Cathy Kampen entirely credible,' Guccione said. 'The fact that she was with Swaggart has been corroborated by her husband and others in Louisiana. Swaggart and his wife have repeatedly refused to be interviewed by Penthouse.'
Swaggart was defrocked last spring after he tearfully confessed to having committed a 'moral sin' -- reportedly telling the Assemblies of God Church he had consorted with a prostitute.
Debra Murphree, who claimed she was the prostitute, sold her story to Penthouse and appeared nude in the magazine in the poses she said Swaggart paid her to perform.
Swaggart attorneys claim Kampen was paid $40,000 for the rights to her story -- $30,000 of the money coming from the Fox Television Network, which planned to air her story during a segment of its 'Reporters' show. That segment has not been aired by the network.