By Frank Jamerson
On “Prime Time Live” (Nov. 21, 1991), Diane Sawyer did a report on three prominent TV evangelists – W.V. Grant, Larry Lee and Robert Tilton. Here are some of the facts she reported about these men.
Sawyer and other reporters visited some of W.V. Grant’s faith healing services. They noticed that he and his associates mingled before services with some who were going to be asking for healing and made notes on their names and problems. Then, when Mr. Grant brought them on the stage, he gave the impression that the Lord had revealed to him their names and some of their problems.
One of his “cures” was for a man who was supposed to be crippled, only Mr. Grant obviously reached over the man and took the cane from the woman sitting next to him. When he told the man to rise and walk down the aisle, he did so obediently, though he later said that he never had any problem walking. His problem was a sore arm! Another woman, working with the TV investigators told his associates before the healing began that she had injured her back. He laid her on her back and the camera man got a clear picture of Grant making her leg “grow” by slipping the heel of her shoe! That is a magician’s trick of illusion, but he and the audience praised the Lord for a miracle!
On one of Grant’s shows, his associate said that they were supporting 3500 children and 64 orphanages in Haiti. One of the orphanages, they said, was operated by an old lady they called “Mommy.” Well, Diane visited Haiti and found the grave of “Mommy” who had been dead for five years. The two doctors running that orphanage said that Grant had sent no money to them. One orphanage in Haiti is run by Bob Jones. He has 17 orphans, and will make up a sign for any religious group to take a picture to be used to beg money. Bob said that Jim Baker “didn’t handle his scheme right,” or he would not be in prison. He explained to Diane that preachers would not get into trouble if they would send him what they raised, and then he could return 95% of it, or whatever percentage they wanted. Prime Time said that Grant had been raising about $350,000 per month to help the poor orphans in Haiti, and sending about two thousand.
Mr. Grant’s program brings in about six million a year. He lives in a million dollar mansion, paid $84,000 cash for a Mercedes and in 1990 bought his second Ferrari, which lists for $105,000. He sent out a fund raising letter claiming that he had to borrow $99 and he needed support badly!
Larry Lee left an eleven thousand member church in Dallas to devote more time to his TV ministry. Larry gives out that he is such a great man that he converted a witch. Eric Prior, who was represented as being a pagan leader in San Francisco was presented as a “born again Christian.” Larry said that Eric had married his live-in girl friend since his conversion. Diane investigated and found that the marriage ceremony, which they televised, was not recorded because he is not divorced from his wife.
Larry made a trip to Auschwitz, Poland and claimed that he was building a church building on the site of the Nazi horror. The TV crew visited the site and found that a Polish Pentecostal church had begun the building two years ago and Larry only stayed there about an hour and had his picture taken. He did give them thirty thousand dollars, but that would have been only a fraction of the money he took in for that “great work.”
Larry told on his program that his house had burned, and they had lost their furniture and most of their clothes. He even took his viewers on a video trip through the burned house. It turns out that a house that they had been trying to sell for two years did burn, but he had lived in a mansion on a five and one tenth acre estate for six years. When this misrepresentation was pointed out to Larry, he actually tried to justify it to Sawyer by saying that there were no furnishings in the mansion where they lived. Sawyer then showed pictures of rooms filled with furniture, pictures, books, etc.
Robert Tilton is the biggest fund-raiser on TV today. His intake is estimated at $80 million per year. A business called “Response Media” handles his mailings and sends prayer cloths, miracle cords, holy water, etc., with fund raising letters written by ghost writers. The Response Media said that “new names is the key” to success. The more names they get, the more money they receive. His mail, with the returned prayer requests, etc., is sent to a bank in Tulsa. The Bank takes the money out of the envelopes and throws the rest in the trash.
Robert owns a 4.5 million dollar home in Santa Fe, Calif., with a four car garage for his Mercedes, a waterfront home in Ft. Lauderdale with a $132,000 boat moored beside it, and his ministry rents another Texas home for $6,000 per month. The assets of Robert Tilton, that they can document, are valued at sixty million dollars, and most of this comes from listeners who make fifteen to twenty-five thousand dollars a year!
Such conduct is so repulsive that it is difficult to believe, but if it were not true, Prime Time Live would be facing a tremendous law suit. Not only are these big-time promoters perverting Scripture, they are prostituting the good intentions of their supporters.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 12, pp. 353, 375
June 19, 1992