The 20/20 episode “Unfaithfully Yours” examines the life and scandals surrounding married TV evangelists Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker of The PTL Club. In 1987, Jim Bakker resigned after church secretary Jessica Hahn accused him of rape while she was under his employ. Bakker — who gave Hahn close to $400,000 “to keep quiet” — claimed the sex was consensual. In 1988, Jim Bakker was indicted on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy: he was found guilty on all 24 counts and was initially sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. The sentenced was reduced to eight years. After serving five years, Bakker was paroled in 1994, and remarried in 1998 to former televangelist Lori Beth Graham.
In 1993, Tammy Faye remarried, too. She married Roe Messner, owner of Messner Construction, a business that built more than 1700 churches and megachurches including the Bakkers’ Heritage USA theme park. It was rumored that Messner delivered the “hush money” to Jessica Hahn.
In 1996, Messner was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud charges. Tammy Faye and Roe Messner stayed married until Tammy Faye’s death in 2007, after a long struggle with colon cancer. Roe Messner is now 84. (Messner wrote the book Church Growth by Design, see link above.)
After his wife’s death, Messner said: “The press never did get her right. She was smart. And Tammy was the most loving, kind and forgiving person I ever met. People loved her. When she died, she got a million Internet hits and 14 bags of regular mail.” He also compared her to Elvis: “There are two persons who don’t need a last name — Elvis and Tammy Faye. When she walked into the room, everybody turned and looked.” 20/20 airs Fridays at 9 pm on ABC.