ABC’s ’20/20’ to air special on PTL’s Jim and Tammy Bakker

Televangelist Jim Bakker and his late wife, Tammy, will be back in the national spotlight on Friday when ABC’s “20/20” airs a two-hour special on the rise and fall of their PTL empire near Charlotte.

ABC says “Unfaithfully Yours,” the title of its 9-11 p.m. (EST) report, will feature “never-before-seen archival footage.” There will also be interviews with “those close to the Bakkers,” the network says, as well as with former “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel, who interviewed the Bakkers amid the 1987 collapse of PTL. Also interviewed: Charles Shepard, the reporter who anchored The Charlotte Observer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the financial and sexual scandals that brought down the Bakkers and sent Jim Bakker to federal prison for five years for fraud.

Bakker is now based in Blue Eye, Mo., where he co-hosts “The Jim Bakker Show” with second wife, Lori. Last year, the Observer reported on Bakker’s show, which urges viewers to donate money in exchange for long-lasting food and other products he says are designed to keep Christians alive during the End Times.

The Observer also did a story on what happened post-PTL with Tammy Bakker, later Tammy Messner, who died in 2007.

ABC’s “20/20” report is not expected to include an interview with Jessica Hahn, the one-time church secretary whose brief sexual encounter with Bakker in 1980 contributed to his downfall. The Observer did interview Hahn in late 2017. She spoke about how her life has changed over the years.

Much of the former PTL property in Fort Mill, S.C., is now owned by MorningStar Ministries, another Christian group. It would like to turn the 21-story hotel tower the Bakkers never finished into a high-rise retirement center. The structure is still standing, though it’s been weathered by age and decay.

How to watch the 20/20 special on Jim Bakker

Tune into ABC’s “20/20” special on Friday, Jan. 18, at 9 p.m. (EST) to watch the two-hour special.

Tim Funk has covered faith & values for the Charlotte Observer for 15 years. He has won three national awards from the Religion News Association and numerous awards from the North Carolina Press Association. He has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.