Inside the Jessica Hahn Scandal: How a 21-year-old Church Secretary Brought Down a Televangelist Empire

As scandals go, this one was huge.

Televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker had built a multimillion dollar empire in South Carolina. Known as PTL, it was a conglomerate of Christian-based businesses. In addition to a Christian broadcasting network, it included a theme park, water park and residential complex. It raked in millions of dollars per year.

Jim was known for his all-inclusive messages. Tammy Faye became famous for her garish makeup — false eyelashes, red rouge and heavy lipstick.

But everything came crashing down in 1987, when the Charlotte Observer began investigating the organization’s finances. Among the newspaper’s findings: that Jim Bakker had paid $279,000 to Jessica Hahn, a church secretary.

Soon, the story became more tawdry. Hahn alleged that she had been raped by Bakker in 1980, when she was 21. He acknowledged that he had once had sex with her, but insisted that the sex was consensual.

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