Evangelical leader admits he paid for meth, massage
But says he never took drug or had sex with the man
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Rev. Ted Haggard admitted yesterday that he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a male prostitute. But the influential Christian evangelist insisted he threw the drugs away and never had sex with the man.
Haggard, who as president of the National Association of Evangelicals wielded influence on Capitol Hill and condemned gay marriage and homosexuality, resigned Thursday after a Denver man named Mike Jones said he had many trysts with Haggard.
Yesterday, Haggard said that he received a massage from Jones after being referred to him by a Denver hotel and that he bought meth for himself from Jones.
But Haggard said he never had sex with Jones. And as for the drugs, "I was tempted, but I never used it," the 50-year-old Haggard told reporters from his vehicle while leaving his home with his wife and three of his five children.
Jones, 49, denied selling meth to Haggard. "Never," he told MSNBC. Haggard "met someone else that I had hooked him up with to buy it."
Jones also scoffed at the idea that a hotel would have sent Haggard to him.
"No concierge in Denver would have referred me," he said. He said he advertised himself as an escort only in gay publications or on gay websites.
Jones did not immediately return calls seeking comment yesterday.
In addition to resigning his post at the National Association of Evangelicals, which claims 30 million members, Haggard stepped aside as leader of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending a church investigation. In a television interview earlier this week, he said, "Never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I'm steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."
In Denver, where Jones said his encounters with Haggard took place, police Detective Virginia Quinones said she was checking into whether the alleged drug deal was under investigation.
Jones said Haggard paid him for sex nearly every month for three years until August. He said Haggard identified himself as "Art." Jones said he learned who Haggard was when he saw the evangelical leader on television.
Jones said he went public with the allegations because Haggard has supported a measure on Tuesday's ballot that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Jones said he was also angry that Haggard publicly condemned gay sex.
Haggard, who had been president of the National Association of Evangelicals since 2003, has participated in conservative Christian leaders' conference calls with White House staff and lobbied members of Congress last year on US Supreme Court nominees.
The NAE's executive committee issued a statement yesterday praising Haggard's service but saying "it is especially serious when a pastor and prominent Christian leader deliberately violates God's standards of conduct."
The statement did not mention the allegations against Haggard beyond noting he had admitted to "some indiscretions."
White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said yesterday that Haggard had visited the White House once or twice and participated in some of the conference calls. Corwin Smidt, a political scientist at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and director of the Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics there, said that Haggard's role with the association gave him some political clout, but that the group's focus is more on religion.
"It isn't necessarily that all evangelicals are paying close attention to what he's saying and doing, but he is an important leader," Smidt said.
Jones took a polygraph test yesterday, and his answers to questions about whether he had sexual contact with Haggard "indicated deception," said John Kresnick, who administered the test for free at the request of a radio station.
Jones told reporters afterward, "I am confused why I failed that, other than the fact that I'm totally exhausted."