Pubdate: Sat, 04 Nov 2006
Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Copyright: 2006, Denver Publishing Co.
Author: David Montero, Rocky Mountain News
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Haggard Admits Buying Meth, Denies Use, Says Accuser Gave Him Massage

An embattled Ted Haggard leaned over from the driver's seat of his 
pickup truck Friday morning and denied having sex with a male 
prostitute. But he admitted getting a massage and buying illegal 
drugs from the man.

The brief public comments from one of the nation's foremost 
evangelists came outside his Colorado Springs home, as his wife sat, 
visibly uncomfortable, in the passenger seat.

Hours before, the Denver male escort who had sent tremors through the 
conservative Christian establishment by accusing Haggard of paying 
for sex over a three-year period, failed a polygraph test.

The polygrapher didn't ask Haggard's accuser, 49-year-old Mike Jones, 
about the sale or use of drugs during the 90-minute exam.

"I was tempted," Haggard acknowledged Friday about his purchase of 
methamphetamine. "I bought it, but I never used it."

Jones, who made the rounds of local and national media outlets Friday 
morning, told CNN that Haggard's version of events was ridiculous.

"What? I smoked it and I didn't inhale? It's that same scenario," he said.

Jones also said he never supplied drugs to Haggard, but connected him 
through a third party.

The Denver Police Department, meanwhile, issued a statement saying it 
was "watching this situation unfold" and intended to reach out "to 
the involved parties for information on crimes that may have been 
committed in Denver."

Before driving away in his truck with his wife and three of his 
children, Haggard said he was grateful that Jones failed the polygraph test.

Haggard had not returned home by late afternoon, and his truck was 
brought home by family friends. One, a New Life Church member, said 
that Haggard wouldn't have any more comments Friday.

Despite temporarily resigning from his post as pastor at New Life 
Church, a 14,000-member institution in Colorado Springs, and stepping 
down as the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, which 
numbers 30 million members nationwide, Haggard received cautious 
support from some allies.

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, issued a statement Friday 
urging Christians to pray for Haggard.

He also said that the charges have "grave implications for the cause 
of Christ" and that he is "extremely concerned" for Haggard, his 
church and his family.

"All of us at Focus on the Family are heartsick over the allegation, 
not yet confirmed, that Ted has had a private life with a homosexual 
for several years," Dobson said. "We will await the outcome of this 
story, but the possibility that an illicit relationship has occurred 
is alarming to us and to millions of others."

The National Association of Evangelicals released a statement Friday 
saying that it accepted Haggard's resignation with regret.

"Knowing Rev. Haggard, we found the initial reports of misconduct to 
be shocking and difficult to believe," the statement said. "As 
evangelicals we recognize, however, the stark reality of the power of 
sin in all our lives, and acknowledge that we are all capable of 
grievous moral failures.

"Moreover, we believe that the Bible holds Christian leaders to 
higher levels of accountability. Therefore, it is especially serious 
when a pastor and prominent Christian leader deliberately violates 
God's standards of conduct."

Jones' allegations against Haggard came just a few days before an 
election in which Coloradans are being asked to consider two ballot 
measures dealing with homosexuality.

Haggard was a staunch supporter of an amendment that would declare 
marriage to be only between a man and a woman. But the powerful 
evangelist had not campaigned actively against another ballot measure 
that would give gay couples certain legal rights and civil-union status.

Jones has said that he came forward because he was weary of the 
hypocrisy surrounding Haggard and his support for Amendment 43. Jones 
quickly found himself in a media glare that exposed his bankruptcy 
filing and a burglary arrest in which drugs were present.

Sitting in a chair opposite radio talk-show host Peter Boyles and 
polygrapher John Kresnik on Friday morning, Jones drew his lips tight 
as Boyles played snippets of voice mails allegedly left on Jones' 
phone by Haggard. He shook his head side-to-side.

Boyles, twirling a pen between his fingers, asked if there was 
anything Jones wasn't being truthful about. Jones said that 
everything he had said about his relationship with Haggard was the truth.

"When he first contacted me . . . I wasn't on the Internet selling 
drugs," Jones said. "I was selling sex."

A board connected with New Life Church is investigating the 
accusations leveled at Haggard. One member, Cal Massey, said that the 
pastor had admitted to doing something wrong.

"There is an overseer board that is conducting the investigation into 
Pastor Ted, and he's been very responsive to them," Massey said. "He 
admitted to having sinned and confessed and repented on that."

Claude Watters, 51, a church elder for eight years, said he expects 
that the overseers will report on their investigation Sunday.

Watters said that the overseers are expected at both the 9 a.m. and 
11 a.m. services. The chapel capacity is about 5,000.

"I hope they can answer as many questions as possible," Watters said.

Haggard, who founded New Life Church in 1985 in his home, became one 
of the nation's most influential evangelists over the course of a 
decade. His church grew to mega status as he wrote more than a dozen 
books, tackling issues ranging from marriage to diet tips. He had the 
ear of President Bush during conference calls to the White House.

Jones said he had no idea who Haggard really was until five months 
ago, when he saw him on a television special about The DaVinci Code. 
Until that time, Jones said he knew Haggard only as "Art," and 
thought he was from Kansas City. Boyles noted that Haggard's middle 
name is Arthur.

After Jones' initial statements about his relationship with Haggard, 
the preacher said he didn't know Jones, who now advertises himself as 
a personal trainer, model and masseur.

Jones said the denial was a lie.

Haggard eventually admitted that he met Jones through a referral at a 
Denver hotel when he was looking for a massage.

Jones said he would be willing to take two polygraphs next week - one 
for the drug questions and one for the sex questions - after he got 
some rest. Kresnik said the outcome of Friday's polygraph could have 
been tainted by Jones' lack of sleep, as well as physical and mental stress.

But Kresnik was firm in saying that Friday results involved deception.

"I have to call it the way it came out," Kresnik said.

He also said that in his 25 years of experience, someone who retakes 
a lie-detector test after failing the first time seldom passes the 
second time. That success rate, he said, fell between 5 percent and 10 percent.

But the tests are often regarded as suspect science and are not 
admissible in court.

Staff writers Myung Oak Kim, Fernando Quintero, Joe Garner, M.E. 
Sprengelmeyer and Tillie Fong, and staff photographer Barry Gutierrez 
contributed to this report.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman