Ted Haggard is one of those people I genuinely despise. He’s a major leader of a conservative evangelical organization, and as you can see in the clip below, he’s a genuinely creepy, hypocritical, arrogant little man.

He’s changed now, though. Here’s another clip of Haggard, being evasive and humble and making excuses for himself…and now we learn that he has stepped down from his ministry over accusations that he had a gay affair. I suspect, from his demeanor and responses, that he did have that affair, and that he’s now political deadweight, destined to be discarded for at least a good long while. (Latest news: Haggard has admitted to some of the indiscretions)

One smarmy preacher down. I ought to be pleased. I’m not.

He’s going down for the wrong reasons.

The bottom line in this business is that Haggard did nothing illegal. He may have cheated on his wife, which is deplorable, but it’s an entirely personal issue, not one that we should be concerned about, and not one that should cause him to lose his job. Having sex with someone isn’t a crime, and shouldn’t be the cause of all of this outrage. Being a moralistic hypocrite is also not an actionable business.

I’m also not too thrilled with Democrats pointing fingers and using this and the Mark Foley case to accuse the Republican party of being a hotbed of corruption and iniquity. These are people (creepy, unpleasant people, perhaps) who had consensual sex with other adults. Stop acting as if this is a sin or an evil—that kind of narrow moral certitude is the other party’s schtick! By playing that game, you’ve been coopted to serve the right-wing’s social agenda, reinforcing that homosexuality is a damnable offense.

Why don’t we instead see Haggard’s sanctimonious lies, his authoritarian appropriation of the church for the Republican party, or his ignorance, which he foists off on his congregation as wisdom, as the real crimes here? I really don’t care what he does with his penis in his private life, but that seems to be the major concern of everyone right now.


  1. #1 Steve LaBonne
    November 3, 2006

    It’s the hypocrisy factor that makes it piquant. I mean, who would care if a Unitarian minister was outed?

  2. #2 NelC
    November 3, 2006

    Can’t we have just a little bit of schadenfreude, even if the cause for his fall is for the wrong reasons?

  3. #3 Occam's Electric Razor
    November 3, 2006

    Dr. Z, in some ways I agree. But hypocrites must be brought low; false prophets must be cast down; mendacious heroes must be crushed in public to show their dupes how they have been manipulated.
    If only his followers stop for a minute and think: ‘enough of this crap! I’m tired of being jerked around.’ then it might be worth it.

    Of course, I’m not holding my breath.

  4. #4 Caledonian
    November 3, 2006

    Why don’t we instead see Haggard’s sanctimonious lies, his authoritarian appropriation of the church for the Republican party, or his ignorance, which he foists off on his congregation as wisdom, as the real crimes here?

    Because those things aren’t crimes either?

    Are you trying to make yourself look like a fool, PZ? Smashing good job if you are.

  5. #5 Ryan Kitchel
    November 3, 2006

    I agree with Caledonian. When your job is to persecute homosexuals and preach moral values, which deal with fidelity and the sanctity of marriage; cheating on your wife and having gay sex are both in violation of your job description. So he should lose his job.

    Now if you want to debate whether being a “moral” figurehead and preaching hate and prudish values is a valid job that’s another story.

  6. #6 NelC
    November 3, 2006

    It’s not as though we’re talking the ordinary social hypocrisy that might be mistaken for discretion. Running an organization that condemns man-on-man action in the strongest possible terms while also getting sweaty with the man-love, is about as strong an hypocritical act as you are going to find, and deserves to be condemned itself. From all quarters.

  7. #7 Caledonian
    November 3, 2006

    Sit on it, Electric Razor. If you’re going to pretend that the metaphoric use of crime can be used interchangeably with its literal use, then Haggard’s violation of what he claims to believe is a sacred bond and hypocrisy in endulging in an act he proclaims is profoundly sinful and an affront against God is a crime, and Haggard’s followers are perfectly justified in being outraged about them.

    If we take the responsible position, then nothing Haggard has been accused of doing (except possibly illegal drugs) are crimes.

    PZ wants to have it both ways. Eating and having cake are mutually incompatible, donchaknow.

  8. #8 Caledonian
    November 3, 2006

    The conclusion I drew from that was that you approve of people telling sanctimonious lies, appropriating religious beliefs for their political parties and foisting their ignorance as wisdom.

    Because obviously criticizing a person’s critique of a thing means that I support that thing.

    Whoo boy! I’d recommend that you be given your own blog named “The Idiot Room”, but that name has already been taking by some very entertaining young gentlemen. You’d fit right in with their personas, but I don’t think they’d deign to work with you.

  9. #9 andy
    November 3, 2006

    Illegal stuff done by Haggard:

    Drug use

    Reasons enough to resign even if it wasn’t homosexual sex.

    Only if you think drug use and prostitution should be illegal (I don’t, even though I have no interest in either of them).

    I’m torn on this story… on the one hand, I think his personal life is his personal life. On the other, I think when you’re a moralizing blowhard of a bigot, it’s nice to see it bite you in the ass (or anything else you might have had done back there).

  10. #10 Diego
    November 3, 2006

    I had wondered about the tension in that confrontation scene from “Root of All Evil”. Was it just boiling antipathy? Or perhaps we can now conclude that it was repressed sexual tension?

    Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

  11. #11 Jeff Fecke
    November 3, 2006

    Why don’t we instead see Haggard’s sanctimonious lies, his authoritarian appropriation of the church for the Republican party, or his ignorance, which he foists off on his congregation as wisdom, as the real crimes here?

    Nothing will further that end more than events like this.

  12. #12 TomS
    November 3, 2006

    From the online Los Angeles Times, quoting the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals:

    “Let’s not crucify the man until we’ve gotten the facts.”

  13. #13 SteveC
    November 3, 2006

    Last time I checked, paying for sex, and doing (unprescribed) methamphetamines were both illegal, not that he’s been formally charged with such crimes.

    What makes this some of the purest, most unadulterated, untainted schadenfreude I’ve ever come across is the degree to which this guy is being hoisted by his own petard.

    Sure, it may be wrong for a guy to get demolished by a mob simply for being gay, etc, but is it so wrong to laugh if the guy being so demolished has made his living building up and inciting his very own personal mob of thousands to do that very thing?

    I mean… BWAHAHAHA! What a comeuppance!

  14. #14 Russell
    November 3, 2006

    When people build their lives around religious fantasies, these conflict with reality in mundane matters: the inability to pretend about their own nature, the deceit practiced by their fellow believers, the hollowness of relationships based on shared pretense. Jesus isn’t going to come down to the fundamentalists and say, “you folks are all crazy,” for the simple reason that Jesus is their fantasy. This kind of hypocrisy is where they bump into reality.

  15. #15 calladus
    November 3, 2006

    I’m sorry PZ, but I have to disagree on this one. Yes, he didn’t do anything that I’d consider illegal, (well, drugs, if it’s true – I don’t have a problem with keeping meth illegal, but I wouldn’t be upset at all if it were pot.)

    It’s the hypocrisy that brought Ted down. And Mark Foley. I would love to see hypocrisy be the end of every single right wing fundamentalist – even if none of it legally led to a single day in jail.

    This would set the precedent – when a right wing fundamentalist loony advocates gay-hostile laws, I want their fan base to think, “What is he hiding? Why is he so strident?”

    Next to “Alcohol Rehab” this is a useful meme for nonbelievers and progressives to point out when they are being battered with the ‘morality cudgel of Christianity’.

  16. #16 Umilik
    November 3, 2006

    Another one bites the dust
    And another one gone, and another one gone
    Another one bites the dust….

    Yes, in a perfect enlightened world we would bring these snake charmers down by rational arguments, but in the meantime..
    let him join the “The Jimmy “I-have-sinned” Swaggart Home for Wayward Preachers”….
    After all, all’s fair in love and war…

  17. #17 Pierce R. Butler
    November 3, 2006

    Why don’t we instead see Haggard’s sanctimonious lies, his authoritarian appropriation of the church for the Republican party, or his ignorance, which he foists off on his congregation as wisdom, as the real crimes here?

    Er, and just whom in the National Ass’n of Evangelicals do you expect to be the first to cast those stones?

  18. #18 Daephex
    November 3, 2006

    I have to admit that I’ve done more personal thinking about atheism than I ever did reading other people’s opinions on it. Only recently have I bothered to take much notice of people like Dawkins, so I was somewhat surprised to see that he acted like a total jerk. I’d expect a bit of edginess from Haggard, in my experience, evangelicals are often genuinely disturbed to closely deal with people outside their comfort zone. But Dawkins? He’s supposed to be a well-educated man. And does anyone see him blinking up a storm? He seems less well-spoken, and more repressed than Haggard at that moment in time.

    As for PZ’s entry, I can see where he’s going with it. I’d be much less concerned if people were focusing on the fact that Haggard has shown he is unqualified to be in such as powerful position of trust. Personally, I would hope that the outcome of these revelations is not as much to lambast Haggard (which many commentators in this section seem to delight in doing) but to help show Haggard’s flock the value of thinking for one’s own self.

  19. #19 Steve LaBonne
    November 3, 2006

    Dawkins was blinking because he found it difficult to believe that such a combination of utter stupidity and overweening arrogance as Haggard could actually exist.
    But apparently you think such a combination merits the adjective “well-spoken”. Whatever.

  20. #20 Jen in Texas
    November 3, 2006

    Anyone else notice how Haggard had a maniacal gleam in his eye during the interview with Dawkins? He’s got that Children-of-the-Corn-thing going on.

    I also liked the part where Dawkins calls him on his gross ignorance of evolution. Haggard tries to dodge by saying that Dawkins must not be talking to the same people he is. Show of hands – how many of us believe that Haggard has ever talked to a real evolutionary biologist in his life (before Dawkins)?

  21. #21 NickM
    November 3, 2006

    PZ – I usually agree with you but this time I totally disagree. As many others have said, it’s NOT the sex or drugs, it’s the hypocrisy – the sex just gives the hypocrisy a healthy radioactive glow.

    You could almost forgive the stupidity of a character like this – if they really believe the crap they spew, they’re more to be pitied than hated, perhaps. But the hypocrisy puts him well beyond redemption or pity. How many gay teenagers has this guy helped to send to the morgue or emergency room, victims of suicide or gay-bashing? And for what? A false “value” he doesn’t even believe himself!

    Because of this, I’ll be glutting on rich, creamy Hypocrisy-brand Schadenfreude – sorry if you don’t want some, too, because it’s delicious.

  22. #22 Dann Siems
    November 3, 2006

    Steve…I listened to the video of the assistant pastor “confirming” some “indiscretions” (did you?). Pretty vague and tepid as an admission of guilt. My main point wasn’t about Haggard’s alleged behaviors in any case. Rather, I am concerned that by this time tomorrow the other foot will fall and Haggard will be portrayed as a victim of the anti-Christian, pro-gay left. Less than a week before the election, with the evangelical base not feeling particularly motivated to vote…what are you going to do? Construct an attack on one of evangelical Christianity’s most telegenic and charismatic leaders? Hmmmm. Still stinks of Karl Rove to me. Unfortunately, the more we on the left revel in this the more energized Haggard’s co-believers will become. It is admittedly a risky tactic but rabid Karl is backed into a corner.

  23. #23 Mena
    November 3, 2006

    To me it’s more that the guy has no credibility. It’s like Ann Coulter et al saying anything for money or publicity-simple media whoredom. Why trust anything he would ever say in public again? I don’t care about the gay aspect of it, I’m actually a bit of an activist when it comes to gay issues because I support equal rights for all Americans and don’t want a second class citizenry to spring up. There is more money in trying to get that to happen and this guy is just using it as his golden egg.

  24. #24 Daniel Morgan
    November 3, 2006


    So you basically don’t think rank hypocrites should be called out when they publicly oppose what they privately practice?

  25. #25 Troutnut
    November 3, 2006

    In the best of all possible worlds, Haggard would have gone down years ago for being the mouthpiece of evil. But this works, too. The best thing about it is that the media’s got something to talk about besides John Kerry’s botched joke.

  26. #26 Great White Wonder
    November 3, 2006

    I miss Frank Zappa.

    Word. Frank Zappa would never write a post as corny as this one that PZ just wrote.

  27. #27 AndyS
    November 3, 2006

    Any Republican or conservative evangelical leader who ever had a same-sex relationship must be seriously spooked now. That’s probably a good thing.

  28. #28 Mnemosyne
    November 3, 2006

    Um, everyone seems to be missing a point here: Colorado has an anti-gay-marriage initiative on its ballot next week that was heavily supported by … guess who?

  29. #29 Steve LaBonne
    November 3, 2006

    Dann- Haggard now admits he contacted Jones to buy meth and “for a massage”. Heh. Feel better now? ;)
    (Sorry, HTML for shortening links never works properly around here.)

  30. #30 quork
    November 3, 2006

    Circus time

    Haggard says he bought the meth from a gay escort, 49-year-old Michael Jones, after contacting him for a massage.
    Haggard says he never used the meth and instead threw it away.

    What is the point of telling such ridiculous, unbelievable lies?

  31. #31 Steve LaBonne
    November 3, 2006

    Many of them will believe this one. Unfortunately for him, his fellow Christianist bigwigs are not nearly as naive as their flocks. He’s toast in the movement for sure.

  32. #32 tikistitch
    November 3, 2006

    I think the saddest thing about this and the Foley scandal is that now for a lot of people, gay people are not that nice couple next door, or your considerate coworker, but rather these sneaky, warped, dissembling men–a rotten, rotten stereotype.

    Shame on fundamentalist Xtians for making people believe that their biological urges are shameful.

  33. #33 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2006

    I just watched the clip with my mouth open. Dawkins looks far more angry than incredulous, and I don’t blame him – the utter cheek of this vacuous clodpoll, standing there delivering a patronising you’ll-learn-when-you’re-older lecture to a real expert and then accusing him of arrogance!

    Projection is the first, primary, and last mode of defense that commonly characterizes this type of evangelical.

    they use it so often, someone should invent a new word for it, like Colbert did with “truthiness”.

    any ideas?

  34. #34 Steve_C
    November 3, 2006

    I think it’s sad that anyone has to hide who they are… but it’s even worse when those same people promote views that reinforce that.

  35. #35 Timcol
    November 3, 2006

    Here’s Haggard’s next defense:

    “I was having this massage with a professional masseur and I was feeling so relaxed that I started to think all of these erotic thoughts about my wife. Before I knew it I was unexpectedly aroused and I guess because of all the oils the masseur was using I accidentally slipped inside the masseur…”

  36. #36 Evan Murdock
    November 3, 2006

    “I went there for a massage.”

    “I called him to buy some meth. But I threw it away.”

    I was watching the interview as I typed this. Unbelievable. This is the worst attempt at a coverup I’ve ever heard.

  37. #37 JamesR
    November 3, 2006

    Regardless of the sex. Regardless of the drug use. He had a contract with the people who are part of his ministry. His contract began when he accepted money from them by portraying himself as something he isn’t. They gave him money under false pretenses. Sue him.
    He drove voters to the Bushes who in turn drove faith-based monies back to him. Maybe he used that money for the prostitute. Sue him.
    Sue him until he bleeds. Then maybe we will have a few of these worthless swindlers pause long enough to think. And I do consider each and every Minister, Priest, Imam, etc to be a swindler. They do not have real jobs or a real occupation so why should they receive real money? We have no need to respect them when this is such a prevalent situation amongst the religious.

  38. #38 Peter McGrath
    November 3, 2006

    Send him one of those ‘Gay? Fine by me.’ T-shirts Skatje & friends wore. And maybe add, ‘Hypocrite? Not so fine.’

  39. #39 abu.ben.adam
    November 3, 2006

    You know, if I were an evangelical, I’d be awfully flattered by the sheer amount of time and effort you guys spend keeping track of us.

  40. #40 truth machine
    November 3, 2006

    I really don’t care what he does with his penis in his private life, but that seems to be the major concern of everyone right now.

    Perhaps it’s because I don’t get my news from TV, but that hasn’t been my impression. I thought the fact that the Republicans put Foley in charge of protecting children even when they knew of his improprieties was what had people so stirred up. And in Haggard’s case, surely it’s the hypocrisy that’s the issue — no one is calling for the withdrawal of Barney Frank, or the AIDS director that Condi Rice recently swore in while referring to his male partner’s mother as his “mother-in-law”.

  41. #41 Stuart
    November 3, 2006

    Well, they won’t be able to blame this one on Larry Flynt..

  42. #42 Heather Kuhn
    November 3, 2006

    On the Foley thing, as I understand it, he violated a Federal law that he wrote regarding soliciting sex from a minor via the Internet. Note: the law in question sets the age of consent at 18, and where Federal law conflicts with local law, Federal law wins. At any rate, like Haggard, he’s getting nailed for hypocrisy.

  43. #43 RavenT
    November 4, 2006

    Here’s Haggard’s next defense:

    “I was having this massage with a professional masseur and I was feeling so relaxed that I started to think all of these erotic thoughts about my wife. Before I knew it I was unexpectedly aroused and I guess because of all the oils the masseur was using I accidentally slipped inside the masseur…”

    Or, as Dan Savage puts it, “How’d that happen?“.

  44. #44 Kirk
    November 5, 2006

    What it comes down to for me is this…

    His secret gay life, etc. is a personal matter between him and his family. Actually I feel for his wife having lived with this “man” for so many years. However, his job was that of preacher for an evangelical right-wing church that actively opposes homosexuality in all of its forms. Therefore, he didn’t “practice what he preached” and came up a major hypocrite. I don’t see any reason for the justice system to get involved, but his days as a public advocate for “moral family values” are definately over. His public life is over, his marriage is shattered, his kids now know him for the self-hating bastard he is. In all reality, I feel for him. No self-esteem and major self-hatred just because society drilled into him that “gay” equates to “wrong”, therefore he’s wrong. No matter how much “right” he tries to do in this world, he’s always “wrong” and “evil” because being gay isn’t just a small piece of one’s life, it intertwines with all of your life, just as anyone’s sexuality does.

    I’m glad he’s down from his bully pulpit and is now known for who and what he is, but I feel for him for the hard days to come.

  45. #45 Denny Smith
    November 5, 2006

    Hypocrisy is the keyword here, not sexual freedom. PZ, your straight male blind spot keeps surfacing.

    Haggard spent his whole life trying to keep me from loving who I want. So this is the moment to hold him to his own internal logic.

    As a sexual libertarian, you have plenty of other chances to proactively champion the principle of freedom on behalf of gay men and women. But, as with your “What causes homosexuality” post, you seem to prefer opportunities that let you pose as a devil’s advocate. Very frustrating to someone like me who generally loves your perspective.

  46. #46 Kseniya
    November 5, 2006

    Give him credit for speaking some truth.

    With that said…