After suffering a stroke in May that was initially described as “minor,” televangelist Jim Bakker revealed Wednesday that he's struggling with memory loss and could be away from “The Jim Bakker Show” for months as he recuperates while fighting to keep the troubled show on air.
“It’s so good to be back. I didn’t know if I’d ever be back,” he said during an appearance on the show broadcast from his home in the Ozark Mountains Wednesday with his wife and co-host, Lori Bakker, at his side.
“I want you to know that what I’ve been through, I’m not through yet. I’m not through the valley. I don’t know if I’ll be back on the air for a few months. But I had a stroke, how long ago now?” he said, asking his wife who noted, “a couple months ago now.”
“And I have been in recuperation, resting. I sleep all the time actually, but the doctors want me to rest. And I’m doing exercise. I’m doing,” he continued before his wife chimed in again to help his memory, noting that he was cycling and swimming and doing speech therapy.
“It’s a little different. It’s been an amazing time to have your life interrupted in a moment’s time. It was suddenly, here at this house, because we were doing the shows here. And I had the stroke late in the day,” he said.
After a few minutes of his gently guided speech by his wife and other co-hosts, the televangelist, who turned 80 in January, explained that he was struggling with his memory but doctors believe he can make a full recovery.
“We wrote out a little opening from me to read mainly because I don’t always remember everything, but the doctors tell me that I can recover totally,” he said.
“I missed you all very, very much. I live to do this show. I live to be in your homes and that’s what I live for. That, and my wife and my grandchildren and my kids, because it’s just amazing,” the fragile televangelist continued.
After talking about a number of things that he was learning to be thankful for, he briefly hinted that his show was fighting to stay on the air.
“I’m at peace and I want people to know that. I’ve been going through such a fight to trying to keep the ministry on the air. People are stealing money, things from us. They are supposed to pay it back. They have taken over $1,000 or a million dollars, and it’s an amazing time for me. I’m resting a lot. I had a stroke and if you ever had a stroke you know what I’m talking about,” he said.
He also joked on the show that he wasn’t dead yet and doesn’t believe it’s his time.
“I keep telling people, 'I’m not dead,' … when I was at the hospital I said, ‘I don’t think I am supposed to go yet,' you know,” Bakker said.
He noted, however, that when the time comes, he is confident he will be in Heaven.
“I’m going to Heaven,” he said at the end of the broadcast. “No doubt about it. I’m going to be with Jesus one day, America. He loves you. He really does.”
Bakker spent time in federal prison for fraud in the late 1980s and his PTL empire near Charlotte, which he built with then-wife Tammy Faye Bakker, crumbled amid sex and financial scandals.
The couple also built a Christian theme park called Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina, drawing millions of people each year. It fell apart after it was revealed in 1987 that he paid hush money to Jessica Hahn, a young church secretary, to cover up a tryst, The Charlotte Observer reported. Tammy Faye died in 2007.