Last week, Gloria Copeland, matriarch of Kenneth Copeland's Tarrant County TV ministry empire, told everyone the truth they needed to hear: The flu season, the same one that's killed more than 60 people in Dallas County and sickened thousands of others, didn't really exist. Anyone with true faith didn't need to worry, because Copeland was about to give them their Jesus shot.
“Flu, I bind you off of the people in the name of Jesus,” Copeland said, uttering a phrase that, in the eyes of the Observer's Jim Schutze, confirmed that she was, in fact, a witch.
Copeland's bizarre behavior is but the latest leap off the deep end for North Texas' vibrant community of televangelist hucksters, who've been plying their trade here for decades. While Copeland has our collective memories' stirred, let's take a look at the best of the worst of Dallas' TV preachers, starting right back with the Copelands.
1. The measles break out at Kenneth Copeland's Eagle Mountain International Church. — Preach that there's a link between vaccines and autism, as Kenneth Copeland did on his online talk show, and you probably shouldn't be too surprised when the measles break out at your church, as they did at Eagle Mountain in August 2013. 2. Robert Tilton goes broke. — The silver-coiffed, McKinney-born Tilton was one of the first major preachers of the prosperity gospel, which taught that all problems in life, including poverty, existed only because of sin. He encouraged his followers to give him whatever they could, regardless their financial station, and lived on the proceeds until being felled by a Primetime Live investigation in 1991, which found hundreds of pounds of prayer requests sent to Tilton in the garbage outside an Oklahoma recycling plant.
In 2016, WFAA's Brett Shipp tracked Tilton down in California. He was still preaching, but his flock was so small they met in the conference room of a Marriott.
3. Bedford preacher Marcus Lamb admits his affair live on TV. — In a excruciating bit of television in 2010, Marcus Lamb, co-founder of the Daystar Christian television network, admitted that he'd an affair and was the subject of a Satan-inspired extortion plot.
"They're trying to take our pain and turn it to their gain," Lamb said as he sat next to his wife, Joni Lamb. "We're not going to take God's money to keep from being humiliated."
Lamb must not have been too humiliated. He followed up his confession with trips to appear on Good Morning America and the Dr. Phil show.
4. W.V. Grant goes to jail. — After taking over the Soul's Harbor Church in Oak Cliff in 1983, W.V. Grant moved his flock to a 28-acre parcel near Dallas Baptist University in 1987. From there, he built the rechristened Eagle's Nest Family Church into a 5,000-member empire.
In 1996, federal authorities indicted Grant for tax evasion. One piece of evidence, an undercover video tape, showed Grant admitting to using $100,000 in contributions to the church to pay the down payment on a $1.2 million home in DeSoto. A judge sentenced Grant to 16 months in prison, a $30,000 fine and forced him to send the details of his conviction to everyone on his mailing list.
Eagle's Nest sold its building to the Potter's House, where it became the center of TD Jakes massive empire. After getting out of prison, Grant began preaching again, eventually purchasing the historic First Church of Christ, Scientist on Cadiz Street downtown, at which he still preaches.
5. Benny Hinn gets raided. — Last summer, the FBI raided the Grapevine offices of Benny Hinn, the preacher best known for his "Miracle Crusades" at which he performs faith healings at sports stadiums around the world. While Hinn, who admits to taking home a salary in excess of $500,000 a year and flies around the world on a private jet — hasn't been charged with anything, he and his family are used to being under investigation.
In 2007, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley investigated Hinn and six other televangelists with the Senate Finance Committee. In 2013, Brazilian police arrested Hinn's son Joshua after he and several of Hinn's bodyguards allegedly attacked a deaf man who approached the stage during one of the elder Hinn's revivals in Brazil.