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Posts for January, 2009

Thank You, Mike Jones

Jim Burroway

January 27th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but when I watched the KRDO report on Grant Haas’s accusations against Ted Haggard, I was disturbed to see how they treated their brief mention of Mike Jones. He’s the one who first exposed Haggard’s gay sexual activities to the national media. But when the KRDO reporter mentioned “Mike Jones, a gay escort,” the picture suddenly appeared grainy and menacing while ominous music rumbled underneath.

Sex workers certainly have it tough. They’re looked down upon, despised, and mistrusted. My point here isn’t to defend this line of work, but to defend these people as human beings and sometimes as heroes. Mike Jones is just one hero. He did the right thing. Ted Haggard even agrees.

Mike Jones did several things to earn a living. He was a personal trainer, but that’s not how he met Ted Haggard. Mike was also a masseur and an escort. He did for money some of the things that many of us do for love, what others do for lust, and what virtually all of us do for free. Maybe that’s why many seem to suspect that Mike only exposed Ted Haggard in order to collect the twenties on the table. They treat the very idea preposterous that a sex worker could do something honorable.

Mike did write a book, but it didn’t sell well. He didn’t make a lot of money off of this. I don’t know whether he expected to or not. Writing a book and not making much off of it is pretty normal, even for heroes. The truth is that heroes are rarely rewarded for being heroic. At best, most can expect a few brief moments in the spotlight when they’re typically thanked for what they did. And then it ends.

But Mike will always be known as an escort or a “massage therapist” in scare quotes. A sex worker. His full name is not Mike Jones, but Mike Jones A Gay Escort.

I don’t know what he expected when he went public with his story, and I’m not saying we should have all gone out and bought his book as our way of thanking him. But we should thank him.

Ted Haggard actively promoted and defended a particular message which brings suffering and hardship to a lot of LGBT people — especially to young people — while indulging in a dark and twisted caricature of the very thing he denounced. Mike Jones brought him down. By focusing on Mike as an escort and not as a hero, we miss seeing a clearer picture of what he did. Much like that grainy, frightening picture we saw of Mike on KRDO.

Breaking: Mike Jones Speaks Out About Latest Ted Haggard Revelations

Jim Burroway

January 25th, 2009

In a new, emotionally charged YouTube video, Mike Jones voices his anger with New Life Church and their past refusal to admit what they had known all along: that there were others in the church who had had a sexual relationship with then-Pastor Ted Haggard. In this video statement, Jones reveals that he tried to contact New Life Church when others were coming to him with stories about similar contacts with Ted Haggard:

I knew that there were others, others that I could not publicly out. They had to do it themselves. But they were scared. Some of their parents knew about what was going on at the church. And some of the parents just wanted to turn a blind eye to it.

I also realized it was going to be just probably me, out there all alone facing the press, facing the criticism.

Now when Brady Boyd took over as pastor of New Life Church, I contacted him. I wanted to talk to him about these other young men that were coming to me with their stories. This was serious.

And you know, Pastor Boyd refused to meet with me.

Mike Jones also talks about what he endured — including from within the gay community — after revealing his sexual contact with Ted Haggard. Mike expresses considerable anger over what he went through, particularly those who  dismissed him as “just a whore” who was “just escorting.”

But the greater part of his anger reserved for New Life Church, which for the past two years maintained the fiction that Mike was the only person Ted Haggard had sexual contact with — even though they knew differently:

[M]ost of my anger is at New Life Church. For over two years, I have suffered being all alone out there, taking all the heat for all that’s going on. For all this time, they knew there were others. And they paid hush money to this man to be quiet, when they could have admitted it, that there were others right at that moment. And that would have helped me out so much, instead of putting me out there to face it all on my own.

I am so angry at the church. They stated at that time that Mike Jones was the only man out there that had relations with Ted Haggard. And it’s wrong and it was a lie. And they owe me an apology.

Watch it:

YouTube Preview Image

[Video filmed and edited by BTB's Daniel Gonzales on behalf of Mike Jones]

Click here to read a transcript of Mike Jones’ statement

The Massage Table Is Back

Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2007

Bidding for a good cause broke the $1,200 mark. Then the auction was interrupted.

Now it’s back. This time, if anyone objects to this massage table being sold publicly, maybe they should scare up the money to buy it and get it out of public view. And in doing so, they can finally do something positive for those who live with HIV/AIDS.

Update: Karen Booth has made a generous apology:

I shouldn’t have labeled Mike as a “gay prostitute” or “male prostitute.” Jim Burroway was correct to nail me on that. I shouldn’t have made disparaging remarks about Mike’s integrity or questioned his motives. That was an ad hominem attack that has no place in public discourse. And before I contacted eBay, I should have first contacted Mike with my concerns and appealed to him to end the auction. That would have been the Biblical – and healthy and loving – thing to do.

She is however clear about what she’s not apologizing for: protesting eBay’s auction itself. And it looks like she will continue to do so, as I continue to strongly support it. But at least one wrong was set right, and I applaud Rev. Booth’s courage in doing so publicly.

But I think a solution to the second problem — the auction itself — can be reached with just a little creativity. Maybe Transforming Ministries, New Life Church, or another evangelical group can buy the table. That way the proceeds will go to a worthy HIV/AIDS charity and presumably nobody will have to see the infamous table ever again. How about it?

I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!

And I Didn't Inhale!

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

The whole thing gets curiouser and curiouser. The Christianity Today web site reports that last Sunday, Rev. Ted Haggard began his sermon with this prayer:

“Father, give us grace and mercy. Father, help us this next week and a half as we go into national elections, and Lord we pray for our country. Father, we pray that lies would be exposed. We pray that deception would be exposed.”

Mike Jones' AdIt would appear his prayers were answered. Rev. Haggard has admitted to buying methamphetamine from Mike Jones, the 49-year-old “massage therapist”. (That’s his ad at left). But he denied using it. He also denied having sex with Mike Jones:

Talking to reporters outside his house Friday, Haggard denied the sex allegations but said that he did buy meth from the man because he was curious.

“I bought it for myself but never used it,” he said. “I was tempted, but I never used it.”

So let’s get this, er, “straight”. He bought meth, but “didn’t inhale” it. And he admits to being alone in a hotel room with a male prostitute but he did not have sex with that man. Where have I heard all this before?

In my view, Haggard’s denials stretch credibility to the snapping point. We should remember however that Mike Jones’ credibility hasn’t been firmly established either. But the careful way in which Haggard framed his denials has a very familiar ring to them.

First, he denies having known Mike Jones or purchasing methamphetamine. When the voice mails are made public, Haggard admits to buying meth but claims he threw it away. Yet his own voice mails have him asking Jones to get more — $100 or $200 worth. It looks like things aren’t exactly looking up for the good reverend. He also admits to getting a “massage” from a guy he first claimed never to have met. And he claims that he got the massage based on a referral by the hotel, but can’t remember which one.

If you were in a hotel and asked for a massage, how many hotels do you know would pick a massage therapist whose web site promises, “if you like a strong muscle man to bring pleasure to you then please call me”?

Haggard’s denials simply don’t add up.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

Breaking news reports indicate that Michael Jones, Ted Haggard’s accuser, failed a polygraph test early this morning. I have no doubt that many of Haggard’s supporters will rush accuse Jones of lying. But the test administrator doubted that the test was accurate:

The test administrator, John Kresnik, said Jones’ score indicated “deceptions” in his answers. However, Kresnik said he doubted the accuracy of the test he administered because of the recent stress on Jones and his inability to eat or sleep, according to KHOW producer Greg Hollenback.

Kresnik suggested that Jones be re-tested early next week after he was rested.

Other reports indicate that Jones was also suffering from a migrane and hadn’t had much sleep. All of these can throw a polygraph off.

Polygraphs are notorious unreliable as “lie detector” tests. They can be too easily manipulated, or the results can be thrown off by stress and illness, as appears to be the case here. That’s why they are not admissible in court when they purport to show someone is lying. There a reason for that. They cannot detect a lie. Nor are they much good at detecting the truth.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

The Fall of the House of Haggard

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

Rev. Ted HaggardThe lead story on all the news channels this morning is the resignation of Rev. Ted Haggard, pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and head of the National Association of Evangelicals. His resignation comes on the heels of revelations that he had a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute.

Michael Forest Jones, 49, of Denver told a local radio station that he had sex on a monthly basis with Haggard over the past three years. Jones also said that Haggard used methamphetamine before having sex to enhance the experience.

When the story first broke, Haggard forcefully denied the charges, saying:

“I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver. I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”

He went on to claim that the charges were politically motivated to derail the vote next week on Colorado’s proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage. His pal, Dr. James Dobson also rushed to his defense:

It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man’s accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election — especially the vote on Colorado’s marriage-protection amendment — which Ted strongly supports.

He has shown a great deal of grace under these unfortunate circumstances, quickly turning this matter over to his church for an independent investigation. That is a testament to the character I have seen him exhibit over and over again through the years.

Rev. Haggard is a very big fish in evangelical circles. New Life Church claims 14,000 members while the National Association of Evangelicals represents some 30 million conservative Christians. Time magazine named Haggard one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America. Harpers describes New Life Church as America’s most powerful megachurch. Haggard is among the small cadre evangelical leaders who talk to President George Bush every Monday. According to Harpers, “No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted, and no church more than New Life.”

In the latest sign of Haggard’s high regard in evangelical circles, a news conference was called for later yesterday in Colorado Springs, where civic and religious leaders planned to rally in support for Haggard. But it was quickly cancelled for reasons no one would explain. But we soon found out.

Mike Jones didn’t just have baseless allegations, he had proof. He released two voicemail messages that Haggard left (using the alias “Art”) to a local Denver television station. That station called on voice recognition expert Richard Sanders to listen to the tapes. He verdict: “This certainly sounds like the same person.” Here is what the tapes revealed:

August 4, 2:18 pm

“Hi Mike, this is Art. Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply. And I could pick it up really anytime I could get it tomorrow or we could wait till next week sometime and so I also wanted to get your address. I could send you some money for inventory but that’s probably not working, so if you have it then go ahead and get what you can and I may buzz up there later today, but I doubt your schedule would allow that unless you have some in the house. Okay, I’ll check in with you later. Thanks a lot, bye.”

August 4 at 5:10 p.m.

“Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I’ll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever. I will call though you early next week to see what’s most convenient for you. Okay? Thanks a lot, bye.”

The Denver Post describes their relationship this way:

They met at least once a month at Jones’ Denver apartment, and Haggard paid cash, Jones said. “He was very nice and very soft-spoken,” Jones said. “We never talked about anything heavy-duty.” …

About six months ago, Jones said, he was watching TV when he saw a History Channel program on the Antichrist that included Haggard as an expert. He researched Haggard on the Internet. “Once I pulled him up, I’m going, ‘He’s big.”‘

According to Denver’s KUSA-TV Channel 9, Jones contacted the station two months ago saying that Haggard has been paying him for sex over the past three years, all the while preaching that homosexuality is a sin. This angered Jones, who said:

“People may look at me and think what I’ve done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody’s back.”

In retrospect, one might have recognized some of the warning signs earlier. Haggard was inordinately preoccupied with homosexuality, preaching that it wasn’t just evil, but evil incarnate. According to that same Harpers article:

The life of the gay man, in the evangelical imagination, seems to be an endless succession of orgasms, interrupted only by jocular episodes of male bonhomie. The gay man promises Christian men a guilt-free existence, the garden before Eve. As such, he is not just tempting but temptation embodied…

He was always on the lookout for spies. At the time, Colorado Springs was a small city split between the Air Force and the New Age, and the latter, Pastor Ted believed, worked for the devil. Pastor Ted soon began upsetting the devil’s plans. He staked out gay bars, inviting men to come to his church; his whole congregation pitched itself into invisible battles with demonic forces, sometimes in front of public buildings.

This scandal is huge; bigger, I think, than the Mark Foley scandal. A leading light among “values voters” has been revealed to be a hypocrite — a term that I almost never use. But what other term is there to describe someone who has made a very comfortable living and whose power reached as far as the White House by demonizing millions of Americans, but all the while he is cheating on his wife by having sex with another man?

My heart goes out especially to his wife and children. I also offer my prayers and condolences to all of those who trusted him for their own spiritual and moral formation. But it will take a very long time for me to fulfill my Christian mandate to forgive our enemies in his case. I suspect I am not alone in that. Haggard was not a man of God. He made an idol out of power and influence. But his idol, like all idols do in the end, let him down.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard