TILTON RETURNS TO AIRWAVES

After being driven from the airwaves because of a lack of financial support, caused by an ABC news investigation, televangelist Robert Tilton returned to television in several major metropolitan markets. Last spring, Tilton began televising his Success-N-Life program in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Detroit, and Nashville. In late summer, the telecast also returned to the New York area where it appears twice each day.

The previous installments of his program were canceled in fall 1993 and originated from studios in Dallas and San Diego. The revived version is produced out of a small television studio in Miami Beach. Tilton’s programs are produced by his Word of Faith Church outside Dallas, where he serves as senior pastor. But according to a Broward/Palm Beach New Times story, the floundering church is actually pastored by the Rev. Bob Wright. “About once a month [Tilton] touches down in Dallas, the rest of the time leaving Pastor Bob Wright to rebuild the crowds. It’s not working,” the article reported.

Tilton’s relocation to South Florida is understandable in view of comments made by his second wife, Leigh Valentine Tilton. She said the couple would go to restaurants in the Dallas area and people would make obscene gestures at them. “People would scream at us on the street. It was incredible. Bob hated Dallas,” she told the New Times. Last March, the resurrected televangelist sued her for divorce after an on-again/off-again marriage. She told the Florida periodical, “I don’t know how I got myself into this mess. I mean, I’m the daughter of a surgeon! I wish I’d never heard the name Tilton.”

In a Religious News Service report, Tilton claimed, “I had to give careful consideration and prayer to past circumstances to make sure we ... have learned the lessons well. I believe we have, otherwise God would not allow us to go forward as he has.”

Tilton credits controversial charismatic pastors Sam and Jane Whaley with saving his life. The Whaleys perform “demon blasting,” a practice where a prayer circle is formed around a subject believed to be possessed and the inhabitant is shouted at for hours. Tilton claims the North Carolina couple helped him in 1993 by “casting out his own demons.”

ABC’s PrimeTime Live exposť in November 1991 derailed Tilton’s multimillion dollar enterprise by maintaining that mail sent to the television preacher from his supporters was processed by a banking firm. The donations were deposited while unread prayer requests were trashed. At the apex of Tilton’s popularity, the ministry purchased 5000 hours of air-time per month, broadcast into 235 television markets and acquired over $80 million per year in contributions.

Tilton filed a lawsuit against ABC, claiming the network portrayed him in a false light. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Tilton’s case. Earlier a lower court judge had thrown out his libel case against the network ruling the televangelist had not proven the network’s charges were false.

—MKG

 

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