News Of Fallen Evangelical Leader’s Resurgence Stirs Listeners

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Former evangelical leader was defamed almost four years ago amid accusations that he paid a male prostitute for sex and drugs. Now Rev. Haggard is starting a new church. Listeners comment on Haggard’s new vision, and a conversation about veteran journalist Helen Thomas’ resignation from her longtime post at the White House.


And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners.

Lee Hill has stepped away from his online duties this week. So Douglas Hopper has stepped in. Welcome back to the mic, Douglas.

DOUGLAS HOPPER: Thanks. I'm glad to be here. Let's start off with your conversation about the now-retired White House journalist and commentator Helen Thomas. She left her gig of some 50 years last week after comments she made about Israel. Let's hear what she said.


DAVID NESENOFF: Any comments on Israel? We're asking everybody today. Any comments on Israel?

HELEN THOMAS: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

NESENOFF: Ooh. Any better comments than that?


THOMAS: Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land. It's not German, it's not Poland.

NESENOFF: So, where should they go? What should they do?

THOMAS: They go home.

NESENOFF: Where's their home?

THOMAS: Poland. Germany.

NESENOFF: So, the Jews, you think they should go back to Poland and Germany.

THOMAS: And America, and everywhere else.

MARTIN: We invited Richard Prince, author of the online publication "Journal- isms" and NPR's ombudsman Alicia Shepard to offer their take. And here's what Alicia Shepard had to say.

ALICIA SHEPARD: Of course, she's been giving her opinion for the last 10 years, very anti-war, very much challenging the Bush administration on why they went to war. Many liberals were a big fan of hers. But this just went way too far.

HOPPER: Well, not so, according to Heather Preston, an educator from the Seattle area who wrote in.

HEATHER PRESTON: Sorry, but your ombudsman makes false distinction by suggesting that the Palestinian-Israeli issue is the sacred cow and anyone who comments with an extreme view on that should lose their columnist and speaker's bureau positions. Free speech is only protected if unpopular speech is protected.

MARTIN: Heather, thank you for the perspective.

Let's move on to our conversation with Ted Haggard. Now, that stirred up quite a conversation.

HOPPER: In fact, more than 800 comments, no doubt because of Reverend Haggard's very public struggle with his sexuality. Haggard, of course, was brought down almost four years ago amid accusations that he paid a male prostitute for sex and drugs.

MARTIN: And now he's starting a new church, and he came on the program to tell us more about his plans. He says he wants this church to be a place that welcomes everybody.

TED HAGGARD: I want to spend the rest of my life being kind and compassionate and helpful and constructive in my response to people that are going through their darkest area.

HOPPER: Haggard also said that he would preach that homosexuality is against God's will. But outside the church, he said he supports full marriage benefits for gay couples. Many praised his return to the pulpit and his politics, but it wasn't all love. Quite a few listeners thought his new vision was disingenuous. Steve Perkins said, quote, "It's hard to take Ted Haggard's redemption seriously since he hasn't confessed to or even fully acknowledged the issues behind his fall."

MARTIN: Well, thank you, everybody, for those comments. But for the record, Haggard denied the specific allegations. But he did agree that his behavior was inappropriate. And if you read his book and his wife's book, then you see that they went through a very lengthy process of counseling to talk about these issues. So, there you go. Thank you, Douglas.

HOPPER: Of course.

MARTIN: Remember, with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Once again: 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log onto our website at Click on Programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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