Bishop Eddie Long Responds To Sexual Allegations

Tell Me More host Michel Martin and producer Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," offer important news updates to recent conversations heard on the program. This week, Bishop Eddie Long, a megachurch pastor in suburban Atlanta, formally responded to allegations made in September that he used his spiritual authority to sexually coerce four young men who were members of his church. Also, it's the end of the road for the NBC show "Undercovers."

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

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, our digital media guy is here with me, as he is most Fridays.

Hey, Lee. What's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, we have updates on several stories we've been covering. First, Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the Atlanta area megachurch New Birth Missionary Baptist, has responded to allegations that he sexually manipulated young men who were members of his church. Now, you know back in September we reported that four young men, Jamal Parris and three others, came forward saying Bishop Long used his influence to coerce them into sexual relationships. They also said that Long justified his conduct with scripture and told them to call him Daddy.

This week, Bishop Long's attorneys filed an official response. It reads, in part, quote, "Bishop Long denies that he engaged in any sexual conduct with plaintiff Jamal Parris or any other spiritual sons," unquote.

MARTIN: And, Lee, the legal response also declares, quote, "Bishop Long admits that the entire New Birth membership calls Bishop Long, Daddy or Bishop." And it also says some other churches even call him Granddaddy.

And, Lee, I understand that you reached out to B.J. Bernstein who's the attorney for the four accusers. Has she spoken with us yet?

HILL: Well, she declined to comment.

MARTIN: Okay. Other updates?

HILL: We also have an update about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's the ban on openly gay people serving in the military. We've been following the story closely, Michel, especially since September when a federal judge ruled the policy unconstitutional and order that it be lifted. The White House later challenged the ruling and asked for a stay of the order, even though it ultimately favors repealing the policy. The stay expired on October 20th, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week granted the Obama administration's request to extend it.

MARTIN: And one more thing: Last week, Lee, the Associated Press reported on a Pentagon study of the attitudes that current service members have about serving with openly gay service members. And according to the study, the majority of U.S. troops and their families say that they're okay with gays serving openly in the military and think the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell could be ended without any problem. Lee, what else?

HILL: Well, Michel, back in September we talked about diversity on television this fall and a new NBC show that a lot of people were buzzing about, the espionage drama "Undercovers."

(Soundbite of TV show, "Undercovers")

Mr. BORIS KODJOE (Actor): (As Steven Bloom) Despite your tone, I will help you find Leo Nash. But only under specific conditions, the most important of which is that my wife can never know about my involvement, ever. You understand?

(Soundbite of door opening)

Mr. KODJOE: Hey, honey.

Ms. GUGU MBATHA-RAW (Actor): (As Samantha Bloom) My wife can never know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KODJOE: I would've told you, of course.

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: Mm, really.

Mr. KODJOE: Someday I would've told you. By Christmas at least I would've...

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: Right. I'm not sure you would have.

Mr. KODJOE: You came here without telling me.

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: That's totally different.

Mr. KODJOE: No way is it different.

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: Yes it is, because it's me and I have my reasons for coming here.

Mr. KODJOE: Okay, so, what are your reasons?

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: What are yours?

Mr. KODJOE: I asked you

Unidentified Man: Guys, as much as I'm enjoying this, my plane leaves in two hours and either I'm on it or I'm not. Are you in or out?

Mr. KODJOE: We're in.

Ms. MBATHA-RAW: We're in.

HILL: The program airs in prime time and stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe. Early on it was heralded, Michel, for having two black lead actors. Well, yesterday we learned "Undercovers" is getting the ax and being canceled. NBC announced it won't be ordering a full season beyond the first 13 episodes because of, you guessed it, low ratings.

MARTIN: Are you sad?

HILL: Very sad. I really liked that show.

MARTIN: One person in particular, I think, caught your eye. But we won't go into that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And I understand that you'll be waxing poetic on our blog later today about the new Tyler Perry film "For Colored Girls."

HILL: Yeah, that's funny. I heard that too.

But I've seen the movie, we both have, and I think all the buzz around the film could benefit from a male perspective.

MARTIN: Well, we will look forward to what you have to say.

HILL: Well, thanks, Michel. I do, too.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also find me on Facebook or log onto our website. Go to npr.org, click on Programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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