Piling On the Copelands—WFAA Overreaches

As you must certainly have heard by now, Sen. Charles Grassley has launched a investigation into the grave danger to the nation posed by preachers with absurdly large houses.

My friend Phil Cooke over at Cooke Pictures posted some excellent thoughts on the whole thing yesterday. (Phil has consulted for a couple of the ministries under investigation and knows whereof he speaks.)

Last night local ABC affiliate WFAA teased, hyped and then breathlessly delivered a piece by reporter Brett Shipp on Tarrant County’s own Kenneth Copeland Ministries. (text version here) By the looks of a list of related, past stories on WFAA’s web site, the station’s News Director assigned Shipp to cover the Copelands sometime last year. (Seemingly, WFAA has one reporter covering the state capitol, one covering city hall, one covering the police department, and one all over Kenneth and Gloria.)

WFAA devoted a full seven minutes of its 22 non-commercial newscast minutes to repeat the following faux bombshell over and over:

The Copelands don’t see the thousands of individual prayer requests that come into the ministry.

Now that revelation might actually approach micro-scandal status if the ministry actually encouraged people to believe otherwise. But that’s the thing. They don’t. On the contrary, I have personally observed that the ministry goes out of its way to avoid giving the impression that Kenneth and Gloria are going personally read and pray over any requests that come into the ministry.

The reason Shipp and WFAA are hyperventilating is they have misremembered the details of the Bob Tilton scandal from way back—a reporting “gotcha” coup that every wannabe 20/20 correspondent dreams of duplicating—and they think they have another one on their hands.

Tilton, you may recall, had his mail sent directly to an offsite processing facility where checks were deposited and correspondence, including prayer requests, was dumpstered (or that was the appearance anyway).

By contrast, the Copelands tell people their prayer requests will be prayed over by a member of of the ministry’s prayer team. And they are. In other words, the ministry does precisely what they say they’re going to do. And this is a bombshell?

Of course, nothing in Shipp’s reporting even bothered to ask the question as to what KCM had promised its donors in terms of prayer requests. He just gets the vapors and declares:

One day after the announcement of a congressional investigation into their ministry finances, televangelists Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Fort Worth may have a new set of problems.

Revelations have arisen from former ministry insiders that say Copeland’s faithful followers are being misled and that it’s time for the truth to come out.

Now last night’s video package did show Kenneth Copeland being ambushed by Shipp and a video crew behind the platform at another ministry’s motorccycle rally. In it Shipp directly asks a clearly startled and off-balance Copeland if he “sees the prayer request that come in to the ministry.” Copeland says “yes.”

I’m betting Copeland wishes he had a do-over on that one. With a little time to compose himself, he might have said, “Well, of course not. We get thousands and thousands of letters each week. That’s why we’re very clear in our correspondence that it is a member of the staff that will read and pray over them. Now why don’t you run along and ask that Pottery Barn guy if he personally fills every catalog order.” 

Is the Copeland’s house so big that it’s visible from space? Yes. Is that a bad idea for people in their position. Almost certainly. Though I’m not an expert on such things as Senators from Iowa are.

But last night’s report was indeed an embarassment. For WFAA.