I went by a newsstand during my lunch today and picked up the National Enquirer, with their two page story which alleges "TV EVANGELIST BENNY HINN CAUGHT IN TORRID AFFAIR" with fellow TV evangelist Paula White. You'll remember that Bene D first mentioned the rumour story in his post yesterday.
Like Bene, I am not a habitual reader of tabloids due to the nature of their reporting. But even a stopped clock can be right twice a day, and I think that a little analysis of the story can be helpful in deciding whether there is something valid happening, or whether things are being blown out of proportion. In a week where a media frenzy needed to be undone, we need to be cautious while we have our eyes open.
As Aimee Semple McPherson and Kenneth Ormiston could have told you, the media has a long history of trying to cite sexual misconduct by ministers.
I am thinking that the Enquirer may have learned of this late in their production cucle, as the story is only promoted in a small box at the bottom of the front page, with a photo of "Benny Hinn": "TV PREACHER CAUGHT WITH MISTRESS--she's an evangelist too!"
If we turn to the actual story--"TV EVANGELIST BENNY HINN CAUGHT IN TORRID AFFAIR!"--near the middle of the tabloid, we see two photos of Hinn and White, where they are holding hands. One shows them from the back and the other from the front. The photo is captioned: "Rome Italy July 13, 2010 Benny Hinn and Paula Hinn hold hands as they leave Rome's Hotel Hassler during their romantic getaway."
Something that is odd about the photos as they were printed in my copy. The photo showing a front view of the pair has the lady with blonde hair. However, in the rear view of the pair, the lady seems to have white hair. Is that due to the shadows in the second, from the rear shot? Perhaps a photography expert can help...
What struck me about the story is how much it resembles, in some ways, the Toronto Star story, reporting on background such as details of Hinn and White's ministries, the Grassley probe, and how Hinn is getting a divorce from his wife, which is not final yet.
All the Enquirer sources are anonymous, which is never a good sign.
One tabloid trick that the Enquirer uses are quoting "insiders" who do a colour commentary on what is going on. This could easily be the Enquirer editors themselves.
The "insider", by the way, says that Hinn has been a "mentor and father figure" to White. I'll return to this later.
Given the splash and emphasis the National Enquirer is giving to the story, the details of the "juicy parts" are thin.
Here they are, from the story:
"....We caught the couple walking hand-in hand out of the Hotel Hassler, where Pastor Hinn was booked into the preidential suite under a false name, on July 13....
....Hinn and White spent three nights at the ritzy Rome hotel, where Hinn chceked in as David Salomon.
(and in the next to last paragraph)
....While in Rome recently, Hinn was not wearing his wedding ring. One observer said he "acted affectionately" toward White, taking her hand as they strolled through thye streets. Hinn "seemed very happy, at one point wearing a big grin as he left the hotel" where he and White were staying, the eyewitness added....
Question: I know that every time I have stayed in a hotel, especially post 9-11, I have had to provide photo ID such as a passport. Isn't it now impossible to follow the lead of old black-and-white gangster movies and sign in under a fake name?
And does the Enquirer know that Hinn usually wore a wedding ring?
You could look at this story two ways.
We know about Hinn's long history of bad theology, abberant stewardship of finances and such. We could guess that he has the sort of character that could lead to an extramarital affair.
It certainly does look suspicious to stay with another woman in your hotel when you are still married, and walk around holding hands with her.
But let's look at the other point of view. As Hinn is a "mentor" of White's, as the Enquirer admits, it would certainly be the case that Hinn and White are friends.
Hinn is now 57, and comes from a middle eastern heritage. It would perhaps be natural for him, as a somewhat old fashioned person, to hold hands with close female friends and to smilingly enjoy their company. Although Billy Graham reportedly has a rule that he is never alone with a female that isn't his wife, is it fair to assume that if Hinn doesn't observe the rule that something is amiss?
From what I understand, from various documetaries, Hinn usually travels with an affair-complicating entourage. The Enquirer doesn't know this, or won't report it.
I'm also wondering about the "eyewitness" cited late in the story. I am thinking that he is the paparazzi who took the two "smoking gun" photos. Surely a major potential terrorist target such as Rome wouldn't have hotels that allow people to sign in as "Mr. Fake Name." My guess is that Mr. Photographer might recognize Hinn, observed what happened in public areas on the hotel, took a couple pictures and sent them to the National Enquirer, whose editors then figured out that the mystery lady was Paula White.
Am I taking Hinn's side? No, and I would say that given Hinn's past, you could very well reasonably assume that something fishy is going on between the pair. He ceratinly has a backstory. But, the Biblical advice to "Test all things. Hold on to what is good" should apply to the National Enquirer if it applies to any paper, right?
Let's see what regular papers do, and how the story plays out.
Whatever happens, though, appearances can take a toll on a person's reputation, which reminds me of the last time that I know that I bought the National Enquirer.
Back in 1987, U.S. Senator Gary Hart was the frontrunner to be the next Democratic nominee for president. That year, the National Enquirer ran a story quoting Rice as saying "Gary Hart Asked Me to Marry Him" with a picture of Rice cuddling with Hart on the cover. The resulting scandal torpedoed his efforts to become president.
Will the photos of Hinn holding hands with White--assuming no photoshopping and correct identification--topple Hinn? Will the National Enquirer topple Hinn? Who knows...
BD here... Would it come as any surprise that Benny Hinn has released a statement to his partners regarding the National Enquirer story? Offered without comment.
Benny Hinn Ministry statement on National Enquirer report of affair
To my precious partner,
As you may be aware, the National Enquirer recently released a dishonest and misleading article which falsely characterized my friendship with Paula White. The publication, which is known for its bias against religious figures, misleads readers regarding the ministerial friendship I have had with Paula White for over 20 years.
As you know, my wife, Suzanne, filed for divorce at the beginning of this year. If it were not for the comfort of the precious Holy Spirit and the Word of God to give me encouragement throughout this process, I cannot imagine how I could have survived the past five months. Throughout this season, your love and prayers have helped strengthen me to continue ministering around the world. Were it not for your faithfulness and the presence of my wonderful Lord Jesus, the loneliness of carrying this burden by myself would have been unbearable.
In late May of this year, Paula White came to tape a This Is Your Day broadcast with me. Although I had not seen her for years, she was an encouragement to me and shared helpful advice out of her own painful experience. As a result, I will not deny that the friendship has strengthened, and, while it has remained morally pure at all times, I have enjoyed the company of someone who has also gone through the trauma of a painful and public divorce.
But most of you know me personally and know that I have faithfully preached the Gospel for over 35 years. I have never failed my marriage vows and would never dishonor the precious name of Jesus, whom I adore with all my being...and I never will! As I have often said, I would rather die than bring dishonor to His name.
And so I am writing to tell you today that I forcefully, categorically, and absolutely renounce the lies that have been spread about me and want to set the record straight with you. There is nothing inappropriate or morally improper about my friendship with Paula White.
There has been no immorality whatsoever!
The article also indicated that on a recent trip to Italy we met secretly and stayed together. This could not be further from the truth and is absolutely false! The truth is that we traveled independently to the region for respective ministry duties. I was invited by Vatican officials to visit the Vatican to discuss future ministry opportunities there. Paula was likewise invited to have meetings in the region, and, although we spent time together, we were never alone and were in the constant company of staff and family members.
That notwithstanding, I have become increasingly aware that the optics of this friendship have caused others to draw conclusions that are incomplete and unfounded. And because of my preeminent priority to my ministry and calling, Paula and I have concluded that we should avoid the appearance that our friendship is biblically impure or violates Scripture in any way. Paula and I also recognize that being seen in such settings is unwise, and we have independently determined that we will have no further social relationship until such time as my divorce has concluded and only if we feel direction from the Lord to do so.
I am using this season to seek the Lord and His Word as my Counselor and Guide as my family and I recover from the pain and disappointment of the loss of my marriage of over 30 years. My commitment to preaching the Gospel, as I have done for over 35 years, has only intensified through this experience; and the precious Lord Jesus I adore is the true love of my life and my unfailing companion for all eternity.
Thank you for your prayers, your love, and all your support for me and my family. You are precious to me and I will not fail you; but most of all I will never fail the wonderful Lord Jesus who is life and breath to me.