SECOND UPDATE: Benny Hinn, End-Times Cultist? Click here for the details.
UPDATE: Hinn's new message to followers: I am not having an affair and send me $2 million. (details at end of post) . . .
Televangelist Benny Hinn, who resides behind gates in Dana Point and has a church and television studio in Aliso Viejo, and Without Walls International Church pastor Paula White of Florida have posted statements on their websites denying a report that they are romantically involved.
A Navel Gazing item on the showy faith healer's wife Suzanne Hinn seeking to divorce him in a Feb. 1 Orange County Superior Court filing is probably the most-read and most-commented-upon blog post in Weekly history.
Visit the National Enquirer online right now and you will see a link to "TV Preacher Caught in Affair," which is actually a long teaser for a story in the Aug. 2 print edition that is already on newsstands:
In a blockbuster world exclusive The ENQUIRER reveals married TV evangelist BENNY HINN love affair from his faithful flock!
In a shocking revelation sure to rock millions in the Christian community Hinn, 57, recently sneaked off to a romantic Roman holiday in the Eternal City - with another beautiful blonde evangelist!
The multi-millionaire Bible-thumping faith healing TV host of This Is Your Day was caught walking hand in hand with his secret lover where he was checked into the presidential suit in a top hotel under an assumed name right out of the Old Testament!
But there are widespread reports that blonde is twice-divorced White, who hosts Paula White Today, which is seen on many Christian networks.
In her statement to "friends, partners and ministry colleagues," White called the article "misguided and untruthful."
"The publication, which is known for its bias and slanting of the truth, tries to mislead readers regarding the ministerial relationship and friendship I have had with Pastor Benny for over 20 years," she claims.
Hinn's statement, which was directed to "my precious partner," has apparently been removed from his site.
However, it reportedly stated that the televangelist "forcefully, categorically and absolutely renounce(s) 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 story the televangelists are spreading and sticking to is that they reconnected in late May after not seeing each other in years when White taped a "This Is Your Day" segment on Hinn's television show.
As someone who has endured a "painful and public divorce," White said, she was able to offer Hinn insight and spiritual encouragement.
They found themselves in Italy because both were meeting independently with Vatican officials, according White, who reportedly added, "We were never alone and were in the constant company of staff and other associates."
If nothing else, being linked to White could drown out loudly whispered rumors that the partner Hinn was having an affair with possesses the same holy junk he does (think Adam and Steve).
And Hinn, who for years has been a regular on-air personality for the Costa Mesa-headquartered Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), already has something huge in common with Tampa-based White:
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Both of their organizations, like four others, remain under investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), whose Senate finance committee is trying to determine if they've complied with rules set by the IRS for nonprofit organizations.
Take a second look at those travel records, senator!
UPDATE: Hinn not only denies he is having an affair in a message on his web site, he writes, "I'm facing a deficit of $2 million right now that has accumulated in the last few months--first, because of the economy, and second, because I have continued to travel to the world preaching the Gospel. The offerings from some of those crusades did not cover the expenses. I had hoped and prayed that the need would have been met without my coming to you, but as I have learned over the years, if I don't come to you and tell you the facts, there will be no way for you to find out. I know $2 million sounds like a large number, but it really isn't if we all do our part. Then it can be taken care of easily and quickly."
(Hat tip to the Orange County Register's Teri Sforza, who also notes Hinn and White's shows appear back-to-back on TBN, where both preach the prosperity gospel. In fact, you can order your own "Properity Prayer Shawl" on Hinn's site. But, given his plea for two mil, "His shawl must not be working," Sforza jokes.)