Disgraced US evangelical pastor Ted Haggard has told Oprah Winfrey in an interview that he contemplated suicide when news of his first gay scandal broke.
“I was dying. I had settled in my mind exactly how I was going to commit suicide,” Haggard told Winfrey. “I was preparing, and in my life, Jesus came to me and he said, ‘Now, now I can save you.'”
Haggard (52) appeared in the pre-recorded segment with his wife and two of his children.
He denied that he is gay and instead described himself as “heterosexual with homosexual attachments” and said that while he still has sexual thoughts about men “…they’re not compulsive”.
Haggard is doing the talk show circuit in a bid to promote a new documentary, The Trial of Ted Haggard. The film focuses on his life after it was revealed in 2006 that he had a sexual relationship with a male prostitute that also involved drugs.
At the time he was forced to resign as head of the New Life Church, which he founded in his basement.
Haggard’s wife Gayle said in the interview that she was shocked when she learnt of her husband’s relationship with the male escort: “The first words out of my mouth were, ‘Who are you?’” she said.
She also admitted however that she had been aware throughout their marriage that he “struggled with some thoughts” but “…I prayed for him and I felt as though he was winning the battle”.
As the interview was pre-recorded it did not address the latest accusations levelled against Haggard. He has been accused of having another inappropriate relationship; this time with a church volunteer Grant Haas, who was 22 at the time.
After the interview segment Winfrey read out a statement from Haggard about the newest claims:
“Even though there was never any physical contact, I have regretted my irresponsible behaviour. I apologised to Grant, my family and the church two years ago. I now ask him again for his forgiveness as well as the people of the church.”
While Haas had originally agreed to keep the matter secret, he has said that he has come forward because the documentary film aims to portray Haggard as a victim.