“Al, let’s get one thing straight! I’m a no good, fornicating, adulterating son of a bitch!” These highly emotional words initiated a private conversation between Garner Ted Armstrong and me at 10:05 a.m. on Wednesday, May 16, 1973, in the seclusion of his television studio office. This was not the first or the only time Ted ever admitted that he was an adulterer. In spite of repeated public denials, Ted has privately admitted that he has been guilty of flagrant, continuous adultery and fornication for almost a quarter of a century-as a church member, an executive, and an evangelist!
I first learned of Ted’s licentious activities in 1965. At that time it came to light that a Worldwide Church of God minister was committing adultery with two coeds who worked with him. Upon being discovered, he claimed that if Garner Ted could commit adultery and get away with it, then he could too. Herbert Armstrong didn’t buy that excuse for one minute and promptly fired the minister, disfellowshipping and publicly marking him. Quickly, the whole sordid affair was swept under the rug, while Ted came out lily-white.
By this time I was becoming suspicious of Ted’s activities. Upon further investigation, I found that Ted was supposedly involved with a girl who was “out to get him.” Ted had simply weakened under pressure, I was assured, and finally succumbed to her aggressive advances. This time it was again easy for me to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I rationalized that he had slipped once, under great duress. Reasoning that he was in reality human, I tried to dismiss and forget the whole distasteful situation.
Ted’s Problem Surfaces Again. In 1967, when the upset husband of one of Ted’s victims informed me that his wife had had sexual relations with the handsome radio evangelist, I listened incredulously. I thought it had to be sour grapes or perhaps professional jealousy that motivated this allegation. But when the husband heatedly insisted that his complaint was true, I began looking further into the matter and finally went to Ted and talked to him personally. Ted openly and readily admitted to me that he had conducted an affair with this girl, but he exclaimed that the girl had repeatedly pursued him by showing off her shapely legs, flaunting her exciting body suggestively, and giving him the overt “come on” until in desperation and weakness he gave in. Ted expressed that he hoped his father (Herbert Armstrong) didn’t have to be advised of this because this knowledge would “break his heart.” (Little did I know then that his father had been aware of his son’s adulterous affairs since the early 1950s, but his father had chosen to ignore that side of Ted’s character. In fact, Herbert often refers to Ted before church audiences and remarks, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”)
Ted then elaborated to me in his defense that he felt he was specially “called” to preach his father’s gospel. He declared that he must preach against adultery in others, even though he, himself, was personally guilty. “Put me behind bars, slip my food to me, keep me in solitary confinement,” he said dramatically, “but put a microphone in front of me because I must preach this message to the whole world!” Once again I wrongly concluded that Ted had slipped under “emotional pressure.” Sadly I walked away and tried to forget it.
Later it dawned on me that Ted is a sterling actor, a powerful persuader-one who can make you feel guilty for even approaching a delicate subject. One Worldwide Church evangelist summed it up succinctly: “Ted can charm the rattle off a snake.” Unfortunately, he charms people too. Glib as an orator and possessing awesome mental dexterity, Ted can change black into white, turn silk into wool, and refine sin into baseless allegations and rumor.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned of his continuous sexual exploits over more than 20 years, both on and off Ambassador College’s Pasadena campus.
The Plot Thickens. Ted’s problem surfaced again in mid-1971 when Al Portune Sr., then vice-president of financial affairs for the church and college, regretfully informed me of a serious problem in the “Work.” He exclaimed that this problem “could destroy the Work!” This was the beginning of the unfolding of an almost unbelievable series of events. It is indeed a telling commentary that the Armstrongs were able to keep this problem hidden so long from the eyes of the public.
By July 1971 Herbert Armstrong could no longer contain Ted’s promiscuity nor hide it from certain top administrators. It was then that Herbert decided to send Ted on a leave of absence. When Ted returned in about two months, Herbert was evidently not satisfied with Ted’s repentance, so he once again exiled his son. Members of the church, however, were led to believe that Ted had been removed for health reasons. Notice how cleverly Herbert words the letter announcing Ted’s dismissal:
“My son, Garner Ted, has been doing the jobs of five or six high-executive-caliber men. He does a half-hour radio broadcast daily-seven days a week, a half-hour telecast every week, besides meeting many speaking engagements… traveling over much of the world for important radio and television interviews… writing articles, doing an immense amount of study, research… and lately he has been taking about 95% of my executive duties as President of the colleges and the Church.
“He is forced to go at high tension-drive!-drive!-drive! Some three or four weeks ago, he said to one of our Deputy Chancellors that if he had the audacity, temerity, or nerve, he would ask me if he might take a leave of absence for a few weeks, for complete relaxation…” (member letter, Sept. 26, 1971, pp. 1-2).
Herbert prepared the church members for Ted’s imminent absence while distorting or overlooking the real reasons for Ted’s exile. The letter continued (page 2):
“Plans had been made for him [Ted] to speak at every U.S. and Canada Feast site again this year. I decided it was just too much high pressure, and we cancelled out these engagements. I want him to take possibly a couple months of complete relaxation from such high-paced and strenuous activities….”
The reader should note that “pressure” was given as the cause for relieving Ted of his strenuous duties, when, in fact, the ministerial uproar over Ted’s whoremongering and arrogant life-style was responsible.
Shortly after the letter had been mailed out, Ted convinced his father to allow him to speak at the Worldwide Church of God’s (WCG) Feast of Tabernacles after all. Ted then proceeded to preach to the church members gathered at Big Sandy, Mt. Pocono, and Jekyll Island and then flew over to Squaw Valley where I was preaching.
What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love. I sat enraptured with thousands of other church members in the Squaw Valley arena as Ted preached a very persuasive sermon entitled “What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love.” He was indeed preaching his “commissioned” gospel. Little did all of us realize that this powerful orator would spend the entirety of that very night with an Ambassador College stewardess in a Tahoe cabin loaned by a WCG member.
Garner Ted was “found out” and his father was notified. Herbert and a few fellow ministers immediately flew to Penticton-Ted’s next stop-and there intercepted Ted, forbidding him to continue his festival preaching circuit. On October 9, 1971, Herbert relieved Ted of his executive duties and responsibilities at Ambassador College and in the Worldwide Church of God. In the hopes of covering up Ted’s problem, Herbert again informed the gullible church membership in an October 14, 1971, letter that the young Armstrong was overworked and needed relaxation:
“A short time ago I sent a general letter to the Church membership explaining the serious need for Garner Ted Armstrong to be allowed a leave of absence by reason of ill health-not physical, but frayed nerves and excessive high tension which has built up over a period of years due to the heavy and crushing responsibilities of his office.
“After starting his leave of absence, he felt he would be up to making the circuit of the Festival sites. He felt the imperative duty to speak at these sites. I agreed. But after Squaw Valley, his fourth site, tensions had built up until his nerves were at razor-edge, and he could not continue.”
Herbert’s last statement is especially deceptive. Informed sources have pointed out that he knew perfectly well why he was forced to intercept Ted at Penticton. His purpose was to prevent Ted’s continuing his circuit of preaching at the Feast sites. Yet he writes that Ted’s “nerves were at razor-edge, and he could not continue.” This was a deliberate lie!
Ted and the Masseuse. Shortly thereafter Ted was sent to Hawaii with his wife and two close friends. The male friend was instructed to watch Ted every single second. He did pretty much, only losing the defrocked profligate son for a couple of hours. That was all Ted needed to become “involved” again. While Ted was still in Hawaii, the Ambassador College mail receiving department in Pasadena received a letter from a woman who managed a massage parlor in Hawaii. The letter explained that there was a young masseuse in her employ who had been trying to come out of a life of sin because of watching Garner Ted on TV. This madam related that the young masseuse had been horrified into nightmarish disillusionment when she recognized Ted in the massage parlor. Now, the madam wrote, the masseuse was extremely distraught from witnessing the suave religionist there, especially upon learning of his whole purpose for being there.
I heard about this incriminating letter from Rod Meredith, a WCG evangelist, and tried to gain access to a copy, but evidently Herbert had it intercepted and continued the cover-up. Pressure began to mount, however, and Herbert was finally forced to send Ted into indefinite exile in Colorado. In another two months or so, Ted was again brought back. But once again, Ted’s adulterous affairs were discovered, and again Herbert Armstrong was forced to take action.
The Confrontation. On January 30, 1972, he and a few select men went over to Ted’s home. Around 10:30 p.m., Garner Ted came home from a Los Angeles Laker basketball game and was stunned to find his father, most of the headquarters leadership, and Stan Rader waiting in his living room. Upon learning the purpose of their visit, he flew into a reactionary rage during which he openly admitted he had had illicit sexual relations with some 200 women-and that was his “conservative estimate”-during his two decades of association with his father’s church. Among his consorts were literally dozens of youthful, wide-eyed coeds, plus several who became executive or ministerial wives. On this occasion Ted was given an official letter of disfellowship.
Upon disclosure of the shocking magnitude of Ted’s adulterous activities, top personnel at Ambassador College rushed home to interrogate their spouses. Many a disillusionment yet lingers with them to this day.
This drastic action by Herbert Armstrong came after Ted had been forgiven on several occasions. But it seemed that every time Ted repented, he repeated his immoral activities until they were again uncovered. Actually this repent-repeat-reprimand cycle had been going on for years.
During the January 30, 1972, confrontation with his father and the leading ministers, Ted also confessed to having an intimate sexual relationship with an Ambassador College stewardess. His relationship with her allegedly began in the summer of 1970. In a private conversation I had with Ted on May 16, 1973, Ted admitted to me that his affair with this girl had begun in Jerusalem, but he denied that it was merely a “look, lust, and grab” affair. (He did admit he had had numerous affairs that were of the “look, lust, and grab” variety.) He asserted that with this girl it was different. He stated that she became very special because he was experiencing emotional “lows” during this time. One day, he explained, when he stood sobbing at the memorial to the 6 million victims of Nazi persecution, she put her hand on his shoulder to “comfort” him. And that was the start of their relationship. Their clandestine, adulterous affair continued until the problem was brought to the attention of Herbert Armstrong in the summer of 1971. Instead of removing Ted from the ministry for good-as he had done with other ministers guilty of adultery-he precipitated a vast cover-up, much like former President Nixon attempted. There is one major difference though: Herbert had been covering up Ted’s sexual looseness since the early 1950s.
It was in the early 1950s that Garner Ted earned his reputation as a lady’s man while in the U.S. Navy based in San Diego. He confided his conquests to several others in the WCG ministry, including myself. On the Ambassador College campus, Ted, no doubt, found a change of pace from his previous duties, but as for his character makeup, only the uniform seemed to change.
I was stunned to learn the gross extensiveness of Ted’s sexual looseness, but, as a result of the events on January 30, 1972, when Herbert Armstrong disfellowshipped his son, I honestly felt Herbert was “dealing with the problem.” Rather than being discouraged, I was somehow reassured that Herbert hadn’t spared even his own son, but had dealt strongly with adultery within the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Ted in Exile. During Ted’s exile at the Colorado A-frame, Dave Antion, a WCG evangelist, was commissioned by Herbert Armstrong to write a paper about the qualifications for Christ’s ministry. Antion’s thoroughly researched paper left no doubt that, in accordance with numerous biblical injunctions, Garner Ted Armstrong had irrefutably and permanently disqualified himself from ever again assuming the position of minister of Jesus Christ.
At the time, the leading ministers and I all thought Herbert really wanted to know about Ted’s qualifications, but later we found out he was trying to learn all the main arguments against his son’s return so he could persuasively refute them. Herbert forwarded Antion’s paper to Ted, who promptly dismissed it, claiming the biblical arguments didn’t apply to him because he had been “called to preach the gospel from his mother’s womb.” This defense, then, turned out to be Herbert’s argument in favor of Ted’s return to full status and authority, in spite of Herbert’s earlier pronouncement that Ted, even if returned, would not occupy ministerial office.
Garner Ted Reinstated. In late May 1972, Herbert met with his son privately for 7 hours, and on June 7, Herbert Armstrong, Al Portune Sr., Dave Antion, Ron Dart, and Stan Rader flew to Ted’s Colorado retreat to see if Ted seemed to be repentant enough to be allowed to resume his duties. Ted put on a convincing emotional display of typical Ted Armstrong repentance. Besides, most of those present were convinced that Garner Ted had to return. Too much time had already elapsed, causing the organization’s income to plummet by the millions. Ted’s hands had been dutifully slapped, and ministerial outrage had begun to show signs of assuaging.
So on June 8, Herbert’s “womb-sanctified” son was reinstated in the WCG, restored to an elevated position (in spite of an earlier promise from Herbert Armstrong that this would never happen). Once again, Ted was allowed the make radio and television broadcasts purporting to be a minister of Jesus Christ. Just 42 days later, on July 20, 1972, Ted was totally reinstated to his full evangelist rank in the ministry, he was placed back on both college and church boards, and he was named executive vice-president of the Worldwide Church of God. This was done in spite of ministerial disapproval among a few high-ranking holdouts and without any public announcement at all.
Herbert’s quick reinstatement of Ted after 20 years of adultery was in marked contrast to his handling of a former WCG minister in 1968. This man’s sin? He committed a single act of adultery! For this sin he was fired from his job, removed from the ministry, disfellowshipped from the WCG, and his sin of adultery was detailed in a special assembly for all employees and students at Ambassador College.
Year of Revelation. During this time I maintained a wait-and-see attitude. It was difficult to make myself believe that the two men I respected most-Garner Ted and Herbert Armstrong-were total frauds! It was even more difficult for me to believe that Herbert was less than 100% sincere and honest. However, on May 22, 1973, at 1 p.m., Ted left me with no doubts as to his father’s real motivation, intentions, and modus operandi. In a private, three-hour meeting in his office, Ted told me he specifically disagreed with his father on many issues, including doctrine. He explained that his dad desperately wanted to be accepted by the world, and that was the reason he was traveling around the world continuously, seeking the favor and audience of world leaders.
Ted admitted that he had seen his father “stone drunk” on dozens of occasions. He stated that his father had told him that he (Herbert) would do anything to keep the “Work” afloat-including lying, stealing, and bribery. I was shocked, of course, but later I personally saw Herbert “stoned” on several occasions and caught him in numerous lies. I began to see those lies in his member and co-worker letters, and these lies have continued to this very day.
The year 1973 was one of revelation for me. I learned of Ted’s profound and long-enduring sexual activities, Herbert’s total cover-up, corruption at the highest level in the WCG, Herbert’s pleasure blasts around the world under the guise of preaching the true gospel, squandering of vast sums of money on extravagant art treasures, exploitation of gullible and hard-pressed people, gross doctrinal error, and suppression of human beings-mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Yes 1973 proved to me that dishonesty was a way of life with Ted and his father, and that way of life hasn’t changed to this very day.
Garner Ted’s “Repentance.” Has Garner Ted changed? Did he really repent’? One thing is sure: Ted “repented” many, many times. He has been called “the professional repenter.” He can cry on cue.
Upon returning in mid-1972, Ted was supposed to state publicly that he had sinned against God and his wife. He promised to make it plain just what his sin involved. He had agreed at the meeting with his father and several ministers in the little A-frame in Colorado on June 7, 1972, that he would return and “come clean.” It just never happened. On June 14, 1972, I wrote in my diary: “GTA returned to Pasadena, today, for the first time since January 31. NO immediate signs of repentance.” On June 26, I wrote that I had just talked to Robert Kuhn on the phone and that he had stated that an evangelist’s wife told him one of Ted’s assistants was “fronting” for Ted at Brookside Winery. “She knows because Ted came out of a back room with a girl on his arm.”
Since then, Ted has been seen in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Reno gambling and drinking. He continues his playboy life-style on his frequent plane trips. His sarcastic harangues and doctrinal duplicity are invariably followed up with administrative tyranny. The crush-all-rumor approach, merciless terminations, and condemning diatribes have become administrative trademarks of Garner Ted Armstrong. His emotional overreactions, impetuous responses, and “shoot from the hip” modus operandi are all blunt testimonials of his continued lack of any real repentance.
When I resigned from the Worldwide Church of God ministry in 1973, it was my sincere desire-and it still is-that Garner Ted Armstrong would repent. When questioned by the press then, I even refused to divulge the full extent of Ted’s immorality in hopes that he would repent. I now know, however, that unless these sins are exposed thousands will continue to put their trust, not in God, but in Herbert Armstrong and his profligate son.