On ‘Celebrity Wife Swap,’ Ted Haggard talks scandal: ‘I just wanted to die’

Paul Trantow ABC ABC puts a new spin on “Wife Swap” by revealing the various ways that some controversial celebrities … Continued

Paul Trantow


ABC puts a new spin on “Wife Swap” by revealing the various ways that some controversial celebrities live their lives.

Ted Haggard appeared on ABC’s “Celebrity Wife Swap” Tuesday night, temporarily switching spouses with actor Gary Busey in a faith-infused, reality-TV episode that reveal more intimate details on how the pastor’s sex scandal affected his family.

Haggard, former head of the National Association of Evangelicals, said he chose to do the show because “I have to share the good news of what our church is doing.”

Haggard was on top of the evangelical world in 2006 when he admitted to having a sexual relationship with a male prostitute. He also confirmed in an interview with GQ last year that he used crystal meth during that time and said that if he were 21, he would identify as bisexual. After stepping down from the megachurch he led for a sabbatical, Haggard recently reentered ministry with a new church in Colorado Springs –and now, a host of reality-TV
appearances on his résumé.

In Tuesday’s episode, Gayle Haggard, the pastor’s wife, switched places with Stephanie Samson, Busey’s fiancee and “spiritual wife.” Gayle Haggard said of her and her husband’s decision to appear on the show: “One of the reasons that Ted and I are thrilled to be on this show is to show people what we’re really like and what our values are. People learned about us five years ago, and so now we want to bring them up to date and let them know how we’re doing.”

Viewers saw the Haggard and Busey families exchange religious beliefs — “I am a church,” Busey said, explaining why he shuns organized religion. Samson attended to the needs of the Haggard family and their five children, who she said are still hurting from the fallout of the scandal.

What the family went through, Ted Haggard admitted, was “very embarrassing, heart-wrenching.”

He added: “I just wanted to die, and we have been working to survive it.”

Comparing Haggard’s own life’s arc to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Haggards explained that they felt called “to resurrect in Colorado Springs.”

During their time in seclusion, Gayle shared, “one day God spoke to [Ted] while he was trying to sell insurance. He was driving. [God] said, ‘When you were 28 years old, I called you to Colorado Springs, and no one has the authority to negate that. I called you to Colorado Spring, and your sin doesn’t have the authority to negate that. You’ve got to resurrect with the people that you crumbled in front of so they see the resurrection power is for today.”


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • eatinglowonthefoodchain

    My daughter had a friend whose parents were oh so religious and went to one of these cult-like churches where patriarchy is all the rage and Halloween is verboten. We went to a mainstream peace church where everyone was welcome. The father and I used to hang out while the kids swam in their pool, and one day he said, while discussing religion, that I had to admit it was a huge temptation to have relations with the same sex, and that religion stood to prevent that. Hmm. Interesting. I told him the truth. No, I said gently, I do not feel any temptation, and I do not believe gay sex is satanic. Oh, he said quietly.

  • joe_allen_doty

    Ted Haggard’s sin was marrying a woman when he knew that his sexual orientation was not exclusively heterosexual. He only became a preacher because his father pushed it. I didn’t personally know Haggard when he was an undergrad at Oral Roberts University and I was a grad theo student there. But, I get the impression that he might have been sexually active like many closeted homosexuals were there. I was not only in denial of my sexual orientation; I was dating women at the time, too.

  • catatonicjones

    Sounds like one of those Christians who ‘decided’ to be straight.
    Isn’t that curious, when you hear these people saying something like that, that homosexuality is a choice. It implies they chose.
    Are they really that troubled by it, is this kind of thinking simply a mistake in presentation or are they or have they faced this decision?

    Funny, I can’t remember choosing to be straight. I’ve never been bothered by such things. Perhaps that’s why gay people don’t bother me, but do bother them.

  • Rongoklunk

    When guys like this actually head up a church it underlines what some folks have been saying for years – religion’s the oldest scam of them all. The King of Scams.
    Especially since you don’t get to meet the Chairman of the Board until you’re dead.
    Get it?

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