By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Ted Haggard, the megachurch pastor and National Association of Evangelicals president felled by a gay sex and drugs scandal in 2006, says that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi regularly sent words of comfort and support in the two year following his fall. Haggard is the subject of a forthcoming HBO documentary by Alexandra Pelosi, the speaker's daughter.
In an interview with me this afternoon, Haggard—a onetime friend and former occasional guest at George W. Bush's White House—says the support from the Pelosi family is one reason he's much more favorable about Democrats and their agenda today than before his fall. His change of economic circumstances also played a big role in the process. I'll be posting more from this fascinating interview with Haggard in the days ahead. Here's the exchange about Haggard changing his attitude toward the Democrats. Pelosi's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
You used to lead the biggest evangelical organization in the country and frequently dealt with political issues. Did you follow the presidential race? Any thoughts about Barack Obama on the eve of his inauguration?
I followed it very, very closely and I am very excited about the future. Let me give you a little bit on how the change [from being more solidly Republican] happened.
As we were going through this time of pain, we received word through Alexandra that Nancy was communicating to us, words like, "God is bigger than this." She would repeatedly [say], "My mom wants you to know that God is bigger than this."
We were never told that our health insurance would be paid each month [by New Life, Haggard's former church]. It turned out being paid the whole time. But when we would go to a doctor's office, we didn't know if the insurance had been paid the previous month. We were never given assurance of how long any of the benefits we were receiving would last... We always thought the very next month we would have to pay for Jonathan, our handicapped boy. So, as we went though that process and Alexandra would communicate with her mom and her mom would communicate back "God is bigger than this," we felt understood and comforted by the Pelosis.
And we knew that if something happened, if that that support didn't come [from New Life]—because I was an incredible failure at trying to find a job that would work—we knew we would have to depend on programs that Democrats had put in place.
So, our political position shifted a little bit. Our view of what it's like sitting in an emergency room and not knowing if your insurance card is going to work—I understand that emotion now. I know what it feels like to walk somewhere instead of driving somewhere to save gas. And so, I'm different. And I am optimistic about the new administration. This whole thing had changed me. I never dreamed I would be left out this quickly.
Who did you vote for for president?
Here's what I'll say...in the Haggard household we didn't make any impact because many of us voted for Obama and many of us voted for McCain...I am still a Republican but I am not the same kind of Republican I used to be.