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Bishop Long Holds News Conference

Aired September 26, 2010 - 10:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Candy, thanks. Great show. This is developing coverage of Eddie Long's troubles at the New Birth Ministry Baptist Church in Lithonia out of Atlanta. Bishop Eddie Long just about an hour ago spoke for the first time in a week since these allegations arose.

There he is standing with his wife, meeting his congregation at the 8:00 a.m. service. It was just about 9:00 a.m. when the bishop emerged, was hugged and greeted by applause from a huge congregation.

And then they listened to him - what sounded in the beginning like a sermon on the gospel and about hard times, but then towards the end, Bishop Long spoke specifically about the charges he is facing, four young men accusing him of coercing them into a sexual encounter. Here's what he had to say.


BISHOP EDDIE LONG, PASTOR, NEW BIRTH MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect ma man, but I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television.

That's not me. That is not me. I am not a perfect man. But this thing, I'm going to fight it. And I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet.

This extremely difficult time for you because many who called you and asked you questions and all of these kind of things -- you ain't never got this many phone calls in your life.


GRIFFIN: That is as close as Bishop Long came to denying the allegations. He did say additionally by the counsel of his lawyers, he is not going to try this case in the media. He's going to try it in a court of justice.

He was defiant, though. Martin Savidge is live. He's been covering this event over in Lithonia and is waiting for a news conference to begin where some of the sharper questions may come.

And we will learn how far, Martin, the bishop will go to saying what his congregation really wanted to hear this morning that these specific allegations are false.

MARTIN SAVIDGE (via telephone): Right, Drew. I think that was one of the things we did not hear in the specific language that was used by the bishop, which was he did not directly deny the allegations and he did not say "I am innocent."

We are waiting for the news conference to begin. We're gathered in a chapel, which is a smaller gathering point inside of what is a mass ever church here in Lithonia. There are about 35 to 40 journalists that are also gathered here, and we are looking for some sign of the bishop, his wife, and the attorneys that we were told would be present.

You know, it's interesting that he used the analogy of talking and describing himself as David up against the Goliath when, in fact, he is the leader of one of the largest churches in the United States. He knows presidents and he knows world leaders.

So it's hard to imagine that he really is kind of this small individual going up against a giant. I guess in other words, he is trying to portray that the young men who have come forward or their defense team, their legal team is being some sort of Goliath.

So it's not interesting picture that he tried to portray. He did a very good job, though, of appealing to his congregation whether they truly feel they've heard the truth remains to be seen. We haven't been able to talk to them. We're sequestered in this room here.

GRIFFIN: Let's bring in Don Lemon, CNN anchor and reporter, who has been not only covering this, but also talking to some members of the congregation.

Don, Martin said it was interesting that he picked David versus Goliath because in many ways the four young men who are accusing the pastor of coercing them into a sexual relationship, I believe they would probably consider them individually as the Davids going up against this Goliath.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, it is interesting, but not surprising, Drew and Martin that he use something from the bible to describe this particular situation.

But what I thought what very interesting is that in every time, pretty much every time he addressed the issue and saying that he was going to fight it, he prefaced it by saying, I have never espoused to being a perfect man, I'm not a perfect man, but I am going to fight this thing.

I am not a perfect man, but there is not the kind of person I am. So obviously in that, if you read between the lines, there is something in that where he's saying I haven't done anything perfectly if there is anything that comes out of this situation that is deemed to be inappropriate, then I'm not perfect.

Then you have to -- you must accept that. But on the other end, maybe the allegations or maybe what these young men are saying are not as strong or what actually played out may not be what they're playing out in these papers or in this lawsuit.

I think Marty is right. It's going to be interesting to see at this press conference what he admits to because he said, I'm not going to fight this in the media. So what does that mean?

That's telling you he is not going to tell you intimate details this lawsuit or talk about them in this press conference. I think what you'll probably see is this is a legal issue, I can't talk about that.

We can't go there because this is -- we're going to court with this, and everything I say is going to be scrutinized. So I think he will talk maybe personally about a little about himself, but I don't think we're going to get much from this press conference.


LEMON: It would be great to do it, but I don't think we're going to get it.

GRIFFIN: Don, stand by. Martin, stand by, as we again wait for this news conference. It had a 10:00 a.m. start, but it is Sunday morning. It's a big church, a lot of moving parts going on.

Well let's actually go right to the news conference now. There's Bishop Eddie Long and his wife and let's see who else is involved here. But this is Bishop Eddie Long in a news conference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, welcome. Bishop Long is going to make a statement this morning as you have been previously informed. There will not be any question and answers after his statement. Thank you very much.

LONG: Good morning, and I just want to take this moment to address you again as of advice of counsel I am not going to address the allegations and the attack that's been levied upon me at this moment.

Because, again, as I stated earlier in the service, you know, I want this to be dealt in the court of justice and not by public opinion. I will say that I am going to fight, fight very vigorously against these charges and I've been at this church for 23 years.

This is the first time I realized that we are as important as we are to get this much attention, and we're going to continue as a church to do the things we do to touch the world. The hospitals that we built in Nigeria and in Kenya, and things that we're doing in Honduras with building homes for missionaries and as we support hospice in South Africa as you witnessed today.

There are many things, and I even increase my commitment to working with the youth. I've always done that. We've always done that as a church. We've always helped young men and young ladies and families to make sure that they're able to move forward and to move into college and to do things that make them better and more productive citizens. So things that New Birth has stood for, the good things that we have done, and we will continue to do and continue to do, and increase and all of that. So without violating anything that my attorney has so commissioned me and put me -- to instruct me, I appreciate your time. I appreciate you being here and I thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bishop, are you --

GRIFFIN: Bishop Long and his wife, Vanessa Long. Martin, I thought this was going to be a news conference. I did not get word that there would be no questions asked certainly.

We have received no more information from the pastor based on his not in or guilt in this. That's my take. Yours? I see. We only -- Don, Don Lemon, can you weigh on that? Martin is not hooked up yet.

LEMON: Yes, listen, Drew, it's exactly what I said before he came out, right? We probably would not get much information out of this because he would lean on his attorneys.

The interesting part to this, though, is what the bishop did just now, he could have done one day, hours, one day, two days, three days, on the Tom Joyner show on CNN. He could have done that and said that statement days ago without all this drama.

If you know Bishop Long, you know in some sense, he loves this attention. I didn't think that our church was that important, he loves the attention in some way that he is getting nationally from this.

And it is no surprise that this has culminated into such a big event and then at the end, what do you really get out of it? Something that he could have said moments after the situation we found out about the situation.

GRIFFIN: Don, thanks for your observations on that. Let's bring in Josh Levs. Josh, you know, it's interesting the pastor talking about not realizing how big a deal that his church is, but his church is a big deal. We've been talking about it all morning, and it really is his empire, if you will.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of setup for not tremendous delivery just now? Yes, we were certainly looking for a new statement, new information, even something beyond what his attorney did say the other day.

But it is interesting to note before that statement came along, we were all talking about this idea of David versus Goliath, right? I will tell you he is saying he feels like the David and we're hearing that from the other side, too.

They're talking similarly about the fact that they do feel that they're up against something really huge here. So let me just tell you all quickly that New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is a major church. It's a leader in this movement of the mega churches in America that is all about prosperity gospel.

I'm told we have a matter of seconds. I think we got to do this fast, but basically, the idea here is that this is a major, major figure in a major church that's watched all over the world. That's the impact today, Drew.

GRIFFIN: All right, Josh. Thanks so much. Josh, I want to check one thing. Just look at his web site -- not now but later. It looks like they have scrubbed some of the pictures of him. Fareed Zakaria and GPS who's scheduled for right now is going to begin after the break following this live coverage that we'd be giving you a press conference we thought with Bishop Eddie Long. Fareed Zakaria after the break. Thank you for joining us.