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Price strikes back at ABC
Although he does live in a pricey Palos Verdes home and owns two Bentley automobiles, the Rev. Frederick K.C. Price says his lifestyle is not nearly as extravagant as was suggested on the news magazine “20/20.”
Although he does live in a pricey Palos Verdes home and owns two Bentley automobiles, the Rev. Frederick K.C. Price says his lifestyle is not nearly as extravagant as was suggested on the news magazine “20/20.”

South L.A.-based televangelist, a pioneer of the “prosperity gospel” movement” sues the television network for suggesting that he lives an opulent lifestyle.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Despite the broadcasting of two retractions and the posting of another on its Web site, the Rev. Frederick K. Price, founder of the Crenshaw Christian Center, through his lawyers and a spokesman, said he will continue his lawsuit against ABC and its “20/20” news magazine, alleging defamation.

“[The church wants] to put this in front of a jury,” said Tony Knight, a spokesman for Price, adding that the 75-year-old minister believed the two retractions were worse then the actual March 23 broadcast. “This [lawsuit] is the only way we’re going to put our story out there.”

“I don’t know if we’ve seen the lawsuit yet,” said ABC spokesperson Jeff Schneider. “I do know that we’ve made a full apology to Dr. Price. And I think the retraction has been seen by millions of people.”

According to Schneider, the retraction was first aired May 11 — one on the network’s “Good Morning America” and the other on “20/20.”

“We sincerely regret making any mistakes, obviously — in particular [to] the video,” Schneider said. “[Price] knew that we were going to apologize and how we were going to apologize — and that we did apologize.”

“We always want to get things right, as all journalists,” Schneider added. “Do we make mistakes from time to time? Yes, we’re all human beings.”

The lawsuit, filed July 24, seeks “general damages according to proof at trial,” for “special damages according to proof at trial,” for “exemplary and punitive damages,” for “costs of suit incurred herein,” and for “such other and further relief as the court deems just and proper.”

Besides alleging defamation, the lawsuit also accuses the network of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Price’s complaint stems from a “20/20” broadcast headlined “Enough,” featuring ABC news correspondent John Stossel reporting on the supposedly extravagant lifestyles of wealthy ministers — based upon them secretly spending their congregation’s donations on themselves.

During the news broadcast, “20/20” aired an excerpt from a sermon first seen on The Lifetime Network in 1997, in which Price’s [words] were taken out of context.

During the excerpt from the sermon, Price talks about living in a “25-room mansion, I have my own $6 million yacht, I have my own private jet and I have my own helicopter and I have seven luxury automobiles” in preaching about a hypothetical person who has great wealth but lives a spiritually unfulfilled life.

Officials at the Crenshaw Christian Center have even gone so far as to put the sermon in question on the church’s Web site as well as on You Tube.

While Price does own a Palos Verdes home, which he bought in 1989 — it is nowhere near the 25-room mansion he spoke about in the sermon, Knight said. Price also owns two Bentleys, one of them a gift from two parishioners, Knight added.

The lawsuit reads that Price’s salary, which church officials declined to disclose, is “commensurate with his duties.”

Also named as a defendant in the lawsuit was Ole Anthony and Trinity Foundation, a watchdog ministry founded by Anthony in 1972, who provided “20/20” with the Price footage. Anthony serves as the foundation’s president.

The suit also names the Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, and “20/20” co-anchor Stossel.

“I’ve been sued so many times that I could play an attorney on television,” said Anthony, who added that he furnishes footage of religious services to all of the networks. “This is common for me, for the work that we do.”

His organization, he said, investigates religious fraud.

“We have never done a pro-active investigation on Rev. Price. All we did was provide ABC [with] some footage,” he said. “All of this is still new to me. I haven’t been served or anything.”

The Crenshaw Christian Center opened in Inglewood in 1973 with 300 parishioners, before purchasing the former Pepperdine University Campus in 1984 and constructing their current complex —and, along the way, growing into a 22,000-member church.

Price also founded, in August 1990, the Fellowship of Inner-City Word of Faith Ministries, an international fellowship of ministers and pastors whose religious philosophy is based on the belief that economic prosperity can be achieved through a faith-based, God-centered life.

- Photo by Gary McCarthy


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