UPDATE: The elders of Harvest Bible Chapel have removed James MacDonald as a pastor and an elder “for engaging in conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church.” Read full statement here.
I never thought I would hear an evangelical, mega-church pastor talk about planting child pornography on the computer of an executive at a Christian publication. But today, Chicago radio personality Mancow Muller played shocking clips of someone sounding exactly like Harvest Bible Chapel Pastor James MacDonald discussing putting child porn on the computer of Christianity Today CEO Harold Smith.
Mancow told me he didn’t definitively identify MacDonald to protect himself from potential litigation. Yet MacDonald’s trademark voice, though somewhat distorted, was unmistakable. I’ve also now heard the complete 50 minutes of audio that Mancow referenced, and heard the clips in context, and they are credible. I’ve also reached out to MacDonald for comment, and he did not respond with either a confirmation or denial.
Mancow said he plans to air the entire 50-minute conversation on an upcoming podcast. I will save some of my comments about the recording until then.
But the clips Mancow played today are breathtaking. On them, the man who’s presumably MacDonald jokes about me having an affair with Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today (CT). That’s not funny. It’s disgusting. Galli and I have never had anything but a professional relationship, and it’s repulsive that anyone—a pastor, no less—would make a joke about that.
“Mancow told me that MacDonald had told him similar things—that I was a crazy woman attacking kids and had to be stopped. This is why Mancow said he urged MacDonald to sue me–a decision Mancow now regrets.”
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However, especially disconcerting to me is an excerpt where MacDonald alleges that I and “another person who used to attend (Harvest)” approached the houses of people who were victims in a DCFS investigation and shouted at them about a cover-up at Harvest. He alleges that I’m “off the rails” and predicts that in 30 days, I’m going to be “riding a tricycle with a midget on (my) shoulders.”
Mancow told me that MacDonald had told him similar things—that I was a crazy woman attacking kids and had to be stopped. This is why Mancow said he urged MacDonald to sue me–a decision Mancow now regrets.
This allegation by MacDonald is complete fabrication.
The only thing I can fathom that MacDonald could be referencing is a time in October when a Chicago Tribune reporter and I talked to the father of an alleged victim of Paxton Singer, the former Harvest youth pastor charged with sexual exploitation of a child.
I was working jointly with Tribune Reporter Matt Walberg to report the Singer story for the newspaper. At one point, the two of us had a brief and respectful conversation with the father of an alleged victim where we invited him to comment if he’d like. He declined. We gave him my phone number in case he changed his mind. And that was it. (Walberg said he and his family attended Harvest for several months about a decade ago, so I guess that’s where the reference to attending Harvest originated.)
I never actually wrote that story for the Tribune because in the middle of our investigation, Harvest sued me, which caused the Tribune to drop me from the story. However, Walberg—a 20-year veteran reporter who recently took a buyout from the Tribune—gave me the following statement regarding our time reporting together:
“I worked with Julie Roys in October on the story about the allegations against former Harvest Bible Chapel youth pastor Paxton Singer. In fact, I was working the story with her when she learned that she had been sued by Harvest Bible Chapel.
“The subsequent story on Singer’s arrest did not contain any indication that we did or did not speak to the victims or their families. It has been my long-standing practice not to comment beyond what has been published, so I can’t confirm whether I spoke with the victims or their families.
“However, I can say that I spent days working with Roys, conducted multiple joint interviews with multiple subjects, both in person and on the phone, and found her ethics, demeanor, and professionalism to be beyond reproach.”
Mark Galli today responded to MacDonald’s comments by confronting MacDonald for succumbing “to the temptation to slander me (Galli), threaten our CEO, and denigrate others.” CT says this is “unfortunate,” but “part of the life of journalism.”
“While I agree with Galli that journalism invites a certain amount of abuse, MacDonald’s behavior seriously crosses a line. It’s reprehensible and should be roundly denounced by evangelical leaders.”
While I agree with Galli that journalism invites a certain amount of abuse, MacDonald’s behavior seriously crosses a line. It’s reprehensible and should be roundly denounced by evangelical leaders.
UPDATE: Below is the entire hot mic recording, which has been posted on YouTube.