Last night disgraced Colorado Springs pastor Ted Haggard and wife Gayle Haggard graced American living rooms with their first appearance on ABC's "Celebrity Wife Swap" along with one-time Oscar nominee Gary Busey and Steffanie Sampson. The two women left written "manuals" for each other summarizing their family roles, political and religious views, and their daily routines.
Though Sampson is Busey's fiance and not strictly a wife partaking in the wife swap, viewers anticipated drama when she traded places with Gayle Haggard and travelled from Los Angeles to Colorado Springs. Sampson describes herself as "not involved in organized religion" and got a little testy with Ted Haggard over the topic of gay marriage.
The Haggards initially told FOX News that they decided to do the show because they wanted to "communicate hope to people."
"With so many people losing their homes and their jobs and families and so much turmoil going on right now, we thought with our story being the parents of a handicapped child and going through a scandal five years ago, that if people could actually see through the trauma that our family actually grew closer together," Haggard said.
In the manual Gayle Haggard wrote for Sampson in the episodee, Haggard's past is referred to as "the scandal."
The former pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals resigned in 2006 from his Colorado Springs-based New Life megachurch after allegations of a sexual relationship with a gay male escort surfaced. Yet the scandal just ended up launching the Haggards into the public eye and the family appeared in an episode of "Divorce Court" in 2009, Gayle Haggard wrote a book entitled "Why I Stayed," a TLC documentary aired with the title, "Ted Haggard: Scandalous," and Ted Haggard even made a cameo appearance in "The Waiting Game," a Christian sex comedy.
He has also since publicly endorsed 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, in part for Gingrich's own wife-swapping.
Ted Haggard, though he admitted last year to GQ writer Kevin Roose that he used methamphetamine to masturbate to gay and heterosexual porn, told Sampson he prefers to distinguish marriage as between a man and a woman but added that he believes in civil unions.
Welcome to the Haggard household where we ask you leave all your preconceived ideas about us at the door, keep an open heart and be open to learning who we truly are. I think you will be truly surprised when you get to know my family. We've been through a lot and we aren't afraid to face the world with the truth.
My husband was famous in the evangelic world for quite some time. The small church we started in our basement with just 30 people grew to a huge congregation of over 14,000 members! Unfortunately, Ted became somewhat of a 'celebrity' after a scandal that rocked our world about five years ago. It tore us away from everything we knew, but the one it did not do is rip our family apart. In fact, we became stronger through our healing.
Meanwhile Gayle Haggard accompanied Busey in an American Indian ceremony while she was in L.A. with the actor during which she is invited to be "cleansed" but declines. She must not have been too upset with the actor however since she later wrote Busey an acrostic poem:
"Genuinely accepted, Appreciated, Respected, yay."
A Facebook fan of "Celebrity Wife Swap" summed up his review of the first Haggard/Busey episode as follows:
I was appalled to see Ted Haggart on Celebrity Wife Swap. He should have declined when asked to be on the show. What made him a celebrity all of a sudden. Just sayin...God forgives, but his record is not too good.