Alexandra Pelosi on Ted Haggard’s ‘I’m-Super-Sorry’ Publicity Tour

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Haggard and Pelosi together at an HBO press event. Photo: FilmMagic

Tonight, HBO airs Alexandra Pelosi's doc The Trials of Ted Haggard — but it has already triggered a massive Ted Haggard Prostration-Redemption Tour (Oprah yesterday, Larry King today) and new allegations that the meth-using, prostitute-hiring reverend's church had paid off a man 30 years his junior. Despite all that, Pelosi told New York's Logan Hill why Haggard won't be the next McGreevey-ite celebrity.

In your film, Haggard acts like he's reluctant to to rehash things, but now he's doing Oprah!
I know! Here's why: Gay. Sex. Scandal. Church. Now I'm thinking, how can I make another movie that involves a gay sex scandal in a church?

And everything he's saying on TV is different than what he told you. Is he lying again or just confused?
What's weird is that he hasn't fully formed his answer. He's going through all of this in public. He's working out his sexuality live on television. "Are you gay?" "Well, I'm … kind of …" I genuinely believe that he has been forced to come up with an answer to these things that he's worked 53 years to ignore.

The last few days have been bizarre.
There's the petty catfight with the church. This new allegation came, which makes you wonder who's behind getting that out? [Ed: A young man says that he was 23 and Haggard 52 when the reverend masturbated in front of him and offered him crystal meth. The church allegedly reached a six-figure settlement with him to keep it quiet.] And why would the media enjoy it? I think the reason why we secular ungodly New Yorkers are soaking it in is we are tired of being judged by the holier-than-thou, finger-wagging preachers, [and] are feeling vindicated. Like, "See, we told you!"

You really hammer the church's hypocrisy.
The basic point of the church is to help people with their sin. Ted came out and said, "I'm a sinner," and they're like, "Here's some money. Get out of town." The other point, which Ted makes in the film, is that churches are huge corporations. Ted's biggest sin was that bad publicity is bad for business.

His church still seems furious.
In the sermon on Sunday, the preacher, Brady Boyd, said: "Anyone else who feels they've been violated by Ted, please come forward." They want to build a case against Ted, to discredit him, because they think [the film] is too compassionate of a portrait. I really think that gay is the cultural divide in America, not abortion. The evangelicals versus the gays, and Ted is just right there, falling into the crack between them, saying, "I'm an evangelical, and I struggle with my sexuality …" He doesn't want to say he's gay.

He can't even say whether he supports gay marriage or not. Again, is he lying or just confused?
I think he just doesn't know himself. I think deep down, he feels one way, and what he can say is something totally different. People like Ted Haggard, who have gay affairs, they say, "I am not gay." Because to them, "gay" is dancing in your Speedo on Fifth Avenue in the Gay Pride Parade, living in Chelsea with your time-share in Fire Island. Larry Craig was the same way. "Oh, no, I'm not gay! I may fool around with men in bathrooms in airports, but I'm not gay!" Gay friends of mine say, "He should come out of the closet." And I'm like, "What you don't understand is, he thinks gay is you, living in Chelsea. He's got five kids and a wife."

He's the ultimate unreliable narrator. How'd you deal with that?
He says, "I kept this a secret because I knew if I told people, then they would cast me out. And they did." That's the point of the movie. I don't really get into the whole thing about Ted and his gayness, because that's all really offensive. He says gay is like alcoholism, and that's really offensive. He says it's like cancer, and that's really offensive. He says a lot of offensive things.

Like that he's gay because he was sexually abused ...
That's offensive, and it's obnoxious. He obviously has issues. I do think that he's hinting that he went through an anti-gay therapy.

And then he says he wants to be a therapist! Wouldn't he be the worst therapist imaginable?
Well, I think he's gonna end up selling life insurance.

Do you think he could ever make a comeback in the church?
No. Unless he was gay. Unless he said, "I'm gonna start a church for gay Americans, gay evangelicals." Jim McGreevey said, "I'm a gay American."

McGreevey-wise, do you think he's doing all this press to get a book deal?
No, because I don't think he has an audience. Evangelicals don't like him and gays don't like him. That's the thing about a book or a church or whatever — where is his following?

Haggard told a reporter that your mother, Nancy Pelosi, sent him words of comfort through you. Was that true?
No.

But of course you've talked to your mother about Ted Haggard.
Of course … in passing. I do remember having one big conversation with Ted and saying that my mom always says, "God is bigger than that," because she does, but I think he picked up something my mom said and took it heart. Sometimes some little thing I say in a story just gets recalled as a Nancy Pelosi story. "Nancy Pelosi supported him in his darkest moment?" That's a stretch. And now every single story about the film says, "Nancy Pelosi's daughter." Why? Where's the relevance?

Oh, come on … you know what the relevance is. You say you don't make political films, but your subjects are the most charged political people in the country and Mom's speaker of the House.
Oh, I'm not being naïve. I'm not stupid, and I'm not complaining. And I'm a proud, liberal, flag-waving, gay-loving Democrat and I have no problem with that. It's not like I'm Michael Reagan …. Well, maybe that answers your first question, just wrap it all up, which is, "Why did he let you in the door?" Well, maybe deep down he was a loser and he was a nobody, and he had an HBO person who had a mother whose name he knew. Ted was happy I was there. Maybe that reveals, deep, deep down, he knew that I was somebody. Maybe if I took my husband's name and he never knew my mother, maybe he wouldn't have let me in the front door.

Your next film is about the conservatives who hated Obama during the campaign.
Anyone that watches HBO will hate me, because I'm talking to all these people who hate Obama. I have to enjoy this moment, because in three weeks they're gonna be writing incredibly nasty things, because I'm the one that's trying to end the Obama honeymoon. It's punk rock. The new subversive is putting anti-Obama stuff on television!

You won't get on Oprah for that one, though.
That's totally true. Then again, maybe the reason Oprah was so nice to Ted was because she probably relates to him in a lot of ways. She's not married with children, you know? Maybe she relates to some of the things he's saying. You know what I mean?