Swaggart contrite after antigay remark

‘Tongue-in-cheek’ comment draws fire

In the face of public backlash and concerns that have reached Canadian broadcasters, Baton Rouge televangelist Jimmy Swaggart said Tuesday he regrets telling his congregation at a recent televised worship service that if a gay man ever looks at him romantically, “I’m going to kill him and tell God he died.”

“It was a tongue-in-cheek statement best left unsaid. I won’t make it anymore,” Swaggart said in an interview Tuesday.

A Toronto television station’s broadcast of the service produced a complaint before the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a private, self-regulating industry group that enforces broadcast standards, said Ann Mainville-Neeson, the group’s executive director.

Audio clips purporting to be of the Sept. 12 Swaggart service have begun circulating on gay-oriented Web sites.

“I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry,” Swaggart says to audience laughter on one Internet link. “And I’m going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I’m going to kill him and tell God he died,” Swaggart adds, to more laughter and applause.

Swaggart said Tuesday he was talking too loosely about killing, using it casually as a figure of speech. “I’ve said it about other people, including other preachers,” he said.

Gay advocacy groups say such language encourages violence against gay men and lesbians.

Swaggart said he did not see his remarks in that light. “Good gracious alive, it would be a long stretch of the imagination to come up with that,” he said.

Even so, he said, “I was unwise in making the statement. All of us have made statements we wish we hadn’t made. That was one for me.”

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