Larry King Live: Oral Roberts’ Son On Spending Scandal

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, scandal in the bible belt — series wrongdoing alleged at Oral Roberts University against the founder’s son.

Did Richard Roberts and his wife launder money, misuse funds and retaliate against those who blew the whistle?

Is this a rush to judgment or a case of justified outrage?

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Hear firsthand from the couple at the heart of the controversy. Richard and Lindsay Roberts defend themselves tonight. Family patriarch, Oral Roberts, calls in. It’s exclusive.

And Jimmy Carter in the killing zone — he puts himself on the front lines to speak for those who can’t. The former U.S. president gets in the face of authorities in volatile Darfur. Direct — he’s defiant and down home. He witnessed the horror firsthand.

Jimmy Carter is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Three former Oral Roberts University professors have filed a lawsuit against Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts and several high ranking university administrators. The professors allege that they were wrongfully separated from the university for voicing concerns about ORU’s allegedly inappropriate involvement in a local political campaign and for providing evidence to ORU officials by alleged improprieties by the Roberts family. The lawsuit alleges that Roberts bankrolled a luxurious way of life for himself and his family, members using monies from the university’s coffers.

We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Richard Roberts, the president of Oral Roberts University, CEO and chairman of the Evangelist Association, the board of trustees. He’s the son of Oral Roberts — the famed Oral Roberts, who may be calling in.

And Lindsay Roberts, his wife, a member of the Oral Roberts University Board of Regents and executive vice president of the Evangelistic Association.

OK, recently — that suit hasn’t — the suit has not been filed yet, right?

RICHARD ROBERTS, PRESIDENT, ORAL ROBERTS UNIVERSITY, SON OF LEGENDARY EVANGELIST ORAL ROBERTS: Well, it’s been filed, Larry… LINDSAY ROBERTS, WIFE OF ORAL ROBERTS UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT RICHARD ROBERTS: It’s been filed, not served.

R. ROBERTS: …but it hasn’t been served on us.

KING: It hasn’t been served.

OK.

Let’s take it point by point, Richard.

The candidate, they claim — the litigants claim that you asked them to support a political candidate running for mayor of Tulsa. The candidate lost. He said he was ordered — the people were ordered to take responsibility when the IRS investigated complaints, because as a university, you can’t support political candidates.

How do you respond?

R. ROBERTS: Larry, I didn’t ask or coerce anybody to do that. That’s not true.

KING: Just plain out not true?

R. ROBERTS: It’s not true. I didn’t do that. Oral Roberts University has had a longstanding policy with our government students to be involved in campaigns. And students have campaigned for Republicans, for Democrats — I don’t know about Independents. But it’s sort of a lab experience the government students have. And they do that in most universities. Most government students on university campuses are a part of some type of political campaign to gain experience.

KING: And they can do that…

R. ROBERTS: Yes, they can do that.

KING: That’s not in violation of…

R. ROBERTS: That’s legal. But it is correct, we don’t ever endorse a candidate as a university. However, as an individual, we have a right. But not as an university or an…

KING: Did you ask these professors to do anything?

R. ROBERTS: Absolutely not.

KING: Nothing?

R. ROBERTS: And we’ve had a longstanding policy of supporting candidates all across the country and helping them with their races.

KING: What do you make of this?

R. ROBERTS: Well, Larry, I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. It’s the most unusual thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. KING: This a shot out of the blue?

R. ROBERTS: It’s a shot out of the blue and I’m — I’m very concerned over it.

KING: Do you know these professors well?

R. ROBERTS: Of course. I know them very well.

KING: Were they dismissed for any reason?

R. ROBERTS: One was terminated, one’s contract was not renewed and one resigned.

KING: But having nothing to do with this?

R. ROBERTS: I don’t think so. No.

KING: What do you make of it, Mrs. — Lindsay?

What do you make of it?

L. ROBERTS: Well, I don’t know them, as far as professors. I’m not employed by the university. And I have never been in the government department where they did anything like this. I never had a conversation with them at any time whatsoever about support — don’t support a candidate, endorse this, endorse this. Never, ever one time have I ever done that — not had a conversation at all with them. None.

KING: Well, this very hard to understand then.

Well, why didn’t you call them up?

R. ROBERTS: Pardon?

KING: When they made this lawsuit, why didn’t you call them up and say, what are you talking about?

R. ROBERTS: I did. I tried. I tried to call Dr. Swails and he refused to take my call. He said you’ll have to talk to my lawyer. I made an effort to call him.

KING: Did your lawyer call his lawyer?

R. ROBERTS: No, I think his lawyer called ours.

KING: And?

R. ROBERTS: And nothing was made of it. They said let us know if there was a lawsuit filed. And there was a letter that was received saying that there is going to be a lawsuit, I’ve been retained to represent these people and there’s going to be a lawsuit.

KING: So you are totally shocked?

R. ROBERTS: I’m extremely shocked.

KING: All right, let’s deal with the next item.

The candidate lost — all right, but that was nothing compared to what the professors say happened next, after the candidate lost. They claim it started with a computer belonging to your sister-in-law.

Would that be your wife’s sister?

L. ROBERTS: My sister. Uh huh.

R. ROBERTS: Yes, that’s right.

L. ROBERTS: Stephanie.

KING: She loaned the computer to one of the students to use during the campaign. It was while he was in possession of the lone computer that he discovered these files were stored on the hard drive. The contents of the files described in the lawsuit portrays Richard Roberts and his wife as big spenders, using the school’s resources for personal luxury and their personal friends. Allegations include using the university jet to send daughter and friends to the Bahamas, remodeling the Roberts’ home at university expense 11 times in 14 years and spending $51,000 on clothes and then renovating a spacious home office into a massive walk-in.

R. ROBERTS: Which would you like me to address?

KING: Let’s go one by one.

Did you use any funds for private …?

R. ROBERTS: Larry, my sister-in-law, Stephanie, is my government and community liaison for the Tulsa community and for government affairs throughout the city of Tulsa, the State of Oklahoma and the nation. I asked her some years ago if she would be eyes and years to me and tell me what was going on.

From time to time, she would make notes from things that she heard and she would always write them down. And then she would bring them to me. Three years ago, she brought a number of things to me that she heard via the rumor mill and she put it in writing. And that’s what you’re referring to.

She showed it to me. I laughed, because they were so preposterous and so untrue. And I said, Stephanie, there’s nothing to this.

But she claims that that — that something happened there with that computer — with her computer and…

KING: What do you mean?

R. ROBERTS: …someone has, you know…

L. ROBERTS: The stories that…

KING: Fooled with her computer?

R. ROBERTS: Well…

L. ROBERTS: Well, the story that I knew, because I had heard what she had said and talked to us about it, and the same thing. On Oral Roberts University campus, in the city of Tulsa, all around the universe, you’re going to get people that say things. And they have a rumor of this, they talk of this.

But you know what?

It may be political, it may be personal, it may be university, it may be educational. And it’s very simple to make very simple notes. She is — I hope I can tell — she’s dyslexic. We have several members of our family, including me and two of my daughters.

R. ROBERTS: She writes everything down.

L. ROBERTS: And everything is in kind of like a shorthand, little code. And it’s very easy to understand what stuff is hers and how she writes. She told us that this was own personal computer, had brought in this young man to upload some of the names for the campaign he was working on.

R. ROBERTS: Which some of the students were working on.

L. ROBERTS: Now, upload is put it in. And then she said to us that it was taken out and from then on the story is goofy. But there was only a handful of little, tiny — we had seen the little, tiny jots and notes and scribbles and, hey, what about this?

Three years ago, he saw it and he dismissed it so much that I didn’t even see it.

KING: You’ve never had any additions done to your house paid for by the university?

L. ROBERTS: Additions, no. I’ve had — we have a problem in Tulsa with black mold. We have really, really black mold in Tulsa. We have had to rip out a floor. We’ve had to rip out…

R. ROBERTS: Some walls.

L. ROBERTS: …walls.

KING: Did the university paid for it?

L. ROBERTS: The university paid for that…

R. ROBERTS: Yes.

L. ROBERTS: Yes. It’s a university home. We had hail damage.

R. ROBERTS: It was causing health issues in our family, because of the black mold.

L. ROBERTS: We moved out almost…

KING: The university owns the house?

L. ROBERTS: …we moved out for three years.

R. ROBERTS: That’s correct.

L. ROBERTS: Yes.

KING: Still to come, former President Carter joins us shortly.

But up next, Richard Roberts’ father, the legendary Evangelist, Oral Roberts, calls in to respond to this suit, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM BROOKER, FORMER ORU PROFESSOR: She loaned her computer to one of the students to use during the campaign. And it was while he was in possession of the loaned computer that he discovered these files, which were stored on the hard drive. And the things that were in those files, if untrue, would be so damaging that they could never recover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what is God telling you?

JOHN SWAILS, FORMER ORU PROFESSOR: He’s telling us that he put us in this position and he’s directing us to make this stand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1993)

ORAL ROBERTS: Richard, your mother and I are honored that you’re our son. We believe that you’re anointed by God, chosen by the Lord to be the second president. As the founder and first president for the first 30 years, I pray that you will have 30 years. And I’m just delighted that the medal is on you and now off of me. Praise the lord.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Richard Roberts and Lindsay Roberts remain with us in answer to these incredible charges.

And we are joined now by phone with Oral Roberts, the famed chancellor and founder of Oral Roberts University.

Can you hear me OK, Oral?

ORAL ROBERTS, FOUNDER, ORAL ROBERTS UNIVERSITY: Yes, I can, Larry.

And it’s so good to hear your voice.

KING: Good to hear yours. What’s your reaction to this lawsuit?

O. ROBERTS: What?

KING: Can you hear me?

Hello?

O. ROBERTS: Well, like my son says, it was a surprise and a sort of a shock. But we have been through tough experiences in building Oral Roberts University, beginning back in the 1960s. And we have survived them all and have built a university that we believe is for the glory of God.

And when I heard this, I immediately went to the rules that the board of regents and I had set up years ago to handle any kind of allegation that came against the university. And we put those into place immediately. And I’m so proud that Richard and Lindsay have taken the lead. And I’m proud of them now.

KING: What do you make of the suit?

How shocked are you?

What do you make of the charges?

O. ROBERTS: Well, if I had not been experienced for 60 years in the healing ministry, facing certain types of allegations from time to time, I might have been terribly shocked. But I know my family. I know my son and daughter-in-law. I know my university. I know the 41-member board of regents. And I know the high standards we have. And I know, also, that I will be faithful and we will be faithful to the friends and partners who made Oral Roberts University possible.

KING: What counsel are you giving your son and daughter-in-law?

O. ROBERTS: I’m sorry?

I’m giving counsel to my daughter-in-law that the board of regents is going to — well it has already found an outside firm that’s never been a part of Oral Roberts University to look at each allegation separately, to check it out intimately and to report back. And if — if there is anything out of line, we will bring it into order, like we have always done. That’s exactly where I stand.

KING: Lindsay, one of the allegations, your university bankrolled cell phone bills, sometimes at $800 a month, including hundreds of text messages, sent in the middle of the night to underage males who had been provided phones at university expense.

Did you do that?

L. ROBERTS: OK. I have three daughters. At the time, this was written, it was teenagers. We have cell phones that have, I think, an unlimited text. That’s what we looked at. We give those cell phones to our kids. They take what I consider to be relatively good care of it. And then if they have friends over and they want their friends to go home and their kids don’t have phones, I’ve given their cell phones. I’ve called their parents, text messaged. He text messages. We actually use each other’s phones. So to say that my daughter didn’t pick up my phone and text messaged her boyfriend, that’s entirely possible.

Did I text messaged and say, did you guys get home OK?

Did I text messaged — I had one little girl…

KING: But no — you’re saying nothing improper?

L. ROBERTS: No, sir. No.

R. ROBERTS: Larry, if I might add, Lindsay and I, for years, have had a special ministry to troubled kids — to kids who had been on alcohol and drugs. It’s not something that we publicize, because we don’t want to draw attention to those kids. But for years we have reached out to kids who’ve suffered with drug and alcohol problems. We’ve helped them when they’ve been in and out of jail. We’ve helped them when they’ve come to our home drunk. And we’ve brought them and had them spent the night in our home and then gotten our bibles out and counseled them the next morning when they were sober and tried to help them. We’ve text messaged them. We’ve taken their phone calls at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. That’s not something that we talk about, Larry. But we’ve had a ministry to these kids for years.

KING: Oral, thanks you for being with us. And continued good health.

O. ROBERTS: Yes.

KING: Good health, Oral.

Oral Roberts joining us.

We’ll come back some more moments with his son and daughter-in- law.

And then we’ll meet Jimmy Carter.

Don’t go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

R. ROBERTS: Make no mistake, about it, this suit is about money. We thought, maybe this isn’t true.

SWAILS: We hope this isn’t true.

R. ROBERTS: So we began to pray.

R. ROBERTS: Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person, whether they have a legitimate case or not.

BROOKER: We’re interested in truth and mercy and justice. R. ROBERTS: When the real truth is known, there will be no more questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We’ll get to some e-mails. Another allegation, that Oral Lee’s jet was used to take one of your daughters, plus friends, on a senior trip to Florida and the Bahamas, and the cost of the trip was billed to the Oral Roberts ministry as an Evangelistic function of the president.

R. ROBERTS: Larry, my daughter and several others went with me on the trip. It was not a senior trip. It was a preaching trip that I had in Florida and the Bahamas, because the regents who live in that area, who had asked me to come to help recruit students to ORU, and they asked me to bring kids with me. And I had to pay the university back for that. And, by the way, the jet is not owned by the university. It is a leased plane.

KING: All right.

Another allegation, that you personally awarded, Lindsay, 13 non- need-based scholarships to the kids of friends, including two who were academically ineligible.

L. ROBERTS: Well, first of all, the way we do scholarships is I am allowed, as a minister, to put a recommendation on. So if somebody sends me a recommendation, say they send one of these papers in Oral Roberts University minister’s recommendation. I fill it out, I send it in and it goes through a committee. I’ve never seen ACT scores. I don’t think that that’s privileged information. I think that only can only go in the kids’ files.

Now, if I k there’s kids and I know something about them and think they’re great kids, I’ll say you can call the school of admissions, you can go online…

KING: But you don’t give the scholarships?

R. ROBERTS: Absolutely not.

L. ROBERTS: We have a committee.

R. ROBERTS: There’s a committee that makes that decision.

KING: We have an e-mail from Barbara in Ashburn, Virginia: “It seems to me these recent allegations, whether true or false, beg the most fundamental questions — why didn’t you make every effort to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing? Why did you give your enemy an unnecessary opportunity to attack you?”

R. ROBERTS: Larry, I didn’t give my enemy any opportunity. But the enemy is out there. I’m doing everything I know correctly. L. ROBERTS: You know, Larry, I think that this is probably the most important thing that we’ve ever had to see. When it says — you say avoid the appearance of evil — one of the allegations said that my daughter — no, I think it was me and a male companion went to Branson. My daughter was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor. She was 15 years old. It was through a cancer treatment center. They wanted to do surgery the next week. I put her in the car alone, her and me, my daughter and I. We drove to Branson.

But as we were going — it’s a four hour trip and it was a night service. My husband said, you know, Lindsay, let’s call security and tell them that you’re not going to be home. So we told them, my daughter and I aren’t going to be home, don’t worry, we’re not there.

KING: So?

L. ROBERTS: So we drove to Branson with the security car behind us.

R. ROBERTS: Following them.

L. ROBERTS: Following us.

KING: An e-mail from Danny in Tulsa: “I’m an ORU alumnus. Why do the majority of ORU students and alumni appear to be grieved, but not surprised, by these allegations? Does it concern you that your excesses are so obvious that most people don’t appear to be shocked to hear of them?”

R. ROBERTS: Larry, all I know to do is — is — and you’re talking about the appearance of evil — avoiding the appearance of evil. All I know is to do exactly as I’m directed by the board of regents. Everything that I do as a president of the university is heavily scrutinized by the audit and compliance committee of the board of regents.

KING: So what you’re saying is you have never, to your knowledge, done anything wrong, improperly…

R. ROBERTS: I have not. I have not done anything wrong, Larry.

KING: So somebody is out to get you?

R. ROBERTS: It sure seems that way.

L. ROBERTS: It feels like…

KING: Well, what else could it be?

L. ROBERTS: It’s a wrongful termination of an employee of the university. I’m not employed by the university. My daughter is not employed. Some of the allegations deal with my and me, and I’m not even employed there.

R. ROBERTS: And I can’t say how much this has hurt my family. You know, it’s hurt my wife. It’s hurt me. It’s hurt our three children. KING: Another e-mail from Paul in San Francisco: “Would you consider stepping aside as president of ORU until the investigation into these allegations is complete? Would you be willing to step down?”

R. ROBERTS: Larry, I think that’s an inappropriate question. I have not done anything wrong for which I needed to step aside.

KING: So there’s no reason even to step aside, even with the appearance…

R. ROBERTS: And the — and in yesterday’s board of regents meeting, I got an overwhelming response of support from the board.

L. ROBERTS: We didn’t talk for about a week because they asked us not to, until they could start looking at things. But some of the things that were in there were so preposterous that there’s — there’s no way that we can even find any documentation of it. Some of the things they’ve said, like remodeling the house 11 times. You knock out a wall and hail damage is not like a huge remodeling. My furniture, I’m very proud to say, was from the chancellor and his wife, and it’s still there since they gave is it to us.

KING: I promise you both, we will do more on this.

I’m glad you came here.

R. ROBERTS: Larry, thank you…

L. ROBERTS: Thank you.

R. ROBERTS: …for this opportunity. And Larry…

L. ROBERTS: Thank you.

R. ROBERTS: …to the friends and partners of our ministry, thank you for standing with us.

KING: And I’m glad Oral called in.

R. ROBERTS: I’m so glad my dad called in.

L. ROBERTS: I am, too.

R. ROBERTS: He loves you, and so do we.

KING: I like him, too.

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