A Tennessee megachurch pastor is on "sabbatical" after being caught on video having an alleged extramarital affair with an employee of the congregation.
Last month, the video showed Pastor Tavner Smith of Venue Church in Chattanooga kissing the woman in a restaurant, prompting at least eight staff members to resign.
In addition to the video, a group of church volunteers who visited Smith's home in November found him alone with the woman — "she in a towel, he in his boxers," the Daily Beast reports. Smith and the woman reportedly claimed they took off their clothes after getting food on them while making hot dogs and chili.
In fact, Smith still has not publicly admitted the affair, despite announcing his sabbatical earlier this month. His wife accused him of adultery in their ongoing divorce case, and requested that the female employee not be permitted around their three children. The female employee's husband has also filed for divorce, according to the Daily Beast.
After the video surfaced, Smith reportedly called a meeting with his staff and others to address it. One former church member who attended the meeting said he was "evasive and refused to answer questions directly," the Daily Beast reports.
“I think that’s the biggest thing: He has no remorse,” the former church member said. “Somebody told me he sees nothing wrong with the decision because he truly believes that’s what God told them to do."
Smith's divorce case also revealed that he was earning about $200,000 per year, and that he and his wife owned three houses worth a combined $1 million, according to the Daily Beast. That's in addition to the church building, which is worth $4.9 million. Smith frequently stressed the importance of tithing in his sermons.
The Daily Beast reports that nearly all of the church's full-time employees have resigned. Services were briefly suspended in Chattanooga, while a Georgia campus of the church closely entered.
Employees, members and volunteers "are still struggling to come to terms with the maelstrom that left one of the country’s fastest-growing megachurches in shambles," the Daily Beast reports.
“Everyone used to say, ‘Venue is a cult, Venue is a cult,’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s not,’” said one volunteer who witnessed the chili incident. “And now as I look back I’m like, ‘I don’t think I was in a Godly place.’”
Colt Helton, who volunteered at Venue for more than seven years, said Smith "flaunted his growing wealth over the years through designer duds and new cars," adding that he "stopped recognizing the church he had joined."
“The whole church kinda turned into this kinda shoe and jersey fetish,” Helton said.
Helton alleged that Venue "has taken advantage of vulnerable people to build the church ranks: low-income workers sucked in by the prosperity gospel, lonely people just looking for somewhere to go."
“There were many times people said, ‘We would die for this place,’” he said. “And I was like, ‘Y’all have lost your ever-loving minds.’”
Read more here, and watch the video that surfaced in December below.
Former president Donald Trump and his family are facing "existential" threats from ongoing criminal investigations in New York and Georgia, according to MSNBC political analyst and Trump biographer Tim O'Brien.
"I think you're going to start to see this vice squeeze in," O'Brien said Saturday. "The Trumps will happily throw underlings under the bus as this gets hotter. I think the question is whether or not the family members will turn on one another as it goes up the food chain."
"The Manhattan DA's case has existential consequences to it," O'Brien added. "Donald Trump and perhaps his children could end up in orange jumpsuits if that case goes the full route. That's not going to be the case with (New York AG) Letitia James' prosecution, that's a civil case. I also think the Georgia case has an existential threat. Donald Trump acting like a 19th-century ward heeler, called up the secretary of state and said find me some votes, and there's proof of that, there's evidence."
Watch the full interview below.
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Roger Stone blasted fellow Trump crony Jason Miller and his social media platform Gettr on Saturday.
"You can always tell when Jason Miller of Gettr is lying—his lips are moving," Stone wrote on another right-wing site, Gab. "In the 40 years I have been in American politics, I have never met a bigger more despicable piece of sh*t. I got him his job with Donald Trump in 2016."
According to Newsweek, Stone made the comments while sharing an article from Mother Jones titled "Leaked Messages Show Gettr in Crisis Mode Over Joe Rogan Criticism."
"Earlier this month, Rogan announced that he would be joining Gettr, which Miller and the social media site quickly used to promote the platform," Newsweek reports. "However, Rogan then criticized Gettr for inflating his follower count and even suggested that he was interested in getting rid of his account."
"You have like 9 million followers on Gettr," comedian and podcast host Tim Dillon told Rogan on Jan. 10.
"It's not real, though," Rogan replied. "Gettr doesn't even have 9 million people. ... This is where the f*ckery is. They take all my Twitter followers ... and then they port those over."