The All-Too-Believable Sadness of Mike Jones

2006_11_05_plunkett_pastorconfessed_ph_mike_jonesQUEERTY REPORTSThough he single-handedly brought down one of America’s most political and homophobic evangelical ministers, the latest revelations about Ted Haggard give former escort Mike Jones no joy. He’s broke, can’t get a boyfriend and despite many efforts to reach out to the gay community, is treated like a pariah. It’s a big week for Ted Haggard. He’s been on Oprah, Larry King and ABC News. Tonight, a documentary about his ‘redemption’ airs on HBO and earlier this week, Grant Haas, a 22-year-old New Life Church volunteer, has stepped forward with new allegations of non-consensual sexual contact with Ted– plus word that the New Life Church paid him to keep quiet. But for Mike Jones, who finds himself in the spotlight, once again, it’s just another week of hell. Queerty sat down with Mike and asked him whether he forgives Ted and why he thinks the gay community has shunned him.

How have you been with all the renewed media attention?

I’m tired. It’s nuts. It’s not fun. People may think it’s fun and glamorous, but it’s not.

Why are you doing all the press? You could just hide if you wanted.

I am so deep into this. I mean, there’s so much corruption being exposed now at New Life Church as a result of all of this. A bunch of hush money payments being made to a lot of people and it’s now being exposed. So this story is much bigger than even Ted Haggard now.

Did you know about Grant Haas before this week?

Yes, I was made aware of him from someone else. I knew about him a year ago. And I know of others, too who haven’t come forward yet. Several guys have actually sought me out to tell me their story.

In the New Life Church?

They were, yeah.

What was yr reaction to Grant’s coming forward?

It’s not so much, for me, about Grant coming forward per se, as it is my anger towards New Life Church. He approached New Life Church about what was going on with him and Haggard three weeks after my story broke and if New Life Church would have been upfront and honest at the time and said, ‘You know what, we have another gentleman whose just come forward, it certainly would have made my life a lot easier. Instead they chose to cover it up and eventually pay him hush money. Therefore, I was taking the whole beating and taking all the flak from a lot of different angles. I was the only one out there when, all along, I said, there’s others. I knew of others. I guess when Grant finally decided to come forward, through my encouragement, too, I asked him to show his face. It certainly was a little bit validating for me. I just have to be honest: It’s a little refreshing that when I tell people that what I told them from the very beginning it was true, it’s a little refreshing. But I sure could have used the honesty back when I broke the story.

Have you spoken with Grant at all?

I’ve talked to him, sure. We’ve met. We’ve communicated.

[The gay community’s reaction] has really slighted my whole energy level as far as fighting for gay rights.

Did you tell him what you told me just now? That you wished he had come forward sooner?

Well, I don’t know I said, ‘I wished’ because he did come forward in a certain aspect. You have to understand what the New Lif Church is all about. It’s almost no different than the Catholic Church. It’s all about image. So, they just do whatever they can to protect themselves and make them look good. And New Life Church issued a statement when I came forward saying that it appears Mike Jones is the only man Ted Haggard had a relationship with and that certainly wasn’t true.

Have people come forward and said, “We’re sorry we didn’t believe you?”

Well, it’s funny. I think the people who have been really harsh on me– it would be nice if just one of them would come and say ‘ You know what? Forgive me for calling you a liar or for calling you nothing but seeking media attention. It would be nice if one of them could come forward and apologize to me. It’s interesting what’s happened, especially since I’ve had my video on YouTube. I’ve received probably 250 emails now as a result of that and I’d say 80 percent of them are from religious people or people at New Life Church actually offering me support or thanking me for coming forward. It’s kind of interesting that the group that I thought would blanket me with that was the gay community and it turns out that it’s actually the religious community that I’m getting the most support from.

We spoke when your book first came out and at that time, we talked about how disappointed you were by the gay community’s reaction to you. Has that changed at all?

It’s actually gotten worse, I think, since way back when. I don’t know. It’s just puzzles me. It disappoints me. It actually angers me. And I will soon get over it, but I will tell you, it’s really slighted my whole energy level as far as fighting for gay rights. There’s a big conference, I think this weekend, going on in Denver with the [National Gay & Lesbian] Task Force and I have zero desire to even participate.

What sort of things have happened that’s made you feel this way?

Just the lack of support! To this day, nobody from HRC [The Human Rights Campaign], who I reached out to at the beginning for some help, as my world was collapsing, still to this day has never called me or even made any attempt to check up on me. Nothing. I offered to every group I could think of that I’ve had access to, anything I could do to help out Proposition 8. Not one of them got back with me and said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ Nobody would get back with me. I’ve exposed one of the biggest anti-gay-marriage people around within the evangelical community and I just feel like all people remember is ‘Oh, he was just a prostitute.’ What a shame that people still look at me that way. They need to forget about that part and really come to the realization of what I actually did for the sake of the gay community. I exposed myself and I took a lot of heat for that, so I feel a bit hurt.

mike

Well, before this week’s revelations, what’s been happening with your life lately?

It’s pretty much been two years of depression, to be honest with you. I’ve really had a hard time. See, there’s a difference living in Colorado. I’ve known this documentary has been going to come out for two years and I knew eventually some of these other guys are going to start talking. I know more are probably going to soon, too. So, you know, in Denver, I’ve always been in the center of it. There’s been stuff that’s come out, through the Church and through Haggard and some other people, that just keeps coming out. So, this has been like a cancer that doesn’t ever go away– and it eats at me every single day. Now, I haven’t had any money to get any counseling or anything. I’ve been pretty much picking around where I can and I’ve had a couple of people help put a roof over my head. Some people who don’t know what it’s like think it’s so easy to say, ‘Oh, just move on, move on, Mike’. Well, I’m sorry. I’m in a small group in this entire world who knows what it’s like for something like this and it’s not as easy to say, ‘I’m moving on.’ Sorry.

Have you ever thought of leaving Denver?

Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s really hard. You know, I’m fourth generation. This is my home and it’s very difficult. I just don’t know where to go. It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, just pick up and move’, but you have to have some money to relocate and I just don’t have that right now.

I want a boyfriend … I’m very lonely.

The central premise of the Trials of Ted Haggard is that Ted Haggard deserves forgiveness. What was your reaction when you first heard about it?

I’ve made my peace with Ted Haggard within myself. He has publicly apologized to me. He has actually publicly stated, ‘Thank God for Mike Jones’, because otherwise he said his life would probably continue to spiral out of control. So, I have made my peace. He was on the Oprah Show [yesterday] and Oprah, they were in contact with me and were thinking about having me and and finally said to me that they felt I was irrelevant to the story now. And I was like, ‘Whatever!’ But ironically, they asked for clips of me from the news station and also asked me to write a letter to Ted Haggard that supposedly, they read to him on the program, but whether or not they show that, I don’t know. One of the lines in my letter that I wrote to him is, ‘My sadness is that you chose to make your comeback so publiclly, because not only are you opening old wounds, you’re opening new ones.’ Because I knew what was down the pike. This was filmed a couple of weeks ago and I knew this kid was coming out. So, it was my sadness that he chose this route to do it so publically, when I thought it would have been more honorable for him to do it quietly.

Do you forgive the New Life Church?

Well, I don’t think I’m at that point yet. They have a lot of answering to do with all this hush money stuff that they’ve been paying people. I have a friend that made an interesting comment. He goes, ‘Isn’t it funny Mike, that everybody has made money off this that has lied, but you told the truth and you’ve made nothing.’ I go, ‘That’s true.’

What do you want to do, moving forward?

I want a boyfriend. I need someone to rub my back at night. I’m very lonely. It’s funny when I try to date– even with people who don’t know who I am, I eventually have to fess up, because I don’t want them to be shocked or surprised when someone approaches me or they see me on TV. It’s amazing how then, the dating stops. I guess I’m still kind of a hot potato and people have these images of me. You know, I’ve made my bed. I kind of have to sleep in it, now. But, I’m lonely. And I need to find a job. I really would like to get on with a normal life. People think it’s so easy to put a period and move on. Well, for me, it’s not. This thing eats at me day and night. I can’t do something, almost, without thinking about it in some way, shape or form. It’s just something I need to deal with, but it’s taking quite a bit of time for me.

If there’s one thing you would want people to know about Mike Jones that you don’t think they know or don’t understand, what would it be?

Basically, that I didn’t do it for fame or fortune. I think that’s what really make me sad is that people still don’t believe my motive and I don’t know what to do.I think if people need to understand that if I were doing it for money, I would of had a book deal signed before I ever exposed him. I would of had a P.R. person ready. I would of had all this stuff in place. Instead, I just came out with it. Like I said, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but it makes me sad that people keep accusing me of motives. I don’t know how to tell people differently, but I guess people have to think the way they want to think. One thing I’ve discovered is that there’s an awful lot of jealousy out there within the gay community towards me. How dare he get all this attention? How dare he get all this, this? I’m sorry, ok? I stepped into the public limelight doing what I though was right and I can’t help that this is the consequence of it. And see, I can’t read blog comments at all. I can’t read any of them. People are so nasty. It makes me so depressed and brings me to tears so many times because of teh things they say about me. So, I can’t even read any of that stuff any more.