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Randi and Popoff

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William Crawley | 10:02 UK time, Saturday, 9 December 2006

I meant to blog about this on Wednesday. I turned on the television in my hotel and found myself watching the televangelist Peter Popoff. This is the same Peter Popoff who was exposed as a fraud twenty years ago by the debuncker James Randi (I know: you couldn't make these names up). Popoff's amazingly accurate information about audience members at his faith healing gatherings wasn't prompoed by the Holy Spirit, but by his wife's voice in an ear-piece. You can watch the televised expose here:

When Randi's investigation became public, audiences at Popoff's events fell away immediately. He declared bankruptcy within the year. Twenty years later, here he is again, broadcasting coast-to-coast. He was offering "miracle spring water" to people in need of healing for a mere $28.30. Some would say that the real miracle here is that Popoff can still make money. But he's apparently doing very well in that regard. Miracle water anyone?


  • 1.
  • At 10:37 AM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • richard h b c wrote:

Religious people seem to be extremely gullible. Add American citizenship to that mix and you have a fraudster's paradise.

  • 2.
  • At 11:17 AM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:

Is that bankruptsy or bankruptcy william? ;-)

This is yet more top class evidence for nobody at anytime anywhere to believe in God.

Well thought through William ;-)


Patronising and bigoted comments such as Richard's (above) aside, Popoff is obviously a charlatan and a fraudster, pure and simple. In his recent emergence, Popoff is not on TBN, the national Christian network in America, he is buying time on only a few selected local stations, of which there are thousands across the States. Clearly the people who are donating to his 'ministry' at this point are unaware of his previous fraud, and I've read that people who have done so may be able to report their donation to the Attorney General to report that they were duped.

Randi's exposé is fascinating, and of course inspired the 1992 Steve Martin film 'Leap of Faith'. Oh to tap into that radio frequency and have some fun at Popoff's expense.

PB says: "This is yet more top class evidence for nobody at anytime anywhere to believe in God. Well thought through William ;-)"

Another one of your potshot mind-farts, PB? Please tell me where William even suggested that Popoff's fraud is evidence that belief in God is futile? Your comment doesn't even make sense. No sensible reader could take from this post what you did. I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't simply tune out everything I read from you on this blog, PB.

  • 5.
  • At 08:41 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:

Yes John I was being deliberately provocative.

But now that you are listening, here is the serious bit I really wanted to get across.

I stand to be corrected but I NEVER see William examine any issue where he portrays any form of traditional bible believing Christianity in a positive light.

It always seems to be controversy, heresy or anything which promotes "climate changers" as he put it on his recent blog entry.

There are many many decent Christian leaders out there making a solid contribution to their societies but I NEVER EVER EVER hear of them on William's blog or Sunday Sequence.


  • 6.
  • At 08:55 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:

ps Just to qualify that, you do hear some of them on from time to time, but they are only there to offer selected soundbites or essential minimal balance to the permenant humanist/liberal agenda of any given topic.

They are never the main guest or agenda setter in anything on this blog or Sunday Sequence.


I plead jet-lag. Bankruptcy it is. Thanks for the correction, pb. Thanks to John for his defence (or is that defense?) of my last post. To be ever clearer: The Popoff expose certainly does not disprove any religious claim (nor would a scientific fraud, of which there have been many, invalidate a particular scientific discipline).

  • 8.
  • At 11:38 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • helen maddan wrote:

Yes there are some very gullible people out there. I can't follow the pb comments . . . maybe we're reading different blogs here but f i were you pb I wouldn't be defensive of a charlatan like popoff.

PB- In another post, Jill asks you who you would like to see interviewed instead, since you don't appear to like the guest list as thus far proposed. I think it's a good question that might better shed light on exactly what you'd like to discuss? One or two names would be fine.

  • 10.
  • At 01:13 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


maybe you could also have a look at

"debucker" too ;-)

Guys you are all missing the point here.

re-read post 5 and you will see.

I made a provocative statement to highlight that William appears to only highlight stories and issues that undermine people who claim to be bible believing Christians, or their faith.

If your turn that on its head, it would appear that William never does a programme or blog which centres on reasons to believe in traditional Christianity; it is always undermining it.

Therefore there is logic behind my statement, that overall William's output puts out that message that everyone at all times should be sceptical about believing traditional Christianity. It would appear that would be a fair summary of William's views.

I'm not defending Popoff for a second, looks like he got what was coming and I applaud the journalist who exposed him.

As for my guest list, one thought that crops up is that instead of imposing the views of heretical church leaders from outside Northern Ireland upon normal Christians here, what about devoting the same number of programmes to interviewing church leaders from Northern Ireland about the views of the same heretical leaders? See the difference in agenda?

That would be much more sensible and in line with majority listener interest here. If the BBC was directly responsible to its listeners (ie commercial) then maybe this is what it would have to do anyway.


PB- Since one man's heresy is another man's orthodoxy, your reasoning doesn't make a lot of sense. And what do your kind of 'bible-believing' Christians have to say that we haven't already heard? To be frank, PB, the people in Northern Ireland have heard what they have to say more than perhaps any other worldview - if I was a BBCNI producer the last thing I'd want is to make my program redundant in the way you suggest. The movers and shakers and their ideas are the reason you're even interested in being here, PB. Their ideas are discussion-worthy. Instead of assuming that their interviews "undermine" your kind of traditional evangelicalism, it would make better sense to see the challenge as a worthwhile endeavour. Because I have to be honest, PB- someone who doesn't like encountering the well-hashed views of people who they find controversial leave me no confidence in the virtue of their own position.

  • 12.
  • At 04:28 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • jill jk wrote:


Name names. Your ideal list. come on ...

  • 13.
  • At 04:55 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Alister McGrath for starters

PB- You're in charge of producing next week's edition of Sunday Sequence. William's chatting with you about guests. Who are you interested in inviting?

  • 15.
  • At 05:19 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Anonymous wrote:

William S.F. Young #2

  • 16.
  • At 05:33 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Ravi Zacharias #3

  • 17.
  • At 07:34 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • David (Oxford) wrote:

Alister McGrath has been a guest on Sunday Sequence quite a few times. I think Crawley's friendly with him.

  • 18.
  • At 07:36 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Paul Benson wrote:

Never rated McGrath. What's so special about Ravi Z? Are these really the people you want to hear interviewed? I'd rather hear people with some original ideas rather than guys who repeat old ideas over and over again.

  • 19.
  • At 01:14 AM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


Ok, you ask me who I would invite, I make a suggestion, you shoot it down, nobody is surprised.

You can bicker over labels, I am saying I think it is fair that BBC NI Broadcasting should cater roughly proportionally to the breakdown of the NI population by religion.

I have no problem with other religions and none having the lead on occasion, it is just that it is a 99% humanist/liberal agenda at present.

What about some shows where Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists and Humanists take the stand and face the music too?

John, if it was 99% biblical Christian agenda you would be the very first to say it was being rammed down the throat of non-believing licence payers, you know you would!!!

And I do believe the liberal/humanist viewpoint should be strongly challenging the biblical Christian viewpoint in the show, because that reflects real life. Surprised?

I do not idolize any Christian leaders, which is unbiblical, so I point blank refuse to name names.

John you really can be a bit of a pain about labels, but perhaps this is your personal problem and it need not cause the producers such a headache.

I would rather recommend that among the other viewpoints represented, that people who clearly consider themselves to believe in the absolute authority and divine inspiration of the bible are given a presence roughly proportional to their percentage of the population. Dont pretend that nobody understands what that means John because it is perfectly clear.

A few themes that could be worth covering could be those from annual/regular non-denominational events such as Mandate, Summer Madness, New Horizons, and Mannafest, featuring key speakers from same, focussing on issues facing the church.
These are very authentic outworkings of the real church in NI.

What about Christians whose faith inspires them to work at the coal face with the homeless, ex-prisoners, alcholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, teenage pregnancies, widows and orphans?

What about discussion panels looking at the problems facing same people?

What about interviews with leaders who have helped form strong churches from nothing?

What about ex-paramilitaries from both sides on what God has to offer NI? What about those Christians working for reconciliation?

And what about all the miracles happening every day in the NI church?

I have absolutely no problem with William hosting the programmes and grilling any of the people as hard as he likes, within reason.

And I have no problem with him inviting on his favourite heretical bishops, but only devoting them the space justified by the percentage of the people they would represent.

So there you have it John and Jill, I have no names I idolize, just Jesus and the bible. And John I dont think for a second the BBC should give free reign to people who share my views.
Let there be robust debate, and let the prevaling secular thought freely challenge the biblical viewpoint.

But let's not sideline the view of the bible believers to the point where they are allowed no meaningful voice in the media.


PB- I think you're hearing what you want to hear. Refer me to one edition of Sunday Sequence which hasn't sought the input of a typical evangelical in at least one segment?

Personally.... I think you're doctrinally paranoid.

  • 21.
  • At 06:34 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

P.T. Barnum said never give a sucker an even break and that's what you're seeing here. Old scams never die, they just come back when a new generation which never heard of them finds it has money in its pocket. Chain letters, pyramid schemes, they always seem to come back again and again.

James Randi's most interesting debunking I've seen was the million dollar challenge BBC supervised regarding homeopathy. There was a TV documentary about it. It made no sense that something as dilute as an active ingredient in the amount of a drinking glass diluted as though disolved in a body of water the size of the Atlantic Ocean could do anything. Homeopaths said the water had memory of what had been in it which reputable scientists scoff at. And so the test was devised, conducted, and supervised by some of Britains most respected scientists, and when the results were in, the homeopathic solution.....did nothing as expected. No difference in results from pure "random" chance (there's that word again.) Still, there's another one born every minute and they always seem to buy the line. Anyone interested in buying a bridge I have for sale which goes to a marvelous place called Brooklyn?

  • 22.
  • At 07:32 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


You're missing the point.

You set the agenda in who or what you choose as your main topic.

For example;

Liberal agenda setting approach;-
Q. How should the people of NI respond to the current consultation which aims to elminate discrimination against gays in the provision of goods and services?

Conservative agenda settting approach;-
Q. How should the Government review its current proposals to eliminate discrimination against gays so that it does no infringe EU human right to freedom of religion?

You see John, same topic yet the two starting questions set the whole posse running off in two very different directions.

Any discussion can be steered according to who you challenge, who you coax and who you give more time to. We have already seen one recent example on homosexuality on Sunday Sequence when there were 3-4 people opposing one traditional Christian viewpoint.

Arent you a broadcaster? Are you taking me for a ride in making me explain this?

Also, I respectfully ask you to reconsider using terms such as "mindXXXt" towards me.
I would do it to you and I thought we had put all that ad hominem stuff behind us.


PS William, should that be debuncker or debunker?

  • 23.
  • At 03:16 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:

Another Snakeoil merchant exposed...

Here's a scary thought - It's only the blatant ones that get caught.

Wake up people....

  • 24.
  • At 09:53 PM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • Billy wrote:

Hi William!

While the subject of guests and interviews has arisen and is being discussed at present I was fascinated as I listened to A. A. (Adrian Anthony) Gill being interviewed by John Bennett on Radio Ulster this morning 16/12/2006 quite interesting with plenty of material for further investigation, I was quite interested to learn that he suffers from the same problem as my self ‘dyslexia’ and how he has over come it along with other problems in his life, one a amazing story, one motivational story maybe we could here more.


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