In the waning days of 2015, renowned televangelist Kenneth Copeland laid out exactly why he needs a luxury private jet to do his job: you can’t “talk to God” while riding commercial.
Criticized at the time for his use of extravagant planes, Copeland argued travel for his work would be difficult, nay, impossible without them. The Texas-based preacher invoked his mentor, prosperity gospel preacher Oral Roberts, who Copeland said faced unsolicited requests for prayer when he flew on public airliners, “agitating his spirit.”
“You can’t manage that today, in this dope-filled world, get in a long tube with a bunch of demons,” Copeland told fellow televangelist Jesse Duplantis, who’s faced similar backlash for asking his followers to bankroll a $54 million jet. “And it’s deadly.”
Copeland’s defense, viewed by millions and widely mocked at the time, did little to help his case. Many figured the “demons” he spoke of were the same people he was asking for donations. The preacher was asked to clarify his remarks last month by “Inside Edition” reporter Lisa Guerrero, and the exchange has recently gone viral, reigniting conversations about televangelists and the tax-exempt status of churches.
Captured on video confronting Copeland as he got into a car, Guerrero pressed him repeatedly on his 2015 comments, at one point asking: “Do you really believe that humans are demons?”
“No I do not, and don’t you ever say I did,” Copeland responded, visibly perturbed. He added, “It’s a biblical thing, it’s a spiritual thing, it doesn’t have anything to do with people. People? I love people. Jesus loves people. But people get pushed in alcohol. Do you think that’s a good place for a preacher to be and prepare to preach?”
© Shelly Katz TV evangelist Kenneth Copeland, prob. during his TV show Day of Discovery. (Photo by Shelly Katz/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images) The questioning centered around Copeland’s Gulfstream V jet, which he announced he’d purchased from Tyler Perry in Jan. 2018. Declining to state how much he spent on the aircraft, which is one of three in his possession, Copeland said Perry made the plane “so cheap for me I couldn’t help but buy it.” He again asserted the plane was necessary for his work, which has sent him to nearly every continent and allowed him to spread his message to thousands of people.
“If I flew commercial, I’d have to stop 65 percent of what I’m doing, that’s the main reason,” he said.
Copeland said he was a “very wealthy man” and acknowledged using the private jets to travel to his vacation homes. Guerrero asked how he would respond to those who say preachers shouldn’t live so luxuriously.
“They’re wrong,” he replied “It’s a misunderstanding of the bible that … if you go into the old covenant, do you think the Jewish people believe you should be broke?”
Guerrero follows up: “Are you saying that Jewish people appreciate money more?”
“They believe in wealth,” Copeland said.
“Some people would find that offensive,” Guerrero responds.
“Wait a minute now, I’m not talking about some people,” Copeland explains, before mentioning the Abrahamic Blessing. “I’m talking about the bible.”
In his various responses, Copeland draws passages from the books of Ephesians and Galatians. He again cites Oral Roberts, who Copeland says “took the same heat for believing God would prosper you.”