Nightly News | September 26, 2010
LESTER HOLT, anchor: The nationally known pastor of an evangelical megachurch, Bishop Eddie Long of Georgia , spoke publicly today for the first time about lawsuits filed by four young men alleging that he lured them into sexual relationships. Long, who is an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, said he was ready for a fight. We get the latest tonight from NBC 's Ron Mott .
Pastor EDDIE LONG: Somebody praise them till it happens!
RON MOTT reporting: The faithful welcomed embattled pastor Eddie Long back to the pulpit today with open arms and applause, the preacher at the center of a sex scandal facing four lawsuits telling his congregation he'll need them in his corner.
Pastor LONG: I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television. That's not me. That is not me. I am not a perfect man, but this thing I'm going fight.
MOTT: It's a battle that's likely to be very public and potentially very graphic. Four former male members of Long's churches here in Georgia and North Carolina allege he plied each with gifts and special favors before coaxing them into a sexual relationship while they were still teens, but above the legal age of consent. Their attorney says it was not easy for them to step forward.
Ms. B.J. BERNSTEIN (Attorney): Can you imagine in the mind of these young men? Here is a man with ultimate power. He is with presidents. President Bush came to his church. President Clinton embraces him. Now, who is going to ever believe them?
MOTT: There was a mix of opinions among New Birth members as they made their way to worship services this morning, opinions ranging from full unconditional support to calls for his resignation.
Unidentified Man: I think that he should take some time, step down and learn from this experience.
Unidentified Woman: Let the Lord judge him. That's God's duty, to judge him.
MOTT: Long did not deny the allegations directly today, but did so through a lawyer last week.
Ms. TERRIE WILLIAMS (The Terrie Williams Agency President): What's most important is the notion of a young person having their innocence taken away and being traumatized. Whether he confesses to that or not, that's an issue that I think should be on the front burner.
MOTT: A firestorm of controversy Long compared to David vs. Goliath ...
Pastor LONG: But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet.
MOTT: ...a fight that seems headed