One of the young men accusing megachurch bishop Eddie Long of coercing him into a sexual relationship told a TV interviewer that he loved the pastor and considered him a father figure, but still called him a "predator" and a "monster."
"I loved him and I'm always going to have love for the things he taught us, but how he left us hurt worse than anything I ever felt in my life," Jamal Parris told Atlanta's Fox TV affiliate WAGA in an interview broadcast Tuesday. "This man turned his back on us when he had no more need for us. That's not a father, that's a predator."
Parris, 23, is one of four men suing the TV preacher in state court, claiming that he abused his "spiritual authority" and gave them cars, clothes, cash and trips to lure them into sexual relationships while they were teen members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta.
Parris described an ongoing emotional struggle.
'He made me cry'
"I cannot get the sound of his voice out of my head and I cannot forget the smell of his cologne and I cannot forget the way he made me cry many nights when I drove in his cars on the way home," Parris said. "I'm not able to take enough showers to wipe the smell of him off my body."
When a reporter approached Parris outside a convenience store in Colorado, he at first was reluctant to speak. Then he told WAGA that Long exploited his dreams for a father figure in exchange for sexual favors.
Long's attorney, Craig Gillen, criticized Parris and his lawyer for "attempting to try their lawsuits in the media."
"There are rules on how civil litigation is to take place and how counsel should conduct themselves, we intend to follow those rules," Gillen said in a statement, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
During services at his church Sunday, Long turned to biblical terms to portray himself as an underdog but didn't outright deny the allegations.
"I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet," said Long, who added that while he doesn't claim to be perfect, "I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television."
In the Fox interview, a vehement Parris said Long "manipulated us from childhood" under the guise of providing a fatherly influence. Parris was referring to himself and the other accusers, Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg and Spencer LeGrande. They are in their 20s now but were 17 and 18 when they had sexual relationships with Long, the lawsuits say. Long does not face criminal charges.
"This was our father and we loved him," Parris said.
Parris' attorney declined comment.
Speaking to Fox, Parris said Long is not being truthful to his followers. They include athletes, politicians and entertainers in the 25,000-member Lithonia church that has a $50 million, 10,000-seat cathedral and more than 40 ministries. Long, who has been New Birth pastor since 1987, has spoken out loudly against gay marriage.
"That man cannot look me in my eye and tell me we did not live this pain," he said. Addressing a comment to Long, he said, "you are not a man you are a monster."
Also Tuesday, a county prosecutor said Long asked for charges to be dropped against Maurice Robinson in August, about two months after authorities say he and Anthony Boyd broke into the megachurch.
The district attorney's office declined Long's request to drop the charges and is still investigating the case.