Q680 Transcript

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(Note: This tape was transcribed by Vicki Perry. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)

(Note: This tape is the first in a series of Channel 2 news reports from August 1977 that continues with Q 681 and concludes with Q 665.)

Male announcer: (Unintelligible) The Peoples Temple and its charismatic leader, Jim Jones. The magazine [New West] had a news conference today for the church members who had defected to talk. Betty Ann Bruno has the full story.

Bruno: For two and a half hours, the former church members told stories of Jones’ control over his followers, and how he got them to perform sadistic and fraudulent acts. Phil Tracy, writer of the exposé, said it’s still hard for him to believe it.

Tracy: Look, it’s an– it’s an incredible story. I mean I’m not going to say– I’m not– not for a moment suggest that there’s any reason to ass– that there– that there’s any reason to just to be– you know, to assume that– that automatically it’s true. I didn’t believe the damn story. I didn’t believe it for weeks. And– and– and– and you know, it was one of those things. I mean, when I talked to one person, I thought, my God, you know, what have I got here? When I talked to two, I really started getting nervous because what– what if it was true? By the time I talked to four people, I was frightened to death, because I really believed this story and I didn’t know whether anyone was ever going to believe me.

Former male member: He– He’d come forward to the young people with politics and uh, the older people with religion and (Pause) black people– especially older black people are– are to me anyway are known to uh, uh, really rise to– to back religious causes, and it was very religious people, and Jim Jones, being that he could heal cancers and everything else, that attracted a lot of older people that happened to be black people.

Former female member: My first impression of him was a very warm, good-natured person and uh, uh, he kinda began looking kind of like a father image to him. In a way you know, he was a good leader, he appeared, he was talking politically very strong, uh, he was talking immigration, he was talking helping people. He was talking better this and better that.

Male reporter: What about now? What’s your impression now?

Former female member: Uh, my impression now that those are fronts for him. Uh– I think he’s gone crazy.

Bruno: One woman [Deanna Mertle, aka Jeannie Mills] told how her sixteen-year-old daughter [Linda Mertle] was beaten with a wooden paddle 75 times. The girl’s sin was embracing an old friend she hadn’t seen for a long time. But they all agreed that Jones was gifted at getting money from his followers. One member became disillusioned when she saw Jones lie about how much money was in the collection plate.

Female: One of the guys would take uh, a total off of him and show him the total which– it– which would be like uh, twenty five hundred dollars. He would say “People, we have uh, uh, we’ve got care homes to take care of, we have welfare to feed, we have college dormitories, and we only have four hundred dollars.”

Bruno: They claim there are two houses in San Francisco where church members live. One turned out to be a day care center, but no one was there. Neighbors did confirm, however, that the women there were very active in the church. At the other address, no one would talk to us.

(break for change of location)

Bruno: Can you tell us about your relationship in the church and what some of the activities are? Do you work for–

Female: I just– I just– I just don’t want to say right now, you know. ‘Cause uh, (Pause) I just don’t want to say anything– I don’t want to make–

Bruno: Why wouldn’t– why wouldn’t you want to tell us about the church to get– clarify some of the set– charges that have been made against the church?

Female: The fact that somebody else could– right now, you know?

Bruno: Who could I talk to? Do you have any idea?

Female: No, I don’t.

Bruno: Is there anybody here that I could talk to?

Female: I don’t know.

Bruno: They seem very disturbed at the attention their church is getting. We ran into the owner of the building. His only comment was that they always pay their rent on time, and as far as he’s concerned, the press was giving them a bum rap. Betty Ann Bruno, for Channel 2 Action News, in San Francisco.

Male reporter: Reporter Jim Clancy has located several former members of the Peoples Temple who have never before made public what they knew about that church. Tonight, in the first of the series of reports, he takes a look at the charges they level against Pastor Jim Jones, the man they call the “miracle maker.”

Clancy: This is where it all began, the Peoples Temple, in Redwood Valley, a few miles north of Ukiah. This is where the Reverend Jim Jones started his church in California. The people living in the area around here still remember that church.

Female: Look, I did not have a Christian background when I was growing up, so I didn’t know what to believe, really. When I– When I met him, I thought he was Jesus Christ.

Female #2: Since they all thought he was more or less a god, you know, (Small laugh) they believed that what he said was true, you know, ‘cause they– they believe he has all these powers (Unintelligible), so they’re gonna believe that he’s not, you know– that he’s not going to lead them astray. (Small laugh)

Clancy: Whatever the reasons for his appeal, Reverend Jones’ Peoples Temple grew and grew in Mendocino County, as word of his miracles spread. Linda Dunn spent seven years in the church and eventually became Jones’ personal secretary. She was involved in the miracles. She says she helped Jim Jones not only convince people they had cancer, but cure them of it as well.

Dunn: He would put together uh, chicken guts, anything that we could get that would look like uh, some sort of growth, put it together with human blood in a plastic bag and uh, fake this material coming out of the person who was being healed. A nurse would of course come along beside and– and help her spit up her cancer or his cancer– whatever. And uh, she would take this bag of material in and palm it down into her mouth and– and throat and bring it up and everyone would think that it was a– a cancer coming up and– and that was another thing that was very effective. I mean people believed that he was God then. Another thing to– to make them give more money.

Clancy: Oh, uh, even the people that were having this performed on them? They weren’t in on it?

Dunn: No. No.

Clancy: They were just as surprised?

Dunn: They were just as surprised. (Small laugh) Really.

Clancy: What?

Dunn: (Unintelligible word) He was– you know, he would be giving them– he would be giving them rev– revelations. The material that we had previously gotten for him and uh, he would be telling them all about themselves, all about them, their family and house and so forth, and then he’d say, “Now, uh, you’ve been having trouble with your stomach and– and uh, you’re going to spit up a cancer right now, honey.” The nurse would go over and bring out the material. Everyone would believe it was a cancer.

Clancy: This is an actual photo of one of Jones’ alleged cancer cures. It was smuggled out of the Peoples Temple. Remember, even the woman that’s seen here thought she had cancer and was cured. And according to Dunn, the miracles don’t end there.

Dunn: I came into the uh, audience in a wheelchair in a disguise, and uh, at a certain time, uh, Jim would start uh, giving us– us a (unintelligible word) revelation, and I would hold up my hand that that was me and uh, then I’d uh, uh, very slowly started to walk and people were just ecstatic.

Clancy: Other miracles were much more crude, but the cancer cure was enough to make people believe, according to church members.

(break for change of location)

Clancy: Did he ever perform miracles, so to speak, that you observed? Like uh, you know, similar to the loaves and fishes that uh, Christ performed?

Former female member 2: Yes, uh, once my husband and I were standing in back of the Temple in Redwood Valley, and we saw two uh, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken being brought through the office, the backdoor office, and uh, a few minutes later Jim said that we had run out of food and that he was miraculously going to–

Husband: –materialize the– some chicken. And all of a sudden they brought in two uh, uh, plates of chicken. A bunch of chicken legs, and everybody was just raising their hands and crying and–

Former female member 2: Everybody wanted the miracle chicken. (Small laugh)

Husband: Yeah and (unintelligible word)– ‘cause we knew what was going on, you know. We couldn’t get out yet, ‘cause I wasn’t eighteen or anything, and my parents were in it, and they still are. It’s a bummer.

Male reporter: Tonight?

(tape edit)

Male reporter: Tonight, the Reverend Mike Prokes, the spokesperson for Jones and the Temple, had nothing to say about the fried chicken miracle or any of the other specific charges leveled against the group by former members. He says it’s a smear campaign and there are political overtones. Peoples Temple has launched its own investigation into the deluge of charges made in the last week. Meanwhile, the Reverend Jones, who is also Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission, remains in British Guyana in South America. Reverend Prokes says he has a serious ear infection which is preventing him from flying back to answer the charges, something that he wants to do very much, but as one former church member pointed out today, if Reverend James Jones could cure cancer in others, why can’t he cure his own simple ear infection? Jim Clancy, Channel 2 Action News, Ukiah.

Male reporter 3: Coming up later on action news–

(End Of Side A)

(Side B)

Halfway through Side B is a short item recorded off air from a news broadcast featuring an interview with a woman who argues against homosexuals teaching in the public schools of San Francisco.

Tape originally posted March 2010