Former Strong City Cult Member Speaks Out

Fox News, "The O'Reilly Factor"/May 2, 2008

LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: accusations that American children are being sexually abused in religious cults. As you know, more than 400 children have been removed from a polygamy commune in Texas after allegations of sex abuse and rampant teen pregnancy surfaced. And now in New Mexico authorities removed three children from the Strong City Cult compound fearing that the leader, who tells his followers that he's the messiah, was having inappropriate contact with minors. Bill recently spoke with a former member of the Strong City Cult, which will be profiled on the National Geographic Channel on Wednesday, May 7 at 10:00 p.m.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: I think, Ms. Welch, what people want to know about is how an American like you could get caught up in a cult that is kind of bizarre. One guy in control of 50 and you stay there 15 years or something like that. Can you explain it?

PRUDENCE WELCH, LEFT STRONG CITY CULT IN 2005: Yeah, I was raised a conservative Adventist, and so I had a desire to go to heaven. And when you think you have the truth

O'REILLY: And nobody else has it.

WELCH: and nobody else has it.

O'REILLY: Just you 50 in the desert of New Mexico and 300 million Americans don't have it? You don't say maybe we're not right?

WELCH: Yes, I came to that point.

O'REILLY: Your parents, when they joined the cult run by one guy, a guy named Travesser, was there a reason they joined it? Were they just religious fanatics?

WELCH: They had a desire to go to heaven, and they were offered a life of sin. It was like a ticket to heaven.

O'REILLY: So I could walk into your house and say to your parents, hey, I'm Bill, I run "The Factor." We're all going to heaven, but you've got to do exactly what I say. Come on.

WELCH: You're right. It takes a special kind of person.

O'REILLY: When you were in the cult, was it oppressive? Was this guy doing bad things to you?

WELCH: Not then. No.

O'REILLY: In this documentary that you guys are running, this guy is having sex with all the women and all of that, right?

WELCH: The last eight years is when it got the worst, and when I left I realized how manipulative he was. He thinks children are evil. That's why I left, because...

O'REILLY: He thinks children are evil?

WELCH: Yeah, because they throw a fit, they play with toys.

O'REILLY: And he didn't like that?


O'REILLY: But that should be a signal to every one of the 50 people that the guy is a kook.

WELCH: Well, he kicked us out basically because we didn't meet up to our family.

O'REILLY: You weren't toeing the line?

WELCH: Right.

O'REILLY: Was he doing anything illegal there, this Travesser?

WELCH: Well, I think that laying naked with underage girls is illegal.

O'REILLY: That is illegal in New Mexico. And that's what he was doing? Did you see that?

WELCH: They admit it on their Web site.

O'REILLY: That he lays naked with underage girls?


O'REILLY: For what reason other than his own ridiculous reason?

WELCH: You have to be naked and unashamed before God.

O'REILLY: Naked and unashamed before God. Hmm. That's interesting. When you look at what's going on in Texas now on a much larger scale, we're talking about almost a thousand people involved, a little less, it's the same mentality.

WELCH: Yeah.

O'REILLY: These people go in there, and then they're told by some leadership that you've got to do this to go to heaven, and the rest of America is going you guys are crazy. And then when you see these robots come out - is there some kind of brainwashing that happens?

WELCH: Oh yeah. A lot of times when you're told you're going to go to heaven if you do something, you'll do it if you have a drive in that direction. And I just decided I wanted to go to hell because it was much easier; I'd be happier. It was like - and when I got away, I saw a manipulative and deceptive

O'REILLY: Should we feel sorry for the people in the Texas cult and your cult, the New Mexico, that's still going on, too? They're still down there in New Mexico doing whatever they're doing. Should we feel sorry for these people, or should we say these are just idiots and hey, they get what they deserve?

WELCH: They want to be there. They will stand beside him no matter what he does.

O'REILLY: So we shouldn't feel sorry for these people?

WELCH: I don't. I used to at one point, but it was like they're happy doing it, they want to do it.

O'REILLY: But we've got to feel sorry for the kids.

WELCH: I feel sorry for the kids. Exactly.

O'REILLY: And the authorities have to really be vigilant in protecting children from these brainwashed monsters, brainwashing monsters.

WELCH: Yes, all the children. It's a crime.

O'REILLY: It's absolutely - polygamy is a crime. Thanks for coming in here. We appreciate it, and we hope you have a good life from now on in.

WELCH: Thank you. I will.

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