Interview with Paula White

CNN, "Larry King Live"/November 26, 2007

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight...

KING: Exclusive -- the sensational, inspiring preacher, pastor Paula White.

KING: She's now the target of a Senate inquiry and facing accusations about a lavish lifestyle and private jets and multiple homes -- even plastic surgery. All this and she's overcoming a very public divorce from her pastor husband after 18 years of marriage.

P. WHITE: This is a chapter that is closed in our life.

KING: She's Paula White -- the hugely successful pastor and TV preacher -- now make headlines over her recent divorce from her pastor partner. Also, an author of the new book. It's called "You're All That". There you see its cover. She calls it her -- one of her proudest achievements.

She's also host of "Paula Today," a syndicated show seen worldwide.

Thank you very much for coming.

P. WHITE: Larry, it's my pleasure.

Thank you.

KING: Let's get into some -- cover your life, get into the book and touch a lot of bases.

You're a self-proclaimed messed up Mississippi girl.

What do you mean?

P. WHITE: Just the girl next door. Larry, really, when you go back and I think about what you would say -- the resume that was just read and who they qualify me to be, etc. -- when you go back and look at all of the glory you have to go back to the story...

KING: True.

P. WHITE: ...which, my father committed suicide when I'm 5-years- old, sexually and physically abused from six to 13...

KING: By the same person?

P. WHITE: Oh, no, different people, different occasions. But I never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had never attended church, was never raised in a religious home, never had any insight of God or who he was until I was 18 years old. And when I'm 18 years old, I'm at a friend's house. And his uncle looks me in me eye -- you know, by this time I'm an over achiever, a pretty good student, etc. And he said I have the answer to your problems. I have the solution to your pain. And he held up this book. It's a bible. I didn't know what it was.

And he opens it up and he begins to take me on this journey. And for the first time -- I know this sounds so corny -- but I knew love. I had such an empty love tank. I had all the questions to life that didn't make sense. Two and two didn't add up to four. From my father's death -- if you loved me, why did you leave me? Why did you kill yourself? And so when this happened, it took my life in a completely different direction.

KING: Back a little -- did you ever find out why your father killed himself?

P. WHITE: You know, there are different reasons and different things. He left a note. There was a very traumatic night that occurred that time. But the bottom line was that he was dealing with so much of his own -- I say his own demons -- that he didn't have the life skills, the knowledge, the things to get out of what was a trap to him. And when a person feels so trapped and no options, they become desperate and in the middle of desperation. I don't think it was a premeditated as much as a bad judgment in a moment.

KING: Some girls who are sexually abused when young tend to blame themselves -- did I do something to cause this. Do you ever think about that?

P. WHITE: Oh, yes. When you go through abuse -- the behavior -- what happens is all behavior stems from faulty belief. I write about it in the book. And so when those types of situations begin to occur in your life -- I had bought in from a very early age that fundamentally something must be wrong with me. There must be a reason that these bad things happen to me. I must be dysfunctional. So why would my dad leave? Why would he kill himself? Why would I be violated? And when you're 6-years-old, you can't comprehend that. But as you get much older in life, you begin to think what's wrong with me?

KING: With no training, how did you become a pastor?

P. WHITE: Well, that defining moment at my friend's house, when his uncle looks in my eye and reads me the word of God, I have an awakening. It was a moment that so transformed my life. And I say this is so corny, but it was like the grass was green, the sky was blue. And I can't begin to articulate -- as much as they say I'm a wordsmith -- what really happened. But I knew, Larry, I knew the power of love.

And I took that bible and I went home and I held it up and I said God, I really don't know you and I don't know myself and I don't know life, but I believe the answers are in this book. And for the next two years -- and my mother, at the time, and later in life, had remarried a very successful man, an education, two masters, and had worked and everything was career education.

KING: So you went to school?

P. WHITE: Well, I was in school at the time, but at this time I'm in college. I'm holding up this bible and I say, God, who are you?

And so I do nothing for the next two years of my life, virtually, but stay in the word of God and find out what is the answers to life. And so how did I (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: Not formally. Not going to some ministry school?

P. WHITE: Not formally. No. It was just kind of on the back side of that...

KING: Well, how do you get ordained?

P. WHITE: How do you get -- how does a person get ordained?

KING: God is in -- how can you get ordained without a degree?

P. WHITE: Well, there are many different ways that people get licensed or ordained through different ministries, denominations, etc. So -- but for myself, there was no formal seminary.

KING: I see. You were ordained, though, from someone?

P. WHITE: Yes, I did it through our ministries. We had ordination and basically understanding there ought -- to be ordained that God has set apart, for the purposes of ministry. And, Larry, this is an important thing because of that defining moment, when I held that word up, I said I want to spend the rest of my life helping people.

KING: Didn't you have a brief marriage, also?

P. WHITE: I did. Now, that was before I had gotten saved...

KING: Before the word.

P. WHITE: ...or had an encounter with God. And what had happened was my son -- whose birthday is today -- you know, I had gotten pregnant and decided, you know, make this -- what people might have thought as a wrong -- of course, my greatest gifts in life. But (INAUDIBLE) so very brief at 18 years old and I don't mean to kind of laugh about it or take it light...

KING: The long marriage was with Randy White, right?

P. WHITE: Yes.

KING: Is he a minister?

P. WHITE: Yes, he is.

KING: He was.

Did you meet in ministerial circumstances?

P. WHITE: We did. We did. At this time, again, I said God, I want to spend the rest of my life helping people, and felt a real call through a divine moment, an encounter with God. I went to my pastor and said I have a call of God to preach. He put a broom in my hand, and I began to sweep the church. But, Larry, I was so excited.

I'm like, you're going to let me sweep the church?

I thought it was the greatest honor in the world. Then I started doing the nursery and then prepared 89 hours to teach 2 to 4-year- olds.

And during this time working in this church and going to a little country church, I met Randy.

KING: Did you and he have a televangical ministry?

I mean did you have a television show together?

Did you have a church together?

P. WHITE: We had a church together. We co-founded and co-pastored the ministry, but Randy was really a strong part. Eighteen years ago, when we married, he was such a huge part of my foundation and who I would become in God -- from covering me -- when you talked about being sexually abused and not having value for yourself -- God so used Randy to cover me with unconditional love. And he saw something in me that I couldn't see in myself.

KING: It was big news in August when Paula and Randy announced they were getting divorced.

Let's watch.


RANDY WHITE: We have a very, very difficult announcement to make tonight before Tim's story preaches. And that is that we are going through a divorce. It is the most difficult decision that I have had to make in my entire life. And I came to you tonight to, first, let you know that I take full responsibility for a failed marriage.

P. WHITE: While this is a chapter that has closed in our life, it is not the end of the story for Randy or for Paula -- or maybe even Randy and Paula. And we stand in full cooperation, in full support of each other, and especially for the cause of Christ.


KING: We'll have more with Paula White, right after this.



Can I break it down and get real?

The devil is a liar. I said the devil is a liar. Don't make me preach now, but you are the living epistle, the written word of Christ.

I don't go where I'm tolerated. I go where I'm celebrated.

Now I feel like preaching.




P. WHITE: Some people left you for dead. They thought it was over. They said you're hopeless, you're helpless. You can't be used. You're not ministry material. You're going to be poor. You're going to be messed up.

But guess what?

Tell the devil, go to hell. You're a liar.

Guess what?

Guess what?

Guess what?

I found, I found, I found, I found (ph) (INAUDIBLE).


KING: Before we ask you about the appeal to blacks, what did end the marriage?

P. WHITE: Oh, boy, that's a large question. But I think...

KING: Because you didn't answer it in the address, did you?

P. WHITE: No. But no one goes into a marriage -- when I went into my marriage 18 years ago, I thought I'd end my life with Randy. And the divorce is not anything that I ever wanted to happen. And so when you say, what made it, I don't know if you can say this was the one thing. Because even -- there are crucial things that cause fractures, breaks, whatever in relationships. But no one throws a life away, Larry.

KING: Are you still friends?

P. WHITE: Yes. Yes.

KING: Now, what about the appeal to black Americans?

What do you think that is?

I mean you look -- that was black preaching there.

P. WHITE: Well, I go back to your history tells a lot about your destiny. And one of the things is that I've been very comfortable in every situation starting ministry in the inner city and ministering in places -- Washington, D.C., feeding the homeless, the hurting, going to broken boys and girls. So culturally I understood all different aspects of life -- from extremely wealthy to extreme poverty, socioeconomic differences, ethnic differences.

And the appeal, I always say, you're going to have to ask someone else, but I believe the purpose is to stand as a reconciler, a bridge builder. And so I've stood in a place to always be a bridge between different people and bring together people for the common cause of Christ.

KING: So you're as comfortable among blacks as you are among whites?

P. WHITE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

I'm comfortable around just about everyone.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Phillip in San Antonio, Texas: "How can you preach from the pulpit regarding marriage when yours failed?"

P. WHITE: You know, that's a great question. Ezekiel says this, though, he's -- God said to the prophet, he said I'm going to cause you to sit where they've sat. And meaning this, Larry, I now have a greater compassion than I have ever had before to know what it is to have the pain of a broken marriage. And I'm not saying I have an answer or solution for everyone. But I am saying there is someone that I have a message and purpose for, that God will bring in my pathway, because one thing I'm committed, Larry, is never to waste my trials in life, to find purpose in all things and especially the places of pain.

KING: Many Evangelicals, right-wingers they're called -- Christians critical in the current political campaign of anybody who has been divorced.

P. WHITE: Um-hmm.

KING: Do you feel that or hear that from your fellow Evangelists?

P. WHITE: Of people who have been critical?

KING: Just for being divorced.

P. WHITE: Oh, I'm sure...

KING: Giuliani has been facing it.

P. WHITE: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I mean everyone is going to have an opinion. But the fact is, is many people have been critical or judgmental, which is almost a double whammy, as if the pain of going through a divorce is not enough, then to have what you want -- embrace and support. Randy needs that. I need that.

But at the same time, I've also found thousands that have reached out to me in a way that maybe they never did. And it's broadened the ministry in other ways that people now relate. And maybe not -- and say hey, she's really -- she's touchable.

KING: Do you take a political stand?

P. WHITE: When you say -- get involved in politics?

KING: So you support -- support any candidate?

P. WHITE: You know, I have my own personal opinions, but they're just that. I stay in my lane of assignment and do what I'm supposed to do in life.

KING: Do you have any problem with a Mormon candidate?

P. WHITE: I don't have any problem with the right candidate. And so whoever I believe is going to be the best for that office -- and the most qualified -- is the reason that we put them in that position.

KING: But you wouldn't rule out someone if they were a Mormon?

P. WHITE: No, I wouldn't rule out someone that was qualified to be in that position.


Senator Grassley, as you know, is investigating many televangelists, especially those who made a great deal of money, and the question of whether they should get a tax break. A former staffer of Without Walls International Church criticized it -- the part of -- you're a part of it -- saying: "It has become all about mansions, planes, money and fame."

Another detractor says: "Everything she does is a total act and it's all about money."

How do you respond?

Do you have a plane?

P. WHITE: Yes -- well not personally, but absolutely, the ministry does. But when you say how do I respond to Senator Grassley or how do I respond to the criticism?

KING: Well, Senator Grassley -- his question is why do you get a tax break?

P. WHITE: Well, that's an inquiry that is being done. And I have great concern, but my concern is probably not what most people would think it would be.

My concern is why is our faith being targeted as part of this inquiry when there are laws on the books and there is legal jurisdiction any time there is abuse in financial handling?

KING: But Senator Grassley is trying to change the law with regard to the tax break because he feels if someone is in the church and they can afford a plane, why do they get a tax break? P. WHITE: But there are always...

KING: That's a fair question.

P. WHITE: But there are already current laws on the books and there are -- and jurisdictions. The IRS can come in and do any kind of investigation of a person.

KING: Do you have any qualms about having a great deal of money?

P. WHITE: Do I -- for me personally?

KING: Yes.

P. WHITE: Or for other people?

KING: For you.

P. WHITE: You know, to me, it's never been about money. I mean and it's not -- so when you say I don't look at it and say -- I don't sit down and say, boy, I'm thinking about getting a great deal of money or I'm not going to have any money.

I believe that prosperity has a purpose. And my definition of prosperity would be quite different than what most people probably imagine or think, because I think that a wholeness word that means nothing missing, nothing broken. It's not finances or materialism.

So let's say financially. Financially, I personally believe that you should have enough to do the assignment that you feel is part of your life. And whatever that is to do, you're going to need. Like, this is quite expensive to do -- what it is you're doing, but you're doing it effectively and bringing information to the world.

KING: We will take a break and come back and talk about her book.

Paula White is the guest.

The book is "You're All That".

We're going to find out what that means, right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) P. WHITE: You've been complaining, you've been depressed, you've been despondent. But take off those garments of heaviness and put back on your garments of praise. I didn't come when you thought I was going to come, but I'm going to be right on time, Mary. I (INAUDIBLE) God (INAUDIBLE) I said, Mary!



KING: The book is "All That: Understanding God's Design for Your Life."

The author is our guest, Paula White. About it our friend Bishop T.D. Jakes said: "Paula has proven to be a woman who can steer you through the storm and on to a life of massive accomplishments."

And Donald Trump jumps in with: "Paula White is not only a beautiful person, both inside and out, she has a significant message to offer anyone who will tune in and pay attention. She has amazing insight, the ability to deliver that message clearly, as well as powerfully. Read this and you'll be ready for great success. She's an amazing woman."

All right, what do we mean by "You're All That?"

P. WHITE: Well, it goes back to the core of who you are. I believe so many people live what I call that false identity, Larry -- that they are living according to other people's expectations, associations, their experiences, the labels in life. And they buy into that.

And I think, for myself, life lied to me. I was not a product of what happened to me, what I had been through, where I had come from. And when I began to realize who I really was, that God had created me, put my DNA, everything together was perfectly precisionly put together by God and that I was valuable, that's what "You're All That". And when you find your authentic self, your identity -- your true identity -- how many people work a job they hate or live a life, they're going oh my gosh.

And you'll never be fulfilled or satisfied. Satisfaction comes from the inside out, so people keep gravitating from things externally to try to fill something -- get a man to complete them, get money to complete them, get a job to complete them and still find themselves frustrated.

So "You're All That" goes back to really building a life from the core of who you're. And all of those things are layers. That's just your authentic life.

And how do you discover it?

KING: This is a self-help book?

P. WHITE: Well, I believe the bible helps yourself. So I think, you know, it's based around the biblical principles and truths that transformed me.

KING: Must I be a believer to appreciate the book?

P. WHITE: Oh, absolutely not.

KING: Not?

P. WHITE: Not. It's the book -- again, I go back to that your history tells a lot about your destiny. Remember, Larry, I didn't grow up in church. I had no concept of God -- existence, I -- the name Jesus was synonymous with tooth fairy and Santa Claus.

So when I had this concept that I'm not just a body with a mind, that I'm a spirit being, I'm a synergistically trying (ph) being, when I understood that, life began to come into focus.

So when I say you don't have to be a believer, you just have to say -- you have to ask the question to say am I concerned about the tough questions in life, being introspective enough to say, who am I, why am I, what am I?

KING: What, to you, is God?

P. WHITE: What?

KING: Is he a thing, a being, a spirit or what?

P. WHITE: A spirit is a great definition for me. He's a spirit. And so I think we try to box and put God in some limited definition, which is impossible.

How can you begin to describe -- what do I say?

I can begin to give his attributes. He's a counselor. He's a healer. He's a friend that sits closer than a brother. To me, he just -- I sum it up that he's my anchor, my rock, my foundation in life, that my life was -- had an emptiness -- a deep, dark void with something -- it had a lot of fulfillment externally, but something inside said there's more.

KING: On those occasions when he does not listen to your prayers, how do you explain this?

P. WHITE: I believe he always listens to our prayers. I just don't...

KING: Or he doesn't respond.

P. WHITE: There you go. I say you have to remember in darkness what he told you in light. And the principle is this, Larry, that there are times that it does feel like God is playing hide and go seek. But I trust him. My faith graduated to a place called trust, that I know ultimately -- ultimately, that God has good things for me.

Now, what I might have considered good, good doesn't mean every day is going to be perfect, you're not going to have bad breath, your hair is going to be in the perfect place.

Good means ultimately he's producing character in me to conform me into the image of Christ.

KING: We'll have some more moments with Paula White.

The book is "You're All That".

And we'll be right back.


P. WHITE: God has hooked me up.

He has the life by design (ph).


And I'd better receive it (ph).

And I came to let you know, God is not going to his authenticity be destroyed.

He carries out. That's what he calls forth.



KING: We're back with Paula White. Her book is "You're All That!" about plastic surgery, we mentioned at the beginning there were stories you and your husband both had plastic surgery, which was your right, of course, but that the church paid for it.

WHITE: Well, we are going back to this question, but I can tell you absolutely not.

KING: They did not pay for it?

WHITE: Absolutely not.

KING: OK. We have an e-mail from Kathy in Tampa, Florida, your home.


KING: "Why does Paula avoid answering questions about how she takes up offering. When asked if she tells people if God would bless them if they give, she avoided the question when that is indeed what she does. Why is she not honest? We who give, want to know, what she is hiding?"

WHITE: I don't understand what she's asking here because she's saying to me, there's --

KING: She says you tell people god will bless them if they give, and then you avoid answering what it is that God will do for them if they give and what you do with what they give.

WHITE: OK. Well, first, I can't tell what god will do because I'm not God. I can only take you back to biblical principle. Secondly, we have full disclosure in transparency of our audited, our financial audits. It's on our Web site. It is, I think 16 or 20- something pages, which most public companies or private companies and most ministries don't disclose. So we have always operated with financial integrity and full transparency.

KING: Does it ever bother you at all to know that your organization makes a lot of money? Does that bother you, as opposed to an oil company or a bus company? WHITE: Larry, to fulfill what we are called to do, if you go on the Web site, you will see that over 80 cents of every dollar -- I think it was maybe 83 cents to 87 cents went straight back to missions, outreach and evangelism. So if I really believe that we are blessed to be a blessing and that we are building educational centers, orphanages, I support Safe Horizon, the largest child advocacy, North Side Community Center. We send tens of thousands of children back to school, inner city children with backpacks.

KING: That takes money.

WHITE: Medical centers. I can go on and on. In the Appalachians. I fed the poorest part of this nation for years coming up at Christmas, Larry Jones with Feed the Children and I are partnering in New York and going into Rikers Island. That clip was of Coleman Prison, taking toys into every child whose mom or dad is locked up in prison.

To say you're going to wiggle your nose and that is going to happen, it won't happen. If you look at major companies who are doing wonderful things, wonderful things and they give their portfolio billions of dollars that they make and they give away $10 million or so, when you start putting the percentages there, what we are doing is significant.

KING: You have nothing to be sorry about?

WHITE: I have nothing to be sorry about. In fact the very opposite. I'm extremely proud of the ability to really go forth and minister.

KING: How should I use the book?

WHITE: How should you use it?

KING: How -- phrase it this way. How should a person buying this book this book use it? How?

WHITE: This is the best message that I have been responsibly for it. This will help you, A, find your identity. Because you can never overcome life issues. You'll never overcome your condition without knowing your position. So identity. Significance comes out of identity, meaning life's purpose, your why in life. But the great thing is this book is so practical, Larry. I started with self gone missing. Did you get so caught up in the preoccupancy of a relationship that you lost who you were or were busy in life or career that you, like Adam and Eve, got lost in the garden putting fig leaf after fig leaf title, relationship, this accolade, this saying over you that you forgot who you were and what's life's about?

So getting back to the core of that and building life by design, that is authentic. So I talk about things like how to lose without losing identity. All loss and grief feels like when you transition. When seasons change in our life, it's difficult. Because it feels like loss and no one likes loss. And I go through, how do you do that? How do you take that transition without losing it in the curve? KING: Great pleasure meeting you. Thank you.

WHITE: You too, Larry. My great pleasure.

KING: Paula White. The book is "You're All That!"

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