Conflicting images are emerging of Bishop Eddie Long in the wake of the firestorm that has erupted from allegations of sexual impropriety and abuse of authority by four young men formerly of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
Saint or sinner? Interviews with two young men, who describe themselves as “spiritual sons” of the Atlanta-area minister, produced pictures of a predator and a benefactor.
Fox 5 News in Atlanta, a media outlet pursuing the Bishop Eddie Long story, interviewed the men. The entity’s aggressiveness in pursuing this story has provided some compelling interviews related to this case.
Sept. 29, Fox 5 News aired interviews with two of Long’s “spiritual sons” who painted conflicting pictures of life with Long: one of Long’s accusers, Jamal Parris and one supporter, former Detriot Lions linebacker Anthony Cannon.
Fox’s Dale Russell flew to Colorado, tracked down, and confronted Parris during a late night visit to a 24-hour convenience store, keeping at him until he gave an interview, according to the station.
His comments were eye-opening. “We would have to be the craziest kids in the world to want to come out and admit to another man touching us, publicly. To really believe this is about money would be absolutely ludicrous,” Parris said. “We don’t have a reason to lie about this man.
“How he loved us hurt worse than anything I ever felt in my life. … 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, not able to take enough showers to wipe the smell of him off my body.
“Bishop Long is in the pulpit. Eddie Long is in the private. And we know Eddie Long. That’s a whole other man.”
Cannon – who said Long treated him like a son, giving him cars, gifts and emotional support during the athletic injuries and drunk driving problems that ended his NFL career – pledged his support to Long.
“I can’t name one spiritual son that hasn’t experienced that ,” Cannon said. “I don’t feel like that’s a ploy to pull people in, that’s his heart. He wants to give and give and give and that’s all I’ve known him to do, is be a giver.”
According to Fox 5 News, Cannon said Long provided financial support to him until his behavior worsened, then he withdrew the money to keep from enabling him on the wrong path. “Everybody reacts differently when Bishop cuts them off when they don’t behave right,” Cannon said.
“Being around him,” said Parris, “it’s almost like a drug. You can’t believe the places you’re at in your life and the things that you’re doing and the cars that you’re driving and the people that you’re meeting. So it becomes, if I want to continue to feel this love and this power, I’ll do whatever my dad wants me to.
“This man turned his back on us when he had no more need for us. That’s not a father, that’s a predator.
“That man cannot look me in my eyes and tell me we did not live this pain. … can’t say that to our faces.”
Parris continued, “All we wanted to do was talk and say, ‘Help me deal with this hurt that you caused’ and he had no sense of reverence, guilt or remorse, so if you’re not going to deal with us privately, then you are going to have to sit down publicly one way or the other.
“But you are not going to hurt another young man another day in our lives. It’s time that he stops.”
Brenda Joy Bernstein, the attorney representing the four men, told the Atlanta Inquirer she did not want her clients giving interviews and was reportedly angered by Fox 5 News’ aggressiveness, “The courage of these young men to stand up is testimony to (obliterate) Bishop Long’s great influence, as well as they trying to get to the truth of the betrayal … for a productive life.”
She also warned, “There are kids right now at risk .”
In contrast, social media postings by Long’s children paint a different picture. “We are doing great; keep my pops lifted up in prayer!” the Atlanta Inquirer reported Edward Long as posting to Twitter Sept. 23. The paper indicated on the same day Long’s daughter Taylor Long tweeted, “Man, my dad does NOT deserve this!”
By Sept. 24, Bernstein had filed lawsuits on behalf of four young men — Anthony Flagg, Maurice Robinson, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande.
(This article was prepared from a dispatch from the Atlanta Inquirer and the AFRO staff.)