Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 16:10 EDT
For those of you who may have read the post concerning Josh McDowell, the information about Josh was gathered during the course of an investigation being conducted on Christian writer and radio commentator Bob Larson.
Bob Larson's Talk-Back is heard daily on over 170 stations in North America. The Denver-based ministry that Larson heads is supposed to be the "cutting-edge" in Christian broadcasting (or that's what Larson would like you to believe ). But the real Bob Larson, and the real motives of his work with the ministry is becoming more apparent as critics are now taking a probing look into the radio show, the ministry, and Bob Larson himself.
The following article, _The Two Faces of Bob_, first appeared in the Christian Press Report, an electronic newsletter out of California. (It's permitted for public distribution in addition to the copyright, I have complete permission from the author of the article to post this.)
I dont know how many people on the net know of Larson, but I feel that this information needs to be brought forth.
Thanks very much for taking time to read this.
In an interview with the Evangelical Press, Bob Larson boasted that "Nobody is accusing me of doing any thing illegal, immoral, or unethical." So, just call me nobody. Larson is a pathological liar -- or at the very least, is in the habit of taking indecent liberties with the truth. This common thread seems to run through every aspect of Bob's life. His fetish for falsehoods even is evi denced by exaggerations of his childhood achievements: for instance, he asserted in his 1974 book, Hell on Earth, that he was a child star:
"Bob Larson achieved fame at the age of thirteen when his first hit song was published. He had his own rock and roll band at fifteen, and performed on radio and television over the next years until his career took him to Convention Hall in Atlantic City."
As often is the case with Bob Larson, reality never quite matches up with his press releases. Sharla Turman Logan, the keyboard player for "The Rebels" (Bob's former band) stated that she knew Bob at thirteen, but "never heard of any hit song." And although they did in fact play to a capacity audience at Convention Hall in Atlantic City, there was a little more to the story than meets the eye. It seems that they played one song -- at a Lions' Club convention. The drummer's father was an officer in the organization; HE booked the gig.
The song: A parody of "Charlie Brown."
Larson's penchant for prevarication can also be seen in his aborted medical career. On January 5, 1993, Bob publicly claimed that when he entered the ministry, he was "only a few credits away" from receiving a degree in chemistry, and then, going on to medical school. Yet, Bob graduated from high school in 1962, attended McCook Junior College for one year, transferred to the University of Nebraska, and left there in September of 1964.
Unless he truly was a phenomenal student (and there is no evidence of that), he would not even have been close to graduating after two years. Maybe not a "lie," but certainly a gross exaggeration.
Bob Larson would have you believe that he was independently wealthy before he entered his ministry, and that he was really doing it for his love of the kids. In a 1992 interview with Michael Roberts of Westword magazine, he explained his wealth this way:
"A caller came on the air the other day,' he says, and made the comment, Is it true that you were a self-made millionaire before you began the ministry?' I said no, but I was very close to it, and I had traveled lecturing professionally for a number of years, before I ever got involved in the ministry, and was making very, very large sums of money at the time'."
And on a Denver radio broadcast, he attributed some of his wealth to his 'success' in the music world:" I have been involved in gainful employment for 30 years; I was making a pile of money as a teenager, playing in rock and roll." But once again, Larson's proud words shatter on those unforgiving rocks of reality. During his 1991 divorce, he and his ex-wife gave the following testimony:
"Q: [by Mr. Plaut, Bob Larson's attorney] Mr. Larson, would you tell us as far as lifestyle goes how you and Mrs. Larson have lived, starting again at the beginning of the marriage and bringing us up to date.
A: Well, the lifestyle was pretty austere in the beginning. We had no possessions at the time of the marriage. I had a car that I was making payments on and a few hundred dollars in the bank. And it was pretty much that way for quite a while, until I got involved in selling books and speaking. And then, as Mr. Guthery pointed out earlier, there was really no serious escalation in our lifestyle until the last few years, when the cumulative success of building the organization allowed the organization to compensate me much better than they had."
"Q: ([To Mrs. Larson] By Mr. Frazin [her attorney] What exactly did you do -- what were your duties when you first got started with the ministry?
A: [Kathy Larson] As Bob described, when we first got the min istry, we had a car with payments and a little trailer we pulled behind the car. And eventually then we bought a trailer house we pulled behind the car ... It was a very humble beginning...."
First, even if Bob made a pile of money playing rock and roll, it was all gone when he married Kathy during 1968. Second, if he was nearly a millionaire when he opened the ministry, and barely a millionaire now, he cannot possibly account for his statement that "there was really no serious escalation in [their] lifestyle until the last few years." Therefore, either he lied in court ... or on the air. When the dust settles, this much is obvious: Bob did not make his fortune in real estate, rock and roll, or anywhere else. He made it from the ministry -- he has not held a real job since he dropped out of college. What a tangled web we weave ... when we practise to deceive!
In the Evangelical Press interview, Larson claimed: "World didn't talk to radio station owners' ... We have not had a single radio station cancel us or be less than 100 percent supportive'." But in a fundraising letter dated January 27, 1992, he told his contributors that "Satan did everything possible to destroy me last year ... four of our top ten stations forced me off the air."
Another station, KSLR in San Antonio, reportedly was sued by the Ministry after it pulled Talk-Back, even though Larson claimed in a news conference that he "would never sue a brother." If World's people had talked to Larson's former affiliates, they would have caught him in yet another lie. On his March 17, 1993 broadcast, Bob Larson publicly charged that the Mormon church had spawned a sinister scheme to destroy his ministry, and that he was forced from the air in Calgary as a result of their effort. However, when I spoke with that station's operations manager, and played her a taped excerpt of Bob's on-air claims, her response was one of astonishment. "It wasn't like that at all," she said adamantly.
It wasn't like that at all. That theme reverberates throughout any discussion concerning the antics of Bob Larson ... but nowhere is it more pronounced as in his financial information. For years, Bob has been claim ing that he is fighting to stay on your station, clev erly painting the misleading impression that the Min istry is on the knife-edge of financial disaster. But if its' audited financial statement is any indication, the Ministry is in the very flower of fiscal health:
BOB LARSON MINISTRIES
CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEET
DECEMBER 31, 1991
ASSETSCurrent Assets: Cash and marketable securities $ 1,767,708 Other current assets 332,580 --------- Total current assets 2,100,288 Fixed assets (net of depreciation) 937,351 --------- Total assets $ 3,037,639 =========During 1991, Bob Larson Ministries had a surplus of more than $246,000 ... and in 1990, that surplus was over $500,000! We should all be in such desperate financial straits.
LIABILITIES AND FUND BALANCE
Current liabilities $ 396,022 Long-term debt 498,117 --------- Total liabilities 894,139 Fund balance 2,143,500 --------- Total liabilities and fund balance $ 3,037,639 =========
Larson's difficulties with the truth spill over into his personal financial situation as well. On the air, Bob has stated that he draws a $69,000  yearly salary from the Ministry ... which not only seems reasonable, but downright modest. But as might be expected, documents filed with the Jefferson County (Colo.) District Court in connection with his divorce  -- signed under penalty of perjury -- tell a different tale. The following is an estimate of Larson's compensation package for 1990, based upon that information, documents filed with the Internal Revenue service, and interviews with former BLM employees:
________________________________________ Bobby E. ("Bob") Larson
Estimated(A) Personal Income from Ministry Activities
Year ended December 31, 1990
Direct compensation - Bob Larson Ministries (BLM): Salary $ 81,500 BLM - Prorated bonus 25,000 BLM - Expense allowance 33,000 BLM - Retirement allowance 50,500 BLM - Housing allowance: Mortgage payments 22,512 Utilities, etc. 4,980 ------- Compensation - Bob Larson Ministries 217,492(B)A) The 1990 income figures are derived from the statement of monthly income provided by Bob Larson to the Jefferson County (Colorado) District Court in an affidavit signed under penalty of perjury. All other notes will be explained in the endnote section.
Direct compensation - BLM subsidiaries: BLM Canada - Consulting fees 51,084 Salary - Int'l Broadcasting Ntwk. (IBN) 40,000(C) IBN - Auto allowance 4,344 ------- Total direct compensation from Ministry activities 312,920
Compensation - book sales: BLM - Secular advertising for books 72,833(D) BLM - Ghost-writers' compensation 20,000(E) BLM - Imputed profits on book sales 80,000(F) Honoraria 12,000 ------- Total compensation from Ministry activities $ 497,753G =======
________________________________________From this information, it appears self-evident that the _real_ mission of Bob Larson Ministries is to minister to the extravagant financial needs of Bob Larson! The kids are just an alibi.
But the uncontested crown jewel in the labyrinth of Bob Larson's lies is the claim that HE wrote his best-selling novel, Dead Air. On his Jan. 29, 1993 broadcast -- which he called "the most candid, direct program I've ever done" -- he said that:
"Lori did help me some with the writing of this book, primarily in just adding a little color ... and contrary to what the article states, the book was nearly completed -- she had nothing to do with the plot, the characters ... anything in the book whatsoever."
If Bob was telling the truth, then Lori Boespflug's role in the writing of Dead Air was minuscule at best. Thus, it seems strange that Bob's attorney, William T. Abbott, would offer him this advice:
"With the passing of each day, I become more and more concerned about your potential liability to Lori in connection with Dead Air and its sequels. The time table is immediate. You will soon know if Dead Air is to be a publishing success and, quite possibly, if theatrical rights are to be optioned. Assuming success, and knowing the role Lori has played, it would amaze me if she is not sufficiently astute to use the opportunity to both secure her financial future and to launch her own literary career."
The logic here is inescapable: If as Bob insists, he wrote Dead Air, then there wasn't any need for advice. As such, that letter never should have been written in the first place -- and it couldn't possibly be stolen, as he has asserted. On the other hand, if he did not write the best-selling novel that bears his name, then he has knowingly and deliberately deceived his nationwide audience. Either way, I submit to you that Bob's credibility is absolutely shot.
For even when Bob 'bares his soul', he lies through his teeth.
1 "Bob Larson Talks Back' About World Magazine
Investigation," Twin Cities Christian [Mpls/St. Paul, MN], 18 Mar. 1993, p. 5A, col. 5.
2 Bob Larson, Hell on Earth (Carol Stream, IL: Creation House, 1974), author biography on dual jacket.
3 Jon Trott, "Bob Larson's Ministry Comes Under Scrutiny," Cornerstone, Vol. 21, Issue 100, Feb., 1993, p. 18, advance copy, courtesy Jon Trott (hereinafter, "Cornerstone").
4 Jay Grelen and Doug LeBlanc, "This is Me, This is Real," World, Vol. 7, No. 32, 23 Jan. 1993, p. 11 (hereinafter, "World").
5 Cornerstone, p. 18.
6 Bob Larson, "Talk-Back With Bob Larson," Radio broadcast, Jan. 5, 1993.
7 World, p. 11.
8 Michael Roberts, "The Evil That Men Do," Westword, May 27-Jun 2, 1992, p. 12.
9 Bob Larson, "Prepare For War," Radio broadcast, Jan. 29, 1993.
10 Larson v. Larson, No. 91 DR 226 (Jefferson County (Colo.) Dist. Ct., Filed Jan. 28, 1991), Record, p. 111-112 [emphasis mine].
11 Ibid., p. 146 [emphasis mine].
12 Based upon discussions with BLM insiders, I consider his publishing efforts to be an integral part of his ministry work. BLM staffers do the lion's share of the underlying research, editing, and possibly writing for many of "Bob's" best-selling books.
13 "Bob Larson Talks Back'," p. 5A, col. 4. 3
14 Bob Larson, Letter, Jan. 27, 1992 (ghost-written by Lori Boespflug; the stations were owned by Salem Communications, Camarillo, CA) [emphasis mine]. Copy on file.
15 Arthur Matthews (Senior Editor, World magazine), Telephone interview, March, 1993; my call to KSLR has not been returned.
16 Ibid., ibid.
17 Bob Larson, "Talk-Back with Bob Larson," Radio broadcast, Mar. 17, 1993.
18 Name withheld by request, Telephone interview, Mar. 18, 1993. Copy of letter on file.
19 Bob Larson Ministries, 1991 Consolidated Balance Sheet, p. 2 (Obtained from Bob Larson Ministries, Aug. 12, 1992, copy on file).
20 Ibid., p. 3.
21 Bob Larson Ministries, 1990 federal Form 990, p. 1 (copy on file).
22 Alan Dumas, "Air Raid!", Rocky Mountain News Sunday Magazine, 22 Sept. 1991, p. 14-M; see also Bob Larson, "Prepare For War," Radio broadcast, Jan. 29, 1993.
23 "Affidavit with Respect to Financial Affairs of Bobby E. Larson," Larson v. Larson, ibid., signed July 12, 1993.
24 Bob Larson, "Talk-Back With Bob Larson," Radio broadcast, Jan. 29, 1993.
25 Ibid., ibid.
26 William T. Abbott, Letter, July 8, 1991 [emphasis mine]. Copy on file; see Corner stone, supra note 3, p. 41, for a complete text of the letter.
NOTES TO THE ESTIMATE OF LARSON'S 1990 MINISTRY INCOME:
B Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service show Larson's total compensation from Bob Larson Ministries to be $222,237 -- almost $5,000 HIGHER than the figure reported in the affidavit. Note also that a $175,000 bonus, ostensibly paid as compensation for the forbearance of salary by Larson in previous years, has not been included in this calcu lation; according to courtroom testimony, it was paid in 1989.
C According to sources within BLM -- corroborated in part by courtroom testimony -- IBN's primary function is to distribute Larson's "Talk-Back" radio broadcasts; any business it conducts with other ministries is, for the most part, purely incidental.
D According to BLM sources, Larson does not reimburse BLM or IBN for air time spent promoting his books. The "retail" value of this 'incidental' benefit is a
staggering ($10 per 1/2-minute spot x 2 spots/day on each station x 170 stations = $3,400/day -- or over $800,000/year! Still, there IS something to be said for volume discounts. The figure used is a quick approximation, based on a rough estimate that 1/60th of the "Talk-Back" air time is dedicated to "book promotion," and his program is substantially subsidized (55-60% of the total cost of air time, based on estimates from radio station managers) by locally-based commercial advertising.
E This figure was based primarily upon the testimony of Lori Boespflug, who claimed to have spent over 1,000 hours during 1990 on the writing of Dead Air, and has time sheets to prove it. Larson has since publicly admitted that his research staffers produce so- called "briefing books," which he uses as the research for his many books. He has not, however, confirmed staffers' allegations that they do most of the writing and editing. The $20,000 figure is therefore conservative, but not unreasonably so. Incidentally, Boespflug told me that she was "about 90% finished" with Abaddon when she was fired by Bob Larson; it will be interesting to compare her draft copy with the final published product.
F This figure was based upon testimony from several sources -- including an agreement between Larson and Dead Air publisher Thomas Nelson. Evidently, at the close of 1990, Larson and his lawyers drew up an agreement which enabled the Ministry to benefit from the sale of books as "premiums," but prior to that, it is believed that Larson garnered most of the benefit from book sales.
G According to courtroom testimony, the total income reported on the Larson's 1990 fed eral income tax return was $403,310, of which $39,300 was directly attributable to tax able dividends and interest. If Larson's pre-tax income from Ministry activity in this estimate was reported as expected, he should have received roughly $70,000 in bona fide royalties, after expenses -- which is in line with reasonable expectations.
Copyright 1993 Kenneth L. Smith. Please direct your questions to the author at P.O. Box 280305, Lakewood, CO 80228 or Scott Mikusko at firstname.lastname@example.org. This copyrighted article may be redistributed freely through all E-Mail systems, public and private e-mail posts, provided the author is mentioned as source.
Ken Smith, a CPA, is a second-year law student at the University of Denver. He also has a Masters Degree in Taxation at the University of Denver.