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K. A. Paul Joins the Gainesville Circus

Politico reports:

“We have a challenge to the imam in New York,” said [Pastor Terry D. Jones], appearing with Christian evangelist KA Paul outside the church in Gainesville, Fla. Paul, who said he had been advising and praying with Jones, then gave his phone number, urging Rauf to call him and set up a meeting.

“I was shocked at what had happened yesterday,” Paul told reporters, referring to conflicting reports Thursday that Jones called off his protest because he had a deal with Rauf. “There is a confusion going on and we want to clear that confusion. For Imam Faisal, the challenge is crystal clear.”

I previously blogged on KA Paul in 2006 – he’s another self-publicist, who garnered headlines by blagging his way into a private meeting with Dennis Hastert. I noted some background then, including a profile that had appeared in the Houston Press a few months prior:

The investigation revealed a story much different from the one spun by Anand Kilari [Paul] and his supporters. It’s the story of an egomaniac with a doctored past and an obsession with an airplane that receives more money than starving orphans in India, a man whose hubris and deceptions have burned nearly every bridge that was supposed to lead him to his true, unspoken goal: to show the world that where there once was Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., there is now Dr. K.A. Paul.

The paper accuses the would-be “Billy Graham of India” of a number of dishonest activities, such as pretending that an Indian leper colony was being run by his ministry, when in fact it belonged to an unconnected organisation. Paul, however, is not shy at lashing out against those who have thwarted his plans for self-aggrandisement, including – somewhat unexpectedly – the Israeli government, the Republican Party, the Southern Baptist Convention, and both Condoleezza Rice and Olusegun Obasanjo:

Kilari is incensed that Condoleezza Rice and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo took credit for inducing [Charles] Taylor’s surrender. Three years ago, he says, they also stole credit for Taylor’s resignation. Kilari wants them both impeached.

In 2003, on the day Nigerian authorities took Taylor aboard a plane bound for his new home in Nigeria, television footage showed Kilari trying to board the plane as well, only to get shoved away like a nerd attempting to sit at the cool kids’ table. They treated him like he was a nobody, and to Kilari, that is the greatest injustice of all.

This particular “injustice” was also remarked upon by Taylor himself. The New Yorker reported in 2003:

Charles Taylor, having laid waste to Liberia, has been trying to set the record straight about who persuaded him to surrender his Presidency and go into exile in Nigeria. “I will say that 99% of [the credit] goes to Dr. K.A. Paul alone,” he wrote on August 16th, in a letter to the Times. Since Taylor was on the verge of losing a civil war, and three African heads of state went to Liberia to usher him out of the country—and since President Bush made his exit a precondition of American peacekeeping help—this is no small nod to Dr. K.A. Paul.

However, the Times declined to print Taylor’s letter, and so Paul arranged for a PR firm to circulate it:

“The man is risking his very life,” Dr. Paul cried. He meant that Taylor’s letter could perturb his host, Nigeria’s President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who believes that he deserves much of the credit for getting Taylor out of Liberia, and who is under some international pressure to hand Taylor over to Sierra Leone, where he has been indicted for war crimes. What’s more, President Obasanjo apparently dislikes Dr. Paul because, according to Dr. Paul, he is jealous of the great crowds and the great press that Dr. Paul gets in Nigeria for his evangelical crusades.

…To increase his clout in Washington, Dr. Paul recently hired a dozen defeated American political candidates, including four former congressmen, as lobbyists and consultants. They should be helpful, he has said, with fund-raising—and so, presumably, should Nelson Bunker Hunt…

Paul’s dispute the Israeli government, meanwhile, concerned its unwillingness to give him a multi-entry visa that would have allowed him to use his plane to drop off and pick up an American Jewish group while he toured the middle east. The group concerned, Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, had paid Paul $850,000 for the transport, and they sued him for its return. Paul subsequently accused Israel of “arrogance” for not treating him in a manner that befits his status.

As for the Republican Party – the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in 2006:

Voters should oust congressional Republican leaders because U.S. foreign policy is delaying the second coming of Jesus Christ, according to a evangelical preacher trying to influence closely contested political races.

K.A. Paul railed against the war in Iraq on Sunday before a crowd of 1,000 at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, his first stop on what he hopes is a 30-city campaign.

The Houston-based preacher said he believes that the Bush administration has delayed the second coming because U.S. foreign policy has blocked Christian missionaries from working in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

…Paul, who claimed to support conservative political leaders in the past, is launching “a crusade to save America from the wrath of God and Republicans abusing their power,” according to his press materials.

…”God is mad at this country,” Paul told the congregation. He described the war in Iraq as “unnecessary genocide.”

The Southern Baptist Convention, meanwhile, earned his wrath after it passed a vote of “no confidence” in his ministry:

Kilari denied the claims, calling them lies “from the pit of hell.” He told The Dallas Morning News, “There’s a jealousy involved…among people trying to take credit for my work.”

There was even worse news in 2005, when Paul was expelled from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The Houston Press also notes his origins as an aide to Indian evangelist P.J. Titus, and makes allegation of unethical conduct:

Kilari has always denied working for Titus, but Titus’s autobiography includes a photo of Kilari at Titus’s desk, assisting him “in the business side of ministry,” circa 1983…Kilari had access to Titus’s mailing list, so he wrote letters to Titus’s flock, discrediting Titus and encouraging them to donate to Anand Kilari, a true Christian.

According to sources cited in the same report, Paul arranged for himself to be assaulted at a Gospel Crusade meeting with CNN present:

This news report came over the international wire service, and it was aired here in the States. As a result, K.A. Paul was able to wriggle his way into the hearts of the unsuspecting here. He was a guest on TBN [a far-reaching evangelical TV network], which gave him credibility, and then as a result he was received by many unsuspecting ministries as their guest.

An endorsement from the founder of the Promise Keepers followed:

[Bill] McCartney joined Kilari’s board of directors and wrote the foreword to Kilari’s autobiography, Left for Dead.

“I am so drawn to the fire of God I see in this man,” McCartney wrote. “I don’t know of anyone in the world who is more used by God today than Dr. K.A. Paul.”

Further letters of support appear on the website of Paul’s Global Peace Initiative:

April 25, 2002

…In February of 2002, I traveled to India as the guest of Global Peace Initiative to witness first hand the powerful and effective impact upon thousands of homeless and widowed women in the “Little Teresas” movement, as well as visiting orphanages and schools operated by Global Peace.

Dr. Paul is well known and respected in his native land of India, and it is my pleasure to commend him and his work.

Sincerely yours

Mike Huckabee

Nelson Bunker Hunt, who has served on his board of directors, adds:

March 21, 2003

…I have never known a more dynamic and committed man than K. A. Paul. I have watched him literally invest his life in 10’s of thousands of widows, orphans, the poor and needy. He seems to have the heart of a Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandy…His humble lifestyle is testament to the fact that his concern is for others. Beyond earning the respect of businessmen like myself, he has won surprising political favor around the world…I strongly endorse GPI…

There are also endorsements from Indian politicians, such as K. Yerannaidu of the Indian Telugu Desam Party – who manages to endorse Paul while indulging in a bit of self-promotion at the same time:

I am honored to be the youngest politician to become a cabinet minister and the Party parliamentary leader, since the first Honorable Prime Minister of India, Nehru. In my political career, I have been a sincere follower of both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr K. A. Paul…even though I have been privileged to be the leader of a strategic political party of India, I have been able to maintain a good relationship with all political parties.

Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda is also an enthusiast.

A more flattering profile of Paul appeared in the New Republic back in 2004:

…All of Paul’s supporters mention the minister’s strange, undefinable charisma. The word “anointed” popped up repeatedly, and at least one adviser compared Paul to the “ravenous bird from the east” that the book of Isaiah prophecies will come in latter days to work God’s will. “He’s just overwhelmed with faith,” says Representative [Bob] Clement. “He makes things happen that others think, ‘There is no way that can happen.'”

Paul and his followers are happy to recall his many amazing encounters with remarkable (if often reprehensible) people. There was the time he lectured Yasir Arafat on the evils of sending children to commit suicide, “even if you believe you are doing justice.” Then there was the time, during the Elián González mess, that Paul traveled to Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro, only to back out at the last minute–“Literally, I was in his office,” says Paul–because the Cuban leader would not let Paul use his own translator. In 1999, Paul met with Milosevic during the U.S. aerial assault. And, in 2002, he had phone conversations with Saddam and met personally with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan in an attempt to avert war with the United States.

Even this report, however, had to concede that Paul “is so desperate to convince you of his influence that he can come across as either a liar or a crank”.

According to a discussion thread here, Paul’s biggest donor in the past was controversial businessman John Gregory (link added):

John Gregory, founder of King Pharmaceuticals (recently sold) was the biggest donor behind K.A. but for ‘Gospel to the Unreached Millions‘ (GUM), and not for Global Peace Initiative, (GPI). John literally gave millions per year in cash for many years, and many millions more in ‘in kind’ gifts through King Benevolent Fund and others. John supported 53,000 widows per month for K.A.’s widow training program.