Pro-Brexit Prosperity Evangelist in Clerical Collar Prompts Conspiracy Theory about Newsnight

From the Independent:

The BBC has taken the unusual step of denying that a guest on a Newsnight Brexit debate who spoke in favour of Theresa May’s European Union withdrawal deal was “a paid actor”, after conspiracy theories about her real identity swirled on social media.

The corporation issued a statement about Lynn Hayter’s appearance after some Twitter users suggested she had been brought on to unfairly sway public opinion.

Hayter has a minor career as an actor, working mostly as an extra under her middle name Marina. However, she also has a religious ministry called Seeds For Wealth, and she appeared on Newsnight wearing a clerical collar. It appears that some people mistakenly assumed from her appearance that she was presenting herself as a vicar of the Church of England, and from this has grown the conspiracy theory that the BBC paid her to pose as a vicar in order to lend authority to the pro-Brexit argument:

Labour peer Andrew Adonis, who has repeatedly argued that Britain should remain in the EU, also tweeted about her appearance.

He asked: “Is it true that @BBCNewsnight engaged actors to put the Leave argument in a recent studio discussion because they wanted the Leave case put more strongly?”

…Presenter Emily Maitlis warned Lord Adonis not to “become a peddler of fake news”.

She tweeted: “Not in this day and age. Not when we need our parliamentarians to be better and more trusted than ever. To have got to a place where you could chose to believe that enough to write it is deeply worrying.”

On Twitter, Hayter describes herself as a “protege of Mike Murdock”, and she is shown posing with Murdock in her profile picture. There is also a video in which she is endorsed by Dr Jerry Grillo, Jr, Presiding Bishop of the Favor Center Church in Hickory, North Carolina.

Essentially, Hayter is an independent evangelist whose authority and credibility derive from other evangelists rather than from a formal position within a denomination. She titles herself “Minister”, and the Independent confirms that she was not billed by Newsnight as “Reverend”. It is not clear, though, why she chose to wear a clerical collar on television: she does not do so on publicity materials for her ministry, and it is not Murdock’s practice to wear one either.

Murdock first came to attention as an associate of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker on PTL in the 1980s; he subsequently founded his own church, emphasising the Prosperity Gospel. The Dallas Observer has run articles criticising his ministry and his finances over many years, and 2015 he was famously mocked on The Daily Show in a segment by John Oliver (blogged here). Another associate is Pastor Mark Burns, who led prayers at Trump rallies in 2016. Murdock had a photo-op with Trump in late 2015, and he has more recently spoken at Trump rallies.

Murdock travels abroad, and in Nigeria he has links with Reverend Biodun Fatoyinbo, Senior Pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) Worldwide: in 2014, Murdock presented Fatoyinbo with a Rolls Royce, and Fatoyinbo reciprocated last year with a giant birthday cake. He also makes visits to the UK – I remember seeing him in London in late 2001, and he is a regular at Kingsway International Christian Centre’s (KICC) yearly “Gathering of Champions” in Chatham. KICC was founded by Matthew Ashimolowo, a Nigerian immigrant to the UK, but Hayter’s involvement with Murdock shows that his international appeal is not just to African Christians, for whom Prosperity teachings are at one end of a spectrum of motivational rhetoric and practical self-help advice that have actually been of value to adherents.

The Independent also refers to Hayter as an author – her book Seeing God through the Camera Lens is available on Amazon, and according to a review there the work is “Totally Challenging and a MUST READ – LIFE CHANGING for anyone.”

UPDATE: The story has now been picked up by the Daily Mirror, with the botched subheading “The BBC denies ‘Reverend Lynn’ is actually a professional actress called Marina Hayter after eagle-eyed viewers took to Twitter”. That, of course, is not the BBC position: no one denies that Hayter is an actor, but the channel does dispute the allegation that she was playing a role for them when she appeared on Newsnight.

As James O’Brien puts it: “An eccentric, self-styled cleric, with thespian ambitions, has as much right to be in that studio as any other member of the public.”

(Note – some of the social media chatter incorrectly names Hayter’s ministry as “Seeds Of Wealth” rather than “Seeds For Wealth”)

One Response

  1. Thanks for the background checks.

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