Houston Millionaire Televangelist Cries Over Backlash After Refusing To Shelter Hurricane Survivors

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The Rev. Joel Osteen, the televangelist and pastor of a megachurch in Houston, continues to defend his decision not to open Lakewood Church’s doors to shelter people who been displaced Hurricane Harvey.

The religious leader tweeted on Tuesday that the 16,000-seat church was finally receiving “anyone who needs shelter,” following accusations that he and his congregation weren’t doing enough to aid Harvey’s victims.

Osteen appeared via satellite on CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, and the Today show to explain why it took Lakewood days to start sheltering people:

If you were here, you’d understand why. Our volunteers, people that run this building, they can’t get to the facility.

Lakewood posted that it was “inaccessible due to severe flooding” on Sunday, though a video posted to Facebook on Monday appeared to show the relatively dry surroundings of the 16,000-seat Houston church—the largest in America. Lakewood reaches 20 million followers per month, and has helped Osteen and his wife, Victoria, amass an estimated net worth of more than $50 million.

That is untrue, as more than one journalist pointed out:

Osteen claimed that the city initially requested that the church be a distribution center and/or a command center following the storm.

“We could’ve been a shelter from day one if they wanted that,” he insisted, noting that he’s not sure how many people the church has taken in but is sure that the number is in the hundreds. “This notion that we turned people away or that we weren’t here for the city, we’ve been here sixty years doing this.”

CBS This Morning also asked Osteen about the fundraising on the church’s website to help Hurricane Harvey victims, but noted that it “wasn’t clear” what charity those donations were going to or how that money would be used. “We’d be raising money for the victims here in Houston,” Osteen explained. “I don’t know how it all works. We’re working with Samaritan’s Purse and different ones.”

“We’ll be here five years from now helping these people,” Osteen said. The funds “will go to the people affected by the flooding, many of them our own [church] members.”

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