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July 23, 2007

Tammy Faye Dies at 65

Televangelist, talk show host, one-time Surreal Life housemate and AIDS pioneer Tammy Faye Messner died Friday morning from lung cancer at the age of 65. The former wife of famed televangelist Jim Bakker, Messner was one of the first people on Christian television to embrace people living with HIV/AIDS, urging viewers to pray for them.

She abandoned televangelism in the 80s after her husband was defrocked for adultery and imprisoned on 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy, and returned to the air in 1996 on a syndicated talk show entitled The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show, which was co-hosted by gay, HIV-positive actor Jim J. Bullock.

On March 19, 2004, she was invited on Larry King Live—much like she invited people with AIDS onto her own program—to announce that she would be undergoing chemotherapy for inoperable lung cancer. She appeared again on the show just last week, very sickly, weighing only 65 pounds, and bearing a single message for viewers: “I genuinely love you and I genuinely care. And I genuinely want to see you in heaven someday.”

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