Duplantis

Destrehan based televangelist posted a video to his website on Saturday to explain he never asked his followers for money to purchase a new jet (screenshot via jdm.org).

This past week's media circus has been nothing but a luxury jet-sized miscommunication, Louisiana televangelist Jesse Duplantis said Saturday. 

After a video of the Destrehan-based preacher telling followers of his need for a new $54 million plane quickly went viral, Duplantis posted a "special message" to his website Saturday to explain what he said was confusion driven by media coverage. 

“They never started the story. I did. Why? Because I wanted to be completely honest with all my partners and friends," he said, seated behind a desk in a room filled with ornate decorations.

He went on to explain that his goal wasn't to raise money to fund the purchase, but to have followers join him in "believing" in God for it to happen. 

Jesse Duplantis Ministries runs Covenant Church in Destrehan and produces a weekly broadcast that airs on WGNO-TV in New Orleans and several religious networks.

On the new video, after reading aloud a letter he says he received asking about the situation, he tells the writer: "I'm not asking you to pay for my plane." 

In the initial video, posted on May 21, Duplantis told viewers God had spoken to him and asked him to "believe" for a new Dassault Falcon 7X. The jet would replace his current one, a Dassault Falcon 50 he purchased in 2006. 

Duplantis detailed his history of owning jets, the first two of which he said are now being used by other ministries. He said he would donate his current jet once he buys the new one, which he said could travel greater distances without stopping to refuel and would avoid excessive costs. 

Critics reacted quickly to the sight of the wealthy preacher, who lives in a church-funded mansion in St. Charles Parish, appearing to solicit donations. His words indicated he wanted followers to help with the purchase, although he stopped short of asking for money. 

"All people know exactly what I’m doing in this ministry. We don’t hide nothing whatsoever at all. I am a blessed man — you’re looking at a blessed man. And we never ask you to give something that me and Cathy (Duplantis) don’t give ourselves," Duplantis said in the initial video, adding that the new plane would be purchased in cash. 

Later in the video he said: "Pray about becoming a partner to it if you’d like to, and if you don’t — you don’t have to. But I wish you would." 

Duplantis explained Saturday that his request had nothing to do with money. But the preacher, who claims his global ministry reaches 2.9 billion people, said he's still gotten interest from possible donors. 

"A lot of people have called me and said, ‘I want to get involved in that new plane you’re believing for,’ " Duplantis said in the new video. "I said, ‘Well, that’s up to you, but I never asked you for it.’ And there’s nothing wrong with asking you for it. That’s not the issue. But I didn’t.”

Duplantis isn't the only religious leader who has reached out to followers about a new set of wings. Kenneth Copeland, a televangelist from Texas, announced in January that he had taken possession of a "debt-free" Gulfstream V. He credited its purchase to members of Kenneth Copeland Ministries and included an image and video of him with the jet. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Duplantis and Copeland both defended the use of private jets in a 2015 exchange.

"This is so important ... we've got to have this," Copeland said at the time. "The mess that airlines are in today, I would have to stop — I'm being very conservative — at least 75 to 80, more like 90 percent of what we're doing" without his own plane. 

Duplantis said Saturday he wasn't discouraged by the latest coverage, appearing giddy about the media exposure his ministry has received. He laughed as he mentioned stories on Fox News, "Good Morning America" and CNN. He did not address the social media reaction, which flooded his ministry's pages after the news spread online. 

He did, however, repeat his position that there is nothing wrong with a religious organization drawing funds from supporters. 

“I know people thought I was doing something wrong. I don’t dupe nobody. I’ve always been honest. Forty years I’ve been preaching this gospel and I’ve never had a scandal," Duplantis said, "and this is not a scandal." 

Follow Jeff Nowak on Twitter, @Jeff​_Nowak.