Bishop Larry Trotter posted a picture of himself in the bath with his granddaughter earlier in the week and ignited an internet storm.
The high-profile senior pastor of the huge, 8,000-member Sweet Holy Spirit Church in Chicago began to publicly defend himself on Thursday after receiving hundreds of abusive messages on social media.
Trotter says the photograph was completely innocent, but the bishop was described online as a ‘child molester’ and a ‘pedophile.’ ‘The vulgarities have been terrible,’ the pastor said.
Trotter called into the John Hannah Morning Show to explain himself and explain how the previous days had been dark ones for his family.
The bishop told the radio show hosts that his granddaughter and her parents had been visiting, and he was taking a bubble bath, wearing swimming trunks, when the four-year-old wandered into the bathroom.
When the girl, also wearing trunks, asked if she should get into the bath, her mother placed her in the tub for a few minutes and snapped the family photo.
Trotter explains that another family member with access to his Instagram account posted the picture online, where the scandal immediately flared.
While Trotter deleted the picture within minutes, it was too late. The photo appeared on the Obnoxious TV blog and as reported by Madame Noire it quickly proliferated online.
Next it featured on the Facebook account of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad Teachings Testimonial Page on Wednesday night, with the caption:
‘NO SIR BISHOP TROTTER!!! No man should ever ever ever take a bath with a female in his family or friends. That’s only for a man and his WIFE! This is totally inappropriate behavior!’
Facebook and Twitter users went further, describing the photo as ‘disgusting’, ‘sick’, and suggesting that child protection authorities should get involved.
Trotter claimed to have 1,200 hate mails on his personal Facebook page.
The bishop added: ‘I’m not ashamed of what I did. I am ashamed and hurt that it is going out all over the world and people have called me everything from a child molester to a pedophile to a nasty old man and how I should get out of the ministry.’
It is not the first time that Trotter has had controversy involving his granddaughter, who he describes as ‘first lady’ of his life on the official church page.
In September 2012 he staged a mock execution – men just held up the girl in front of a cross – to protest against a Chicago teachers’ strike.
‘My grandbaby’s on this cross to symbolize the 400,000 children who now for the seventh day are being crucified of their education and their safety,’ he told ABC.