Howard Baker’s Infamous Question During Watergate as Applied at Larry Caffery and Covenant Life Church: What did C.J. Mahaney Know…and When did he Know it?

In the Watergate scandal Howard Baker asked the defining question that is the most remembered question that was posed. What did the president know and when did he know it? New details and a new scandal emerged from Covenant Life Church and the question that needs to be asked of C.J. Mahaney about Larry Caffery is the following: What did C.J. Mahaney know and when did he know it?


“My primary thesis is still, what did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Tennessee Senator Howard Baker June 29, 1973

Truth is strong, and sometimes or other will prevail.”

Mary Astell

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32 NLT


Howard Baker asking his question…

In late June of 1973 the ranking Republican Senator on the Watergate Committee was a gentleman from Tennessee by the name of Howard Baker. He was investigating the issues surrounding Watergate and was an ally of Nixon. After the break in at the Democratic National  at the time, Nixon had conspired to cover up Watergate. On February 22, 1973 Nixon and Baker had a private meeting in the White House. Baker told Nixon that pressure was going to be applied. The pressure would be increased slowly. The testimony would start with lower ranking people and increase hopefully to H.R. Haldeman. Nixon in response proposed a deal whereas private testimony would be given by the highest ranking witnesses. Baker punted as he was in no position to represent the committee, plus he also knew what obstruction of justice is and didn’t want  to be dragged into it.

In April of 1973 John Dean talked with the Watergate Committee and he started to come clean. In response Nixon fired him on April 30, 1973. On June 25, 1973 Dean testified before the Watergate committee. He opened up about Nixon’s knowledge and involvement of the cover up. He also implicated the Attorney General at the time John Mitchell and himself in his testimony. On June 29, 1973 in an open hearing Howard Baker asked what would be the defining question of Watergate and how many people remembered the Senator from Tennessee. The question actually had a differing meaning at the time. Baker asked the question with the goal of separating Nixon from the allegations of criminal activity. He in part was trying to help Nixon. What is the infamous question that defined the Watergate scandal? That question which was asked in a Southern drawl is:

“My primary thesis is still, what did the president know, and when did he know it?”

What happened is that Dean took that question and ran with it, and implicated Nixon and others. He even recalled that he told his former boss of the growing scandal being a cancer on the presidency.  Alexander Butterfield’s testimony in July 1973 revealed that there was a taping system in the White House. The rest of this story is history and I’ll talk about in more detail another time. Afterward Baker was committed to the truth and while a Republican he realized how important the truth is to the party and the country. His loyalty was higher and he was more concerned with the truth being known, and wrongdoing exposed. For his due diligence, and commitment to the truth Baker was admired and praised by many people. He was seen as an honest broker.

I write about Watergate often in conjunction with Sovereign Grace because in reality I can’t think of a better scandal to document and draw parallels between. I’ve written this post here about what the evangelical Christian church can learn from Watergate and Deep Throat. Plus I also authored this personal post which was inspired from the first chapter of Richard Nixon’s book In the Arena.” But there are many parallels and lessons that can be learned as well as warnings. For example Watergate showed us that the system of government and checks and balances worked and that Nixon was held accountable. The fact that C.J. Mahaney is speaking at T4G despite all the allegations of criminal activity show that Sovereign Grace and the system hat supports it is sick and diseased. Watergate is also another lesson in this one area…if you really want to test a man’s character give him power.  See what he does with it. Does he use that power and influence to advance himself, or does he use it to help others in need? Next week I would like to do a recap of what is going on with the Larry Caffrey situation and put my spin on it as I see the situation. But I want to dedicate this rest of this post to pose a question that I believe the evangelical church needs to ask. In the spirit of Howard Baker who actually was a man, I would suggest for his principles, this is the question the church needs to be asking:

“What did C.J. Mahaney know about Larry Caffery, and when did he know it?”

What Did C.J. Mahaney Know?

The situation started in 2004 I believe when Larry Caffery allegedly started to sexually abuse his own daughter in 2004 and it continued to as recently as February 2016. The damning information was published in a book called Years of Grace, Life of Mercy. Caffery wrote about his fears of sexually abusing a daughter if he had one. In 2004 C.J. Mahaney governed the ship and dominated Covenant Life. He ruled it in the same way Brigham Young ruled territorial Utah, meaning you couldn’t tie your shoe without C.J.’s permission. Mahaney had to know details as the system was structured for information to flow upward. People reported up the chain of command in this pyramid based system. And Mahaney was at the apex of this system. He knew intimate details of other members and people of CLC and SGM. One other CLC pastor did know as the book indicates their involvement. That is known…in this situation we are at the beginning of what will be a long, sordid journey. More information will come out in time, so I write this to say the following: brace yourself. You are going to learn some sick and sordid details as Covenant Life goes into damage control. We have just scratched the surface.  However it’s my contention that there is one question that everyone should be asking about and should not let up on. That questions is this:

“What did C.J. Mahaney know about Larry Caffery, and when did he know it?”

What did C.J. Mahaney know? Here’s why I believe its important…it’s the link in the conspiracy and problems in Sovereign Grace. How could he know the details about so many other issues and who said what, when and where in other situations but not now this? Its hogwash and its a mechanism to have deniability and its something that I reject. You can’t be in the inner circle and not know these kinds of details. They go along with the territory. You also have to remember that when C.J. issues a denial he is also being dishonest. Remember after the Nate Morales verdict in which his brother-in-law, Grant Layman testified that leadership knew about Nate Morales. That led to this denial that he didn’t know which was contested by a family that is involved. In the days to come expect to see Mahaney say “I didn’t know about Caffery” and remember that there is a pattern of dishonesty. You can’t be the head of an organization and neglect issues like this…if you want the job, the attention, the glamour and fame, be prepared to accept the responsibility as well. So again church let’s ask the question:

“What did C.J. Mahaney know about Larry Caffery, and when did he know it?”

It’s an important question to ask because it gets to the heart of the matter. What are the details? Who knew? On a side note is this the reason why Josh Harris and Kenneth Maresco got the hell out of dodge? They knew what was going on and practiced “Gospel Centered Flight?” Of the two did Josh Harris know more of the sordid details and want to be outside the country when everything broke? Its a good question…someone should Tweet that to Josh and ask him. Is the knowledge of information go beyond those individuals? Did people around Larry Caffery know and keep it quiet?  Did people in his Care Group or Covenant Life activities know anything? Was it reported up their chain of command and did the information ultimately get to C.J. Mahaney? These are all serious questions that need to be asked. The answers will come out in time, as the truth always comes to the surface. In closing this post I would like to end with a pop song that has been bouncing around in my mind these last few days. Its the song Foolish Games. I dedicate this song to those who promote C.J. and the celebrity pastor culture and help these problems continue and drag on. Yes he’s out in Louisville with his run away church plant, but the system he built very much remains in the DNA of churches and former SGM churches. That is the problem that needs to be addressed. And yes these foolish games are tearing people apart. Isn’t one of the signs of faith peace? Lets think more about these issues church and again let’s ask the question

“What did C.J. Mahaney know about Larry Caffery, and when did he know it?”