Joel Osteen on Wednesday dismissed harsh criticism that his Texas megachurch had been purposely shuttered to homeless victims of Hurricane Harvey, calling it a "safety issue."
"The narrative is we didn’t want to take people in or we didn’t open in time, you know, is totally not true," the beleaguered Houston pastor told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s "Good Morning America."
"We were here for people. This building was a safety issue and we took people in from the very beginning."
Osteen was raked over the coals on Twitter earlier this week after his massive Lakewood Church, which holds up 16,800 worshipers, appeared to be shut while other smaller, less wealthy parishes in the Houston area stayed open to welcome waterlogged residents.
On Monday night, Osteen said his church would begin accepting survivors of the deadly storm. Before that announcement, he insisted to George Stephanopoulos, "the building was inaccessible" because of flooding.
"I think somebody created that narrative that somehow we were high and dry and none of that is true," said Osteen, 54.
"It was a big flood and it affected all of the people that run this facility as well. But, you know what, we’ve been here 60 years helping people and we’re going to be here long after all this dies down helping these people as well."
Furious Twitter users slammed Osteen on Monday with such comments as:
Osteen's sermons are broadcast to more than 7 million viewers weekly and over 20 million monthly in over 100 countries.
The rainfall in Texas reached epic proportions on Tuesday as the downpour in Cedar Bayou, 148 miles southwest of Houston reached 51.88 inches -- a record for both the Lone Star State and the continental United States.
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