Footage of Joseph Rutherford cavorting in the grounds of Beth Sarim has been released by a former bethelite

A former worker at the Brooklyn Bethel has leaked an embarrassing video of former Watchtower president Joseph Rutherford cavorting in the grounds of his San Diego residence, Beth Sarim.

Beth Sarim, Rutherford’s summer hideaway, was ostensibly built due to his poor health and in expectation of faithful Bible characters of old one day returning to rule over the Earth.

This rare film was broadcast during a bethel family evening in 1990. Eric Bottorff, who now runs, captured the footage on his VCR at the time and subsequently mislaid it before finding it again recently. The film was apparently shot some time during the 1930s at “Beth Shan,” a property adjacent to Beth Sarim, which was in the process of construction at the time.

The silent footage shows Rutherford sticking his tongue out at the camera (twice), ploughing a field, kissing fruit while fooling around among fruit trees with a laborer, and drinking some unknown fluid from a cup.

It is impossible to confirm whether Rutherford was drunk in this video or just unusually happy and playful, but he does strike the viewer as being inebriated on more than one occasion. After all, sticking one’s tongue out at a camera is not the sort of thing one usually does when sober. It’s no great stretch of the imagination to suggest that whatever Rutherford was drinking from his glass towards the end of the film was more than just orange juice.

Rutherford’s drinking habits

Few Witnesses are aware that Rutherford had a reputation as a drinker. In his book “Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” retired professor Jim Penton remarks…

“Although Jehovah’s Witnesses have done everything possible to hide accounts of the judge’s drinking habits, they are simply too notorious to be denied. Former workers at the Watch Tower’s New York headquarters recount tales of his inebriation and drunken stupors. Others tell stories of how difficult it sometimes was to get him to the podium to give talks at conventions because of his drunkenness. In San Diego, California, where he spent his winters from 1930 until his death, an elderly lady still speaks of how she sold him great quantities of liquor when he came to purchase medicines in her husband’s drugstore.”

Joseph Rutherford as portrayed in the Society’s “Faith In Action” DVDs

Penton goes on to relate an open letter of complaint to Rutherford by Walter Salter, who had been one of his closest friends and confidants before breaking with him over doctrinal issues. In his letter, dated April 1, 1937, Salter complained of Rutherford’s excessive drinking, and of the fact that he bought large quantities of alcohol using Society funds. He bemoaned the fact that Rutherford “sends us out from door to door to face the enemy while he goes from ‘drink to drink’ and tells us if we don’t we are going to be destroyed.”

Regardless of whether or not Rutherford was drunk in this newly-uncovered video, it unquestionably shows him in a less than flattering light – lurching around in his own private paradise playing the fool. It’s a far cry from the sober and pristine orator recently portrayed in Watchtower’s “Faith In Action” DVD series.

Any Witnesses watching this rare footage of their glorified former leader will be bewildered to consider that it reveals a man now believed to have been hand-picked by Christ in 1919 to be part of his faithful and discreet slave. They would do well to ask themselves, “was this really the best guy for the job?”






Further reading…

34 thoughts on “Rare film footage of Rutherford at Beth Sarim leaked on YouTube

  • July 27, 2013 at 11:13 am

    “After all, sticking one’s tongue out at a camera is not the sort of thing one usually does when sober.”

    John, I usually agree with you wholeheartedly, but this sentence I have to beg to differ on. People can be playful without being drunk. My family does this all the time when the camera is rolling. They stick out their tongues, they flip the bird, etc. It’s just human nature to be silly sometimes. It doesn’t mean inebriation and I think it’s a bit of a stretch to insinuate that because he sticks his tongue out he’s probably drunk. We have much more evidence of his drinking from eyewitness accounts without having to throw in speculation. Just a thought.

    That said, it’s been reported the Rutherford was an alcoholic, earning him the nickname “Booze Joe”, which I find hilarious :)

    • July 27, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Thanks Kerri. Your point about him sticking his tongue out not necessarily meaning he’s drunk is well taken, but I maintain that it’s unusual at the very least for him to do it twice in the space of one film. If nothing else it’s juvenile behavior, and you wouldn’t catch me doing it.

      Also, bear in mind how unique film cameras were back then in the 30s. Most people who have a camera pointed at them even today are at least slightly self-aware, especially if they are in positions of authority. Rutherford isn’t remotely bothered about whether or not he comes across as “presidential” in this film.

      Ultimately, as I wrote above, “It is impossible to confirm whether Rutherford was drunk in this video or just unusually happy and playful.”

    • July 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      There is a photo of Einstien sticking his tongue out at the camera.

      • July 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        Was Einstein leader of a Christian organization that taught sobriety? ;)

        Also, lest we forget, I said, “sticking one’s tongue out at a camera is not the sort of thing one USUALLY does when sober.”

  • July 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

    “He bemoaned the fact that Rutherford “sends us out from door to door to face the enemy while he goes from ‘drink to drink’ and tells us if we don’t we are going to be destroyed”

    Interesting comment because I was always told that all Jehovah’s Witnesses from the Governing Body on down to the lowliest of publishers were required to have a share in the regular door to door ministry and preaching work…always under threat of “bloodguilt”…
    OR, “If you know what is right and do not do it is a sin…” James 4:17
    Just more self serving hypocrisy I suppose and part of the Grand façade and illusion!

  • July 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    The idea of Beth Sarim is a joke. “A place where ressurected patriarches of old could come and live” while Ruthorford lived it up on this property.

  • July 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Farmers who are working there land don’t dress like you see Rutherford dressed in this film. It is obvious that most of the hard work would have been done by JW volunteers. This looks more like a “Jolly” PR film showing Rutherford on his new ranch. “Yeah” Rutherford had more urgent maters to attend to then the door to door ministry “Spending other peoples money”.

    • August 1, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      Agreed. Don’t forget, this was during the Depression, so while everyone else was eating out of garbage cans, Rutherford was boozing in up in a mansion paid for by donations. Oh, I almost forgot, after he had the mansion built, when his “princes” never showed up, he just used the leftover money two by two brand new Cadillacs. Yeah, Jesus choose him to represent the ‘true’ religion….

  • July 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    The construction and ‘farming’ footage is at Beth Shan as Cedars says. Beth Shan was built in 1939. It was much larger than Beth Sarim- both in the land area and size of the buildings. The property included not only a residence, but several other structures including a secret bomb shelter hidden in a goat barn. Rutherford probably thought the Japanese would soon arrive on the shores of San Diego. He would be safe, but to hell with everyone else.

    Both Beth Sarim and Shan still exist, but I wouldn’t call them adjacent to each other, but certainly a short car journey distance away.

    It was kept secret from the ‘rank and file’ and during construction ‘guards’ were posted to keep the curious from snooping around. There is only one reference to Beth Shan in WT literature in the May 27, 1942 Consolation magazine. It was sold in 1945, I guess because Moses, David and their mates hadn’t showed up by then.

    • July 28, 2013 at 1:47 am

      Thanks JimmyG for that extra valuable insight.

      I wrote that Beth Shan was adjacent based on the following from the Consolation of 1942, May 27, p. 3…

      “New location for interment was almost in the center of the property known as Beth-Shan, which is roughly 75 acres of canyon and mesa land, adjoining Beth-Sarim but separated by a half-mile width of canyon.”

      Doubtless over many decades of development it is harder to traverse the two properties than it once was.

  • July 28, 2013 at 12:18 am

    “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix

  • August 1, 2013 at 4:39 am

    I think the video is subjective. Though I laughed out loud at the point that in 1919 this is the man that was chosen, out of all others. lol
    And yes, in my innocence and naivety I didn’t realize that Rutherford was eating apples instead of witnessing. I’ve got ‘better things to do’ also.

  • August 1, 2013 at 8:50 am

    He appears to me as some sort of goof-ball! You’d think Rutherford had to know this footage might be shown around. Yet he seems quite caught up in himself. A not-too-clever way to get to hang out in California and avoid the hard New York winters-yet he got away with it. While the other Bible Students/JWs were bundling up tight for another cold day in field service.

  • August 2, 2013 at 3:39 am

    I would love to have had a drink with the boozehound.. he seems much more agreeable and affable than here than in those horrible stern photos. Here’s to you judge :-P *cheers!* (but with no glass touching as its pagan or sign that noblemen used to prove they didn’t poison each others drinks..) Oh but handshakes are OK even though they came from swordsmen proving they weren’t going to kill eachother so offered their sword hand to shake. Parp! utter garbage.. Or maybe we should settle for a Harlem style touch.. peace homie rutterford

  • August 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    The first occasion he is sticking his tongue out was not at the camera, it’s at someone else in the room, perhaps as a gesture of teasing fun at a child or other playful adult. You can tell by his subsequent serious poker face that he was being playful. It’s quite common for people to cheekily poke their tongue out at someone in moments of frivolity and fun. My own mother still does this to us and her grandchildren sometimes, and she never touches alcohol. On the second occasion he is poking his tongue out, it is at the camera while holding a bunch of juicy oranges, probably just to signify the deliciousness of the ripe fruit he is holding. People often stick their tongue out at the prospect of eating something sweet and delicious. Perhaps he made fruit wine or something from his harvest but this video hardly presents any evidence of all of drunken behaviour, although I am not denying the other evidence of his drunkenness apart from this video. The video was probably deliberately made to portray Rutherford as more human and having a humorous side. It’s a bit silly to stress the video as some kind of evidence of his drunkenness when the main point that you missed was that it highlights how Rutherford lived like a king in luxury built by voluntary labour and donations under the excuse of needing accommodation for soon to be resurrected persons from ancient biblical times.

  • August 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Did you notice his shinny gold watch?

  • August 13, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Grasping straws goof-balls. This is what happens when you REALLY have no fuel for the fire. They say a cop can follow you driving and you will make tons of mistakes which he can has the right to give you a ticket! Seems like that’s what you desperate sodomites are looking for. Did you mention that brothers used to smoke outside Kingdom Halls til the late 60’s. There some more fuel for your bane message!! Goof-Balls!!!!!

    • August 13, 2013 at 7:06 am

      The only goof ball I can see on this page is the one prancing around in his San Diego paradise, most likely under the influence, at a time when his fellow countrymen were battling severe austerity. Bear in mind that this is no ordinary man, but purportedly one of the earliest members of Christ’s “faithful and discreet slave” class. It sounds too crazy to believe, but many like your good self fall for it hook, line and sinker. Why? Because the Society tells you to believe it, so you must “listen, obey and be blessed!”

  • August 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Straws? Whether he is drunk or just likes to stick out his tongue this “Judge” aka lawyer was leveraging his position in a pretty bold way and I’m going to go out on a limb and say he enjoyed writing his winter doctrine urging us to focus and simplify more in these paradaisical surroundings than in chilly N.Y. City. If I had seen this earlier I may have decided I needed to learn more about this guy.

  • August 18, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Hi Cedars! It’s quite disturbing to compare “Judge” Rutherford’s portray on different “apostate” websites (cf B. Anderson’s life-story for instance) and the man pictured by WTS. I have recently watched the video “Let the light shine” on How different he is! Is there any way to have one single and faithful portray of that anointed brother? If J.F. Rutherford was really guilty of loose conduct, don’t you think the G.B. would have minored his role in JW’s modern history?

  • August 18, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I’m wondering who was at the camera. sticking his tongue out towards someone is quite a sexual sign. He must have drunk one or two glasses not more.

  • August 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    It’s typical of JW apologists like Phil to ‘name call’ anyone who dares to ‘criticise’ the Org in any way. This time it’s ‘goof balls’ and ‘sodomites’. Very christian of you ‘Brother’ Phil. By the way, your ‘human masters’ command you not to associate with us ‘human apostates’, so why are you here?

  • August 27, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I find his antisemitism more shocking in the letter that he sent to Hitler. He was a very nasty piece of work and I’m glad that his many failures of leadership at the time of the Second World War are coming to light.

  • September 25, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Um Phil, do you know what the word “Sodomites” means? It refers to sodomizing someone, or having anal sex with them, typically against their will. You don’t like the comments on the blog, that’s all well and good, but obscene name-calling like that is inappropriate and vile.

  • December 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Yes Phil….everything seen in this video is exactly what Jesus Christ would do….and in your case, post in a message. You’re conduct is self-condemning.

  • February 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    WHY this man with a beard RUIN the whole thing of a video of 2 minutes of speech (whining … try next time girls room).

    Facts first.

    Weeping after that!

  • March 29, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Whilst the video is new material, mentioning Judge Rutherford as being a drunkard regularly is very old news. This was being reported on the ex jw forums 17 years ago and has been talked about often for years elsewhere online.

  • March 29, 2014 at 3:02 am

    From back in 2005:

    Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” – James 2: 24, 26

    Al Capone vs. Judge Rutherford

    Al Capone gained his power by exploiting the weaknesses of people.
    Judge Rutherford gained his power by exploiting the weaknesses of people.

    Al Capone lived and acted like a King using his own money.
    Judge Rutherford lived and acted like a King using everyone else’s money.

    In 1923, before the Great Depression, Al Capone bought a very nice house on a small plot of land for $5,500.
    At the start of the Great Depression in 1929 Judge Rutherford had a mansion built for $25,000, excluding the 100 acres of land he possessed around the home. As soon as his mansion was built, Rutherford bragged he was offered $75,00 for it.

    Al Capone eventually had two homes, including a 4,000 square foot mansion in Florida.
    Judge Rutherford eventually had five homes, including two 5,000+ square foot mansions in California, a luxury apartment in Manhattan (worth millions today), a home on Staten Island, and a residence in Germany.

    Al Capone was one of the very few elite rich people who bought a 1930 V-16 Cadillac. That car cost between $5,400 and $9,200 and that was during the Great Depression. A new Ford that year only cost $600, which means one could buy about 15 new Ford automobiles for the cost of that one Cadillac.
    Judge Rutherford was one of the very few elite rich people who did not own one of those V-16 Cadillacs: he owned TWO of them.

    Al Capone had 1 yacht.
    Judge Rutherford had 2 yachts.

    The finances of Al Capone’s city-wide empire were known to no one but himself and his accountant.
    The finances of Judge Rutherford’s WORLD-wide empire were known to no one but himself and his accountant.

    Al Capone lived with his wife and son.
    Judge Rutherford would not live with his wife and son or even visit them or cause them to visit him.

    Al Capone had at least one mistress.
    Judge Rutherford had at least one mistress.

    Al Capone was very close to his son, Sonny.
    Judge Rutherford’s son Malcolm despised his father and wouldn’t even attend his father’s funeral.

    Al Capone smuggled illegal whisky and sold it.
    Judge Rutherford smuggled illegal whiskey and drank it.

    Al Capone got all of his money illegally.
    Judge Rutherford got all of his money immorally.

    Al Capone did not pay enough taxes on his ill-gotten fortune.
    Judge Rutherford did not pay ANY taxes on his ill-gotten fortune.

    Al Capone assassinated his enemies.
    Judge Rutherford assassinated the character of his enemies.

    Al Capone sold a tangible product which gave value and cheer for those who drank alcohol.
    Judge Rutherford sold failed promises which had virtually no value or cheer, and gave only disappointment and bitterness for those who believed him.

    Al Capone never claimed to exclusively represent the interests of God.
    Judge Rutherford always claimed to exclusively represent the interests of God.

    Al Capone had personal bodyguards.
    Judge Rutherford had personal bodyguards.

    Al Capone always traveled first class.
    Judge Rutherford always traveled first class.

    Al Capone never wrote any worthless books.
    Judge Rutherford wrote dozens of worthless books.

    Al Capone wasn’t an alcoholic.
    Judge Rutherford was a first-class alcoholic.

    Al Capone’s friends attended his funeral.
    Judge Rutherford had no friends.

    Al Capone never incited people into riots.
    Judge Rutherford incited thousands of people into riots.

    Al Capone once had a charity that helped the poor.
    Judge Rutherford never had any charity for the poor, and he spent his life doing his best to make and keep everyone associated with him poor.

    Al Capone never spent months of his time visiting Europe.
    Judge Rutherford spent four months of every year visiting Europe.

    Al Capone bluffed his whole life, but at least he didn’t brag about it.
    Judge Rutherford bluffed his whole life and bragged about it.

    Al Capone scorned and disobeyed the Law of the Land.
    Judge Rutherford scorned and disobeyed the Law of the Land.

    No one dared to question the orders of Al Capone.
    No one dared to question the orders of Judge Rutherford.

    Al Capone got syphilis brought on by his sexual exploits.
    Judge Rutherford got colon cancer brought on by his alcohol excesses.

    Al Capone lost his sanity due to his syphilis.
    Judge Rutherford lost his sanity without any outside help whatsoever.

    Al Capone paid his dozens of workers handsomely.
    Judge Rutherford didn’t pay his tens of thousands of workers squat.

    Al Capone did not hate and vilify the government that gave and protected his freedoms.
    Judge Rutherford spent his entire life hating and vilifying the same government that gave and protected his freedoms.

    Al Capone was a very wicked man who never pretended to be otherwise.
    Judge Rutherford was a very wicked man who claimed to be the personal spokesman of God himself.

    • August 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      I LOVE it! Maybe Jesus should have picked Al Capone to represent him instead, LOL!

  • June 30, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I’m pretty sure there’s a bomb shelter at Canada Bethel too- near the food processing building in the middle of the property. No one goes there on the tours. 2 Big steel trap doors are in the lawn near the westernmost building.

  • November 4, 2014 at 7:42 am

    There are some excellent videos on Youtube that weren’t available even a couple of years ago. One channel is really good to watch and is run by a man by the name of Sam Vaknin and it’s called: narcissism videos channel. One video that I think would apply to Judge Rutherford is called: narcissists and women.

    When you watch these videos, Judge Rutherford sure fits the profile of a narcissist to me. If he was a narcissist, that would explain the low status that women were viewed in, in the publications and his contempt for women in general and why he was a womanizer in his spare time. Everything about these videos tells us how the men that are in the Organization today were raised and that is with an inferior and low opinion of women as reflected on in the 1956 Watchtower articles on marriage on page 588 where it said:

    “Among the factors that it listed as contributing to the rising divorce rate in Britain was “the new position of women as equals rather than inferiors in marriage partnership.”

    Today, most people in the organization are 2nd and 3rd and 4th generation born-in’s that go back to Rutherford’s day and so have this “inferior” view of women that go back to the 1930’s and many women in the Society today still buy into that and try and be the quiet and submissive little wife. If they don’t fit the pattern, they are looked as as Jezebels. It’s when the women buy into that cult think, is what is what makes for the food that narcissists need to exist. But narcissistic men hate women who are that stupid so even though they need the adulation from this stupid woman, they also hate her for being so stupid.

    The study of narcissism is a fascinating subject and explains the group think of the Jehovah’s Witnesses today and also explains how people like Judge Rutherford was able to take over control of the Organization. It also explains how men on the Governing Body today got to where they are. Humble people don’t take over control and scheme to get to the top. That is how narcissists get to the top.

  • October 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Cedar’s Blog,
    Who do you think you are!?

    If Rutherford decided to stick out his tongue so what. Who hasn’t? The home in San Diego was also for his wife who had bad health. You have expectations of him that you don’t have of yourselves. Doesn’t the man deserve some happy, fun times? He certainly did not have happy times when he was growing up, no fatherly love, just stern demands.
    You sound like slanderous, news papers. If the same things were said about you, you would sue for libel.

    • October 26, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      How did you even hear about the judge’s PARENTS?

  • April 5, 2017 at 4:43 am

    When you combine all his behaviors, the tongue wiggling, kissing the fruit, the pantomime of drinking from the fruit, he seems to be sending an enthusiastic message that this is where his favorite liquid comes from.

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