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Subscribe :The pastor of a tiny Gainesville, Fla. church who last month sparked a domestic political uproar and an international crisis with plans to burn hundreds of Korans to mark 9/11 was dismissed as crazy by many, but Terry Jones is no fool.
At the height of tensions over Jones' threat, a New Jersey car dealer offered the pastor a new car if he would back off his Koran-burning plans -- and now Jones says he wants the dealer, Mitsubishi Hyundai dealer Brad Benson of South Brunswick, to make good on the deal.
Jones told The Associated Press he plans to donate the car to an organization that helps abused Muslim women.
"We are not trying to profit from this. We are not keeping the car for ourselves," Jones told The AP by telephone from California, where he was taping television appearances.
Benson, a former center with the New York Giants football team, is known for his quirky radio spots promoting his very successful car dealership, and in one of them he offered Jones the free use of a new car for a year.
Benson said was surprised when a representative for Jones called to collect on the offer of a 2011 Hyundai Accent, which retails for $14,200.
"They said unless I was doing false advertising, they would like to arrange to pick up the car," Benson said. He suspected a hoax and asked that Jones send in a copy of his driver's license, which he did. Jones will also have to come to New Jersey at some point to fill out the paperwork.
Benson said he decided to give Jones the car outright so he wouldn't have any further connection to him. He said he asked listeners on one of his radio spots to call or write him whether he should keep his word and give Jones the car, and the vast majority of the 2,600 respondents said he should.
But one caller suggested painting sayings from various religious books -- the "Koran," the "Talmud," the "King James Bible" -- on the car.
"What you didn't say was what the car was going to look like when you gave it to him," the caller said.
Jones told The AP that he did not call off the burning to get the car, and only learned about the offer recently. The Florida pastor has said that he believed God told him not to burn the Islamic holy books, though he was also pressured by Obama administration officials to halt the plans out of concern for the security of U.S. troops abroad.
Evangelical Christian leaders who also lobbied Jones to call of the Koran burning said that as the Sept. 11 anniversary approached, Jones was "terrified" and "lost" amid the klieg lights of international attention and condemnation.