Jerry Falwell Jr. agreed to resign from his position as president of the Christian conservative Liberty University after news broke of his involvement in a longterm 3-way relationship with his wife and another man, but angrily refused to leave after the news leaked, saying reports of his resignation were “absolutely not true.”
But after a statement from the university confirmed that he had originally resigned, Falwell Jr. officially submitted his letter of resignation, while excusing his actions by pointing out that he isn’t actually a minister and never wanted to be one.
“I was never called to be a pastor, my calling was to use my legal and business expertise to make Liberty University the evangelical version of Notre Dame,” Falwell told ABC News. “Some of us are called to be preachers, that wasn’t mine. I was called to make Liberty University the greatest Christian university in the world and I couldn’t have done that as a preacher.”
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The evangelical powerhouse and ardent Trump supporter told the Wall Street Journal he was forced to step down “because of pressure from self-righteous people.”
Falwell Jr. went on an “indefinite leave of absence” earlier this month after he posted a picture online with a woman who is not his wife and both of their pants were open – just the latest in years of scandals involving alleged abuses of power and sexual misbehavior while heading a school that imposes extreme restrictions on student and staff behavior and bans LGBTQ students.
Yesterday, Falwell Jr. blamed his behavior on an alleged affair his wife had with a pool attendant at a hotel. Later in the day, Giancarlo Granda identified himself as the former hotel employee and said that the then 49-year-old Falwell Jr. initiated a years-long affair between then 20-year-old Granda and Falwell’s wife Becki Falwell, and he had texts and screenshots to prove it.
“Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” he told Reuters.
“Whether it was immaturity, naïveté, instability, or a combination thereof, it was this ‘mindset’ that the Falwells likely detected in deciding that I was the ideal target for their sexual escapades,” Granda, who is now 29, said.
A statement on Liberty University’s website posted last night said that it’s “clear that it would not be in the best interest of the University for him to return from leave and serve as President.”
Liberty University was founded by Jerry Falwell, Sr., one of the most powerful televangelists of the twentieth century who co-founded the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Moral Majority, which helped elect Christian conservative Republicans to all levels of government across the country.
“So-called gay folks would just as soon kill you as look at you,” Falwell Sr. once said in a speech opposing LGBTQ civil rights protections.
When Falwell Sr. died in 2007, Falwell Jr. was appointed president of Liberty University. He was one of Donald Trump’s earliest evangelical supporters.
In 2015, Falwell Jr. was sued for the first time in connection to a business deal with Granda. In 2019, Roseanne Barr’s ex-husband Tom Arnold released a recorded conversation that suggested that Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen had helped Falwell Jr. resolve an “embarrassing” scandal that involved “racy personal” photos he was being blackmailed with, a scandal that many speculated at the time involved Granda because of the timing and locations of events.
Over the past few years, Falwell Jr. was caught dancing in a nightclub and allegedly inappropriately using his position as Liberty’s president to help a young personal trainer build a business. Faculty and staff at Liberty also spoke out against him for his inappropriate behavior, sexually charged comments at the workplace, and alleged abuses of power.
The last straw was when he posted a picture to social media with a younger woman and both their pants were open earlier this month. He slurred an apology the next day on a morning radio show and was soon put on leave.
The current acting president of Liberty University is Jerry Prevo, a pastor who helped found the Alaska chapter of the Moral Majority. He allegedly insinuated that a mayoral candidate in Anchorage was gay in the 1970s to help get his opponent elected.
“As a teenager, I saw Prevo destroy the political career of mayoral candidate Dave Rose, our family friend, with false insinuations he was gay,” said Charles Wohlforth at the Alaska Daily News.
Update: After a day of conflicting reports, Falwell Jr. has confirmed his resignation. And he quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as if to compare having a powerful job that he wanted to centuries of enslavement, Jim Crow, segregation, and racial oppression.
Jerry Falwell Jr. just confirmed to me he has submitted his resignation to Liberty’s board.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “The quote that keeps going through my mind this morning is Martin Luther Ling Jr: ‘free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I’m free at last.”
— Richard Chumney (@RichChumney) August 25, 2020