Jerry Falwell, Jr., the disgraced former head of Liberty University, was one of Donald Trump’s first major evangelical supporters for his 2016 presidential bid.
Now Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen is saying that Falwell supported Trump after being threatened with blackmail.
Falwell resigned as the head of the extremely conservative Christian school last month after years of financial and sexual scandals. He blamed his unorthodox behavior on an affair his wife Becki Falwell allegedly had with a pool attendant. The pool attendant – Giancarlo Granda – soon publicly denounced Falwell Jr. and said that the evangelical leader liked to watch him have sex with Becki Falwell in a relationship between the three that lasted for years.
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“Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” Granda told Reuters in August.
During these years of scandals, actor Tom Arnold said that he had recorded a phone conversation where Cohen said that someone was blackmailing the Falwells with “racy personal” pictures and that he was called to “fix” the situation.
“I actually have one of the photos,” Cohen said, calling them pictures usually kept “between husband and wife.”
Now Cohen has confirmed in his book, Disloyal: The Memoir, that he was called in to “kill” the photos that the Falwells were being blackmailed with
“In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency,” Cohen wrote in his book.
Cohen wrote that he convinced Falwell to support Trump just before the Iowa caucuses in 2016, shoring up essential evangelical support at the early primary at a time when Trump’s credibility among Christian voters was low.
Trump came in second in Iowa but won a string of Republican primaries immediately after.
Falwell denies that he was blackmailed into supporting Trump, saying in a phone interview with Reuters that he just supported Trump because he “believed that a businessman needed to run this country.”
“It was no quid pro quo,” he said. “There was no me supporting Trump because of whatever Michael was doing.”
Reuters said that Becki Falwell urged her husband to stop talking to Reuters. “Hang up the goddamn phone,” she said. “Hang up the phone, Jerry!”
The White House has also denied the story, saying that Cohen is “a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer who lied to Congress.”
Liberty University bans LGBTQ students. The student honor code says, “Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University.”
In 2017, the school made Campus Pride’s Shame List of the worst schools for LGBTQ students.