Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

Jerry Falwell Jr. resigns from Liberty University president after new accusations of affairs arise

Liberty University’s board of trustees on Tuesday accepted the resignation of President Jerry Falwell Jr., following a daylong back-and-forth over the fate of the longtime evangelical Christian leader who spent 13 turbulent years at the school’s helm.

Falwell, whom the board had placed on an indefinite leave of absence Aug. 7 after a series of scandals, offered his resignation Monday, on the first day of classes for the fall semester and after the publication of an explosive claim made by a former business associate.

The school said its board, which includes alumni, pastors and business executives, used the meeting “to focus forward on the university’s future and steps that could be taken to ensure it remained true to its mission.”

“Our students are ready to be world changers as Champions for Christ,” Acting President Jerry Prevo said in a statement. “Their spirit is strong as they look to the future.”

Falwell, 58, could not immediately be reached for comment, but confirmed his resignation to The Associated Press earlier Tuesday.

The school said in a news release on Monday that Falwell had initially agreed to resign as president and from its board of directors after “additional matters came to light that made it clear that it would not be in the best interest” for him to return, but he withdrew the offer following media reports.

Falwell then changed course again, telling The Wall Street Journal late Monday that he had indeed provided a resignation letter.

“The board put me on leave, took away my duties as prez, and that’s not permitted by my contract,” Falwell said, according to the paper. “And they put me on leave because of pressure from self-righteous people.”

Falwell’s fate appears to have been sealed after a former hotel pool attendant-turned-business partner, Giancarlo Granda, 29, told Reuters in an interview published Monday that he carried on an affair with Falwell’s wife, Becki, beginning in 2012, when he was 20, and lasting until 2018.

Granda told Reuters that Falwell would watch as he had sex with his wife, and believes the couple preyed upon him.

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Falwell confirmed that his wife had an affair in a statementfirst published by the Washington Examiner. However, he denied participating in it and said that it led him to suffer from depression but that ultimately he forgave his wife and the man. He did not name him.

15 PHOTOSJerry Falwell Jr. – Liberty UniversitySee GalleryJerry Falwell Jr. – Liberty UniversityJerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation with Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Donald Trump Jr., right, speaks as Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. listens during a panel discussion at a Liberty University Convocation, Wednesday, Nov.13, 2019, in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)Corrects to Becki not Becky – FILE -This Wednesday Nov. 28, 2018 file photo shows Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., right, and his wife, Becki during after a town hall at a convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Falwell Jr. says he is seeking help for the “emotional toll” from an affair his wife had with a man who he says later threatened his family. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., left, and political analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle, right, listen as Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a Liberty University Convocation, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)DAVENPORT, IA – JANUARY 30:Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) joins Jerry Lamon Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, for a campaign rally at the Adler Theatre on January 30, 2016 in Davenport, Iowa. Trump is in Iowa trying to gain support in front of the state’s February 1 caucuses.(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)CLEVELAND, OH – JULY 21:President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party’s nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)US President Donald Trump (L) and President of Liberty University Jerry Falwell, Jr. listen to a song during Liberty University’s commencement ceremony May 13, 2017 in Lynchburg, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski(Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)George Rogers, a retired Liberty University vice president and a veteran of World War II, second right, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation with Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, left, and Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, right, in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 14: Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. introduces Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., before Sanders’ speech at Liberty University’s Convocation in Lynchburg, Va., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, right, receives a Liberty University jersey from Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, left, talks to Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, right, and Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, listen to a prayer during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, left, and Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, listen to a prayer during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. Sanders now leads his Democratic rival former secretary of state Hillary Clinton by double digits in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states in where votes will be cast in 2016 to decide the party’s presidential nominee. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 14: Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. presents a sports jersey to Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., before Sanders’ speech at Liberty University’s Convocation in Lynchburg, Va., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)Lynchburg, VA – Jerry Falwell, Jr.president and chancellor of Liberty University introduces the convocation speaker in the Vines Center, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.(Photo by Norm Shafer/For the Washington Post)Up Next

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Reuters said Granda shared emails, text messages and other evidence to illustrate the nature of the relationship. Attorneys for Granda and Falwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and efforts to reach them and Becki Falwell directly were not immediately successful Monday.

Michael Bowe, Falwell’s attorney, told Reuters last week when asked about its initial reporting that his client “categorically denies everything you indicated you intend to publish about him.”

Falwell became president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, upon the death of his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., in 2007. The elder Falwell, who founded the school in 1971 and was a leader in the Moral Majority, espoused a socially conservative, “pro-family” agenda that was continued by his son, who helped Donald Trump win the endorsement of evangelicals in 2016 and has become increasingly involved in political issues.

Falwell’s problems mounted in recent months when he publicly apologized for a tweet showing a person in blackface and posted a photo to his Instagram account in which his shirt was up and he was holding a glass of dark liquid. The awkward image also showed him standing next to a woman, and his pants appeared to be unzipped.

Falwell apologized this month during an interview with WLNI talk radio of Lynchburg.

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