UPDATE: Monday evening, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Falwell informed them that he has sent a letter of resignation.
UPDATE: In another twist, Falwell says he has not resigned. It was reported by several news outlets. It appears that Falwell and his board are in negotiations.
Jerry Falwell, Jr resigned as president of Liberty University this evening. In a day which saw two major bombshells, there was no legitimate case to be made for Falwell remaining the school’s president. I believe in accountability among Christian leaders.
Long before today, he had done numerous things which were reason enough to remove him from leadership of America’s largest Christian University. He had lied about his appearance in photos in Miami nightclubs, he had posted a photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in a Klan outfit from Northam’s medical school yearbook in protest to Virginia king budget cuts for higher education. He had posted a photo on his own Instagram account of him and another woman at a party with their pants unzipped and then incoherently went on the radio the next day saying he was “gonna try to be a good boy.” He’s called people “stupid” and “idiots” on Twitter. And there was a bizarre story from the New York Times last summer with the headline “The Evangelical, the ‘pool boy,’ the comedian, and Michael Cohen” which suggested that Cohen (President Trump’s fixer) had brokered a deal to secure compromising photos involving the Falwells.
With the accumulation of all of these activities, Falwell should not be the president of Liberty. His conduct and character have been reprehensible.
Last night, he released a statement in the Washington Examiner that appeared to be giving some explanation for his recent behaviors. In his statement, he said that his wife had had an affairs with a young business associate (the “pool boy”) eight years ago, Jerry had never dealt with the emotional fallout of this event.
From Falwell’s statement, he says:
“During a vacation over eight years ago, Becki and I met an ambitious young man who was working at our hotel and was saving up his money to go to school. We encouraged him to pursue an education and a career and we were impressed by his initiative in suggesting a local real estate opportunity. My family members eventually made an investment in a local property, included him in the deal because he could play an active role in managing it, and became close with him and his family. Shortly thereafter, Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved — it was nonetheless very upsetting to learn about.”
Falwell’s statement goes on to suggest that the person with whom his wife had the affair had harassed and blackmailed the family. Falwell said that the relationship had ended years ago. His statement said that they had entered into a business deal with this person (a little bizarre).
Then Falwell pats himself on the back for his leadership during all of this: “Even though I continued successfully working with our entire Liberty team to achieve so many of our goals, I am now dealing with things in a way that I should have done before“
I’ll be critical for a moment. Absent from his statement was any apology for his actions or accountability for things he had done. He painted himself as the victim. He had thrown his wife under the bus to explain his poor decisions. These were excuses. And regardless of these excuses, that didn’t undo the things that Falwell had personally done and why he should not have been in power.
The pool boy’s response
Later today, the pool boy, a 29 year old man named Giancarlo Granda had his side of the story shared in an article from Reuters. The Reuters article contradicts several statements which Falwell had made. Granda claimed the affair had actually lasted for several years and didn’t end until 2018. But what’s worse is that he says Jerry Falwell knew about it.
While it’s Granda’s word against Falwell’s, the Reuters article did claim that Granda had showed them “emails, text messages and other evidence that he says demonstrate the sexual nature of his relationship with the couple.” Reuters also posted an audio clip that they claim was from a phone conversation between Granda, Jerry, and Becki Falwell.
Reuters said that they had reached out to the Falwell’s for comment last week.
So before the Reuters story was posted, Falwell released his own statement to try to control the story. Which one is telling the truth? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s easy to believe Granda. I believe that the leader of a Christian University should be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). And the fact that these accusations can be credibly made shows that Falwell is not above reproach. His morality and character being so blatantly called into question was reason enough for a person to not be leading a Christian institution.
Again, I don’t know what’s true. And long before any of this had come to light, I thought that Falwell needed to step down.
Thanks for reading!