Jerry Falwell Jr. appears to now be gone from Liberty University, and the nature of his relationship with a Miami pool attendant-turned-business partner has been exposed. But there is still far more that we don’t know.
And for a scandal that keeps on giving, that’s not a bad thing.
Falwell resigned from Liberty University this week after Reuters reported that, according to former Miami pool boy Giancarlo Granda, “Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room” as Jerry’s wife Becki and Granda had sex.
Falwell reportedly quoted Martin Luther King Jr., telling a Lynchburg reporter that he was “free at last” from the institution he headed for years, which bans members of the opposite sex from spending time together in private or from dancing together.
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
But in many ways, Falwell’s departure from Liberty only accentuates the long-lingering questions around his behavior.
Take the mystery around the role of former personal attorney to President Trump Michael Cohen.
Cohen appeared in the scandal last year, recorded telling actor Tom Arnold that he had helped resolve a situation around supposedly racy photographs of Falwell’s wife, Becki.
That revelation came amid lingering questions over Falwell’s support for President Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, which helped the New York City real estate developer appeal to the evangelicals that would go on to form part of the Republican base. The question since has been whether Cohen’s help for Falwell in destroying the racy photos was somehow linked to the longtime Liberty University president’s endorsement.
But Politico reported on Monday night that Granda knows more about Cohen’s involvement.
After a lawsuit was filed against the Falwells in 2014 over a real estate deal gone bad, Granda said that Becki Falwell believed Cohen would “take care of those guys that are suing us.”
“Those guys,” Granda told Politico, were the ones who had the compromising photos.
“Michael is well-connected in Miami. He will get this buried and will make those photos go away,” Granda reportedly recalled Becki Falwell saying.
That conversation came months before Falwell offered to buy Granda out of his stake in the same real estate deal, telling him in May 2015 that Donald Trump was planning a presidential campaign.
Granda told Politico that he believed the events were connected, and that Falwell sought to cut ties with the pool boy before taking on a bigger role in the national political scene.
Jerry Falwell has denied Granda’s allegations, saying that the pool boy had an affair with his wife but that he was uninvolved. Falwell has also accused Granda of using the information to extort him, a charge that Granda denies.
A person close to Falwell, however, did tell the New York Times last year that Falwell decided to support Trump after consulting “with other individuals whose opinions he respects.”
At that point, Falwell was denying the existence of the photographs, and the person close to the Falwells told the New York Times that they knew nothing of “Cohen’s alleged efforts.”
The questions come after years in which accusations had been percolating suggesting that Falwell lived a life far at odds with the one that he preached.
Take the scandal around Falwell’s appearance at a Miami nightclub.
Photos emerged last year of Falwell and his family at a Miami nightclub in July 2014. The Liberty University president said at the time that “if the person in the picture is me, it was likely photo-shopped,” before further photos surfaced, after which he said nothing.
The trickle of surprising glimpses into Falwell’s personal life culminated in a photo of the son-of-a-preacher with his pants unzipped on a yacht, holding a “dark beverage” with his arm around his wife’s assistant, whose pants were also unzipped.
Falwell dismissed the photo as being “just in good fun.”
Falwell did issue a rare apology in June. That came after he posted a tweet showing a person in a KKK hood standing next to another in blackface.
He apologized that time, saying that he was trying to criticize Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his mask mandate and his own blackface controversy.