Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, Jr. admitted last night that he had sinned in his heart, but that his wife had done something far worse: slept with the Miami pool boy who had engaged in a years-long court battle with them over a south Florida hostel.
Falwell has framed the admission as an attempt to account for what led to his resignation from Liberty University, saying that he and his wife, Becki, had agreed “that this was the right time for me to share more of our story.”
But Falwell’s decision to confirm for his wife that she slept with poolside Miami real estate dreamer Giancarlo Granda raises far more interesting questions than it answers, and doesn’t begin to address some of the long-simmering allegations surrounding the pair’s relationship with Granda.
Falwell cast his statement as an attempt to come clean, humiliating himself (and his wife) and accusing Granda of blackmail, claiming that he was threatening to release “false claims” about the nature of their triangular relationship.
But while the statement gives us confirmation of a long-suspected sexual relationship between Granda and a Falwell (it wasn’t always clear which), it pointedly goes no further towards answering whatever Granda may be about to claim and does not address longstanding suggestions around a hush money payment involving former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
The admission, given to an opinion writer who is known for peddling pro-Trump talking points, does suggest an effort to avert attention from the more serious — and salacious — allegations around Falwell at a time when his career is in serious jeopardy.
Liberty University announced on August 7 that Falwell would be on an “indefinite leave of absence” from his position as president of the country’s foremost evangelical college, after he posted a photo on Instagram with his pants unzipped and his arms around a woman, who he later explained was his “wife’s assistant,” whose pants were also unzipped.
That came after years of allegations ranging from financial improprieties in how Falwell ran Liberty University to a tantalizing series of questions around his support for President Trump against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the 2016 Republican primary.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has hinted that he struck a deal to arrange a hush money payment to conceal racy photos of Falwell’s wife, which may or may not involve pool boy Granda.
That deal purportedly took place during the he 2016 Republican primary, raising questions around why Falwell threw his influential support behind Trump at a key moment for the Cruz campaign.
Falwell answers none of these questions in his statement, instead only admitting on his wife’s behalf that she had a brief and tempestuous affair with Granda.
The admission itself was laundered through Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard, a pro-Trump opinion writer who recently has been pushing allegations that Joe Biden has dementia and explaining that Mike Pence has plans for “ending abortion.”
In the statement and and accompanying interview with Bedard, Falwell claimed that Granda was using the “false claims about the nature of the relationship” to blackmail Falwell and his wife for a significant amount of money.
It’s not clear what those “false claims” are. But Falwell’s own loud denials offer a hint of what might come.
In admitting his wife’s affair, he said that her “inappropriate personal relationship” was “something in which I was not involved,” answering a question that nobody had yet asked.
The longtime president of a university that bans private interaction between members of the opposite sex unless they’re married went on to admit on his wife’s behalf that “while her indiscretion may have been more obvious and apparent, I realized that there were important smaller things I needed to do better too.”
It’s not clear whether posting the Instagram photo in which his pants were unzipped falls under the category of “important smaller things.” But Falwell pressed on in the statement, reiterating his accusation of blackmail against Granda while saying that it stems from a South Florida real estate deal gone bad, which had led to years of litigation between the pair.
The statement gives Falwell a chance to get out ahead of whatever Granda appears poised to reveal.
The Miami poolboy, who now runs a firm called Gaming Detox, did not reply to a request for comment from TPM regarding what that may be.
Granda did, however, describe Falwell’s statement to Bedard as “a last minute story,” and said that “any allegation of extortion is falsely, defamatory and belied by clear documentary evidence.”
Michael Cohen, who hinted last year to actor Tom Arnold that he brokered a deal to destroy private photos of Falwell’s wife that may also have been in Granda’s possession, also did not return a request for comment.
Falwell, in a statement otherwise chock-full of biblical verse, does take a moment in the statement to wallow in self-pity.
“I shouldn’t have been afraid to admit my vulnerabilities and to reach out for assistance from the mental health professionals who could have alleviated this pain and stress,” Fallwell wrote. “I am committed to speaking out and sharing with others at Liberty the importance of seeking counseling instead of thinking you need to be tough and try to bear these burdens on your own.”
He added that there may be more to come, both for his personal journey and ours.
“I am in the early stages of addressing these issues,” Falwell wrote.