Liberty University President and Trump-evangelist Jerry Falwell declined to comment to Reuters when it published a piece on Tuesday about Michael Cohen’s efforts to get rid of some racy photos of evangelical leader.
But he was quick to hop on a Fox Radio program that same day and proclaim his innocence.
During an appearance on Fox Radio’s “Todd Starnes Show” Tuesday, Falwell told listeners of his friendship with Cohen, but said there are “no compromising or embarrassing photos” of him.
“While we have a long-standing friendship with Michael Cohen, we never engaged or paid Cohen to represent us in any legal or other professional capacity, and Cohen did not ever resolve any legal matter on our behalf,” Falwell told the Fox Radio host. “This report is not accurate.”
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that in the months before Falwell issued a shocking endorsement of then-candidate Trump, Cohen, then a fixer and personal lawyer for Trump, helped Falwell deal with a personal matter: someone was trying to blackmail the evangelical leader with racy photos.
Cohen reportedly recounted his work for the Falwells during a conversation with comedian Tom Arnold in March, which he secretly recorded. (In the same recording, Cohen also reportedly disavowed parts of his guilty plea.) Cohen reportedly helped the Falwells negotiate with the blackmailer’s lawyer and destroy the photos — which he described to Arnold as “terrible,” “personal,” the kind “between husband and wife.”
In early 2016, Cohen reportedly reached out to Falwell repeatedly to attempt to secure his support for Trump. Falwell eventually agreed and announced his backing just before the Iowa caucuses. Reuters sources said the photo problem and the endorsement were separate issues.
But Falwell’s bearhug of Trump — which included vouching for the thrice-married, ex-abortion supporter’s Christian values — is widely credited as the catalyst that shifted the white evangelical vote away from candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced his presidential campaign at Liberty University in 2015, and toward Trump.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Reuters reported that Cohen handled the Falwell photos in exchange for an endorsement. TPM regrets this error.