Jerry Falwell Jr. called Reuters Tuesday to defend himself after the outlet quoted excerpts of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s book, where Cohen links Falwell’s Trump endorsement to his own efforts to bury risqué photos of Falwell and his wife.
“Someone stole some pictures I took of my wife in the back yard. Topless,” he told Reuters. “Big deal. Okay?”
He denied what Cohen’s book appeared to suggest: that Falwell endorsed Trump to return a “favor” after Cohen made a would-be scandal go away. The evangelical scion insisted that his endorsement — which came very early in the primary and was to the detriment of candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who launched his bid from Falwell’s Liberty University — had nothing to do with Cohen “killing” the photos.
“It was no quid pro quo,” Falwell told Reuters, using a new-infamous phrase from Trump’s impeachment. “There was no me supporting Trump because of whatever Michael was doing.”
He added that he endorsed Trump because he “believed that a businessman needed to run this country.”
At that point in the conversation, Falwell’s wife, Becki, apparently caught wind of whom her beleaguered husband was talking to on the phone.
“Hang up the goddamn phone,” she could be heard telling her husband, according to Reuters. “Hang up the phone, Jerry!”
It’s been a turbulent month for the Falwells. In early August, Jerry Falwell was put on indefinite leave from his role of president at Liberty University after he posted a picture on Instagram of himself and a woman with their pants unzipped.
A few weeks later, the Falwells’ former business partner Giancarlo Granda described to Reuters salacious details of what he said was a triangular relationship, which involved Jerry Falwell in a voyeuristic role. Jerry Falwell confirmed the part of the story that exposed Becki Falwell’s years-long affair with Granda, and claimed that Granda was using “false claims” about the relationship to blackmail the couple. Falwell ultimately resigned from Liberty late last month.