Jerry Falwell, Jr. has agreed to take “an indefinite leave of absence from his roles as President and Chancellor of Liberty University,” the school’s board of trustees announced Friday afternoon.
The move would be “effective immediately,” the board’s executive committee said in a statement.
Falwell, the son of the prominent evangelical and university founder Jerry Falwell, Sr., is a high-profile Trump ally. But in recent years, he’s found himself involved in a number of bizarre scandals.
The most recent controversy involves a series of “vacation shots” Falwell posted to Instagram. In one, which he later deleted, he stands with his arm around a woman and his belly bulging over unzipped jeans. He holds a glass of something dark.
wut is happening pic.twitter.com/8iEOr9EeRQ
— Robert Downen (@RobDownenChron) August 3, 2020
“Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht,” the caption read. “I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”
Falwell removed the image, but not before screenshots of it were shared widely on social media.
How is this Jerry Falwell Jr. photo even real? Also if you're running the largest Christian university in America maybe don't put photos of yourself on social media with your pants undone on a yacht – with random women in bad wigs. So gross, so hypocritical.
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) August 3, 2020
There were already so many good reasons not to entrust your kids to Jerry Falwell Jr’s learning institution. The unzipped pants yacht photo – of the school’s PRESIDENT – is sadly the least of them.
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) August 4, 2020
On Wednesday, the university president offered up an explanation in an interview with a Virginia radio station.
“She’s pregnant so she couldn’t get her pants up and I was like, trying to like — I had on a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn in a long time so I couldn’t get mine zipped either,” he told Lynchburg’s WLNI 105.9 FM. “So I just put my belly out like hers.”
“She’s my wife’s assistant and she’s a sweetheart and I should never have put it up and embarrassed her,” he added. “I’ve apologized to everybody, and I’ve promised my kids … I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out.”
But it was too late.
The image prompted calls for Falwell’s resignation, including from Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), the House Republican Conference Vice Chair and a member of the university’s advisory board.
Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling.
As a Music Faculty Advisory Board Member and former instructor @LibertyU, I’m convinced Falwell should step down.
None of us are perfect, but students, faculty, alumni and @LUPraise deserve better.
— Rep. Mark Walker (@RepMarkWalker) August 6, 2020
“I just think there’s a code that leaders have to live by,” Walker later told CNN. “Especially when you’re leading the largest evangelical university in the country.”
“There’s been a pattern of behavior that’s not becoming to what that school’s code of conduct is,” he added.