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UPDATED: Jerry Falwell Jr. resigns from Liberty University. Again.

By Yonat Shimron
Jerry Falwell Jr Resigns
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks at convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. in 2017. (Jay Westcott/The News & Advance via AP)

Jerry Falwell Jr., the embattled president of Liberty University and one of President Donald Trump’s earliest and most vocal supporters, has resigned from the evangelical Christian university founded by his father.

On Monday, the first day of the fall semester at Liberty, multiple sources close to the proceedings said that Falwell had resigned.

Later that evening, a statement from Liberty confirmed Falwell had agreed to resign as president and from the university’s board of directors, then withdrew his resignation after media reports about it.

Monday evening, however, Falwell told the Wall Street Journal that he had, in fact, sent his letter of resignation to the board. 

Falwell also told ABC News he had resigned, adding: “I was never called to be a pastor, my calling was to use my legal and business expertise to make Liberty University the evangelical version of Notre Dame . . . Some of us are called to be preachers, that wasn’t mine. I was called to make Liberty University the greatest Christian university’s in the world and I couldn’t have done that as a preacher.”

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Falwell already was on an indefinite leave of absence from his roles as president and chancellor of the university following controversial posts on social media.

“Since that time, additional matters came to light that made it clear that it would not be in the best interest of the University for him to return from leave and serve as President,” according to the statement from Liberty.

His resignation came within hours of the publication of a news story that alleged he and his wife, Becki Falwell, had a years-long sexual relationship with a business associate.

Falwell had agreed to to resign immediately after a meeting by the board’s executive committee, according to the statement, but then “instructed his attorneys not to tender the letter for immediate resignation.”

A spokesman for Liberty previously said that board leadership has “been in discussion with Jerry Falwell and expect to be able to make a statement on Tuesday.”

After news of his resignation first broke, Falwell told a Virginia business publication that he did not plan to leave the school. He also claimed his leave from the school was his idea, more of a sabbatical than a leave of absence.

“I don’t care what you call it. I’ve been at this for so many years and under so much stress, I decided I needed a three-month break.”

Yet Falwell’s leave of absence immediately followed a provocative Instagram photo of him posing with his arm around a woman at a party with their zippers down and midriffs showing.

After that post, Liberty University alumni and former teaching faculty at the school called for his permanent ouster, citing a long list of offensive statements by Falwell, who has been one of President Trump’s staunchest allies.

Earlier Monday, Reuters published a story, saying Falwell’s onetime business partner, Giancarlo Granda, a former pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel had a six-year relationship that involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell looked on.

“Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” Granda said in the Reuters story.

The Falwells and Granda later became business partners and offered Granda a share in a Miami youth hostel.

Colby Garman, pastor of the Pillar Church in Dumfries, Virginia, and a Liberty alumnus, last week published a letter signed by 50 Liberty alumni calling on Falwell’s permanent removal, saying his behavior has embarrassed the school and its reputation. He reiterated today his call for Falwell’s removal.

Commenting on Twitter, he said that the allegations about the Falwells are sad and if true, would be “a reminder of just how deeply entangling sin can become.”

Falwell, who has been president of Liberty University, one of the nation’s largest Christian schools, since his father’s death in 2007, apparently saw the writing on the wall. 

Just last week, the board of trustees at the school met and decided to delay any decision about whether Falwell would be reinstated after his leave.

The Reuters story came one day after Falwell released a statement saying he was suffering from depression because his wife had an affair with a family friend and business associate and that friend has been threatening to expose it.

“Over the course of the last few months, this person’s behavior has reached a level that we have decided the only way to stop this predatory behavior is to go public,” Falwell said in a statement published by the Examiner. 

“We have categorically rejected this person’s demands while dealing with him and this particular member of the media who seemed just as obsessed with the prurient, untrue aspects of this story, however fantastic.”

Falwell did not name the friend in the Examiner story. He also said he was “not involved” in his wife and Granda’s affair.

Reached by phone earlier Monday, Falwell told RNS he already had given his statement to the Washington Examiner and wouldn’t comment further. 

The allegations of a sexual threesome have been swirling for some time. Last year, Falwell allegedly sought out President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to help prevent the release of some racy personal photos, according to published reports. Falwell then denied Cohen’s account that he flew to Florida around 2015, and got the person with the Falwell photos to agree to destroy them.

Those who study U.S. evangelical said that while churches and other institutions may look the other way when it comes to race, money or politics, sexual sins are not tolerated within that subculture. Many Christian schools,  such as Liberty University, have honor codes that spell out what they consider to be Christian standards for sexual conduct.

“I don’t see how Falwell survives this,” said John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah University, and a frequent commentator on evangelicalism said before news of Falwell’s resignation broke. “He’s done.”

A group of students and alumni blamed the crisis in leadership on the school’s board, saying it had been “derelict” in its duties in allowing Falwell to damage the spiritual vitality, academic quality and national reputation of the school. The group, called “Save71,” suggested the school begin by removing the “beneficiaries of Falwell’s inappropriate nepotism.” It also proposed an independent investigation of claims of financial corruption. 

Falwell also made headlines when photos of Falwell and members of his family partying at a Miami Beach nightclub in 2014 surfaced. 

More recently, he apologized after tweeting images of a politician in blackface and Ku Klux Klan imagery.

UPDATE: Liberty formally accepted Falwell’s resignation Tuesday afternoon. The university’s statement also specified that Falwell’s “severance compensation was dictated by the terms of his pre-existing employment agreement without any adjustment by the University or its Board.” Below is the full statement. 


Yonat ShimronYonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor for Religion News Service.



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22 Responses

  1. Good riddance. The scandals surrounding Falwell Jr. would have resulted in termination years ago at a secular university. Feel happy for LIberty University, but don’t feel sad for Falwell. He’s still denying he did anything wrong, and he has made a fortune from his million dollar salary, bonuses, expenses, and dubious land deals over the years.

    His reputation is forever tarnished, but when you’re running a university that prides itself of its honor code, requiring sexual purity of its student body, the hypocrisy of his private life is laid bare for all to see.

    I always find it amazing just how bulletproof and brazen people in power often feel. I guess when you’re used to living in a bubble where everyone is forever heaping praise on you and pledging loyalty in exchange for favors and patronage, you end up losing all perspective on what is normal and moral behavior.

  2. In a statement tonight to ABC news, Jerry Falwell Jr says that he hasn’t resigned yet, that he has not violated the LU Code of Conduct and that his marriage is rock-solid. Sigh…..

    1. LOL. Yeah, not a surprising twist. No doubt he’s negotiating a sweetheart deal before he loses any power he has left to influence the outcome.

  3. Doomed from the start. When has nepotism ever resulted in success?

    His sick behavior actually makes sense and is an encouragement. I always wondered how a Christian leader can do what he does – at least the stuff I knew about. The fact that it came out that he is just so immoral, sick, and perverted was almost a relief. It finally explains things. I just could not see a normal person acting the way he was. Now we know, he’s not normal. His mind is completely broken.

  4. How about just firing the guy? Why does he get to negotiate his resignation? Negotiations must be about money. LU parents and alumni, your money may be going to a bail out.

    1. Having been in a much smaller church two decades and a half ago where the church had to negotiate to get the pastor to “resign” (after being caught in adultery)-Falwell may “know” things about other board members. It may be why he has been able to maintain his spiritual facade for such a long time. Someone must have noticed that something was wrong, but that someone may have their own issues.

    2. In big business it is commonly least expensive to negotiate a resignation (aka. pay them away) than it is to invest the extensive time, money and resources fighting a lawsuit initiated by the fired party.

    3. As Mal says, to avoid lawsuits, and you have to remember that anyone on the board who has opposed Falwell in the past has been replaced, so they all owe their place on the board of trustees to him. So even if they’re now in agreement he has to go, they’re going to be inclined to make it as easy as possible for him — a generous “retirement” package is most likely, maybe some honorary role at the University like lifetime honorary president in recognition of his service, lifetime use of the university’s facilities, box seats at all sporting events, rights to various media materials a la James MacDonald, and so on.

      He’s not walking away with nothing, that’s for sure.

      1. Well, my previous comment was out of date the moment I posted it. Gone for good, apparently. I guess he realized he was on a holding to nothing given what he clearly knows is out there waiting to be published.

        I was looking at the Liberty University student honor code last night, and Falwell’s lifestyle would clearly violated close to a dozen of the prohibitions listed in the Person Honor Code section, making his position completely untenable as the ultimate authority over the students at Liberty University.

  5. It all comes down to certain truths; there are just some questions we may never have answered, no matter how we seek to find the truth.
    For instance, why are there so many mattress stores? Even more perplexing, how and why do good people support someone such as Mr.Falwell?

  6. Overnight he realized that he’s only qualified to be a narcissistic school president and those jobs are in short supply.

  7. He is probably negotiating to make sure the University will not press criminal charges over anything, most obviously the financial dealings, but possibly other things as well.

    As far as “only qualified to be a president” he made a fortune in land deals previously as a lawyer. He’s qualified if anyone is willing to work with him now. He’s got enough money no reason not to take early retirement.

  8. Makes me think what good is the Board of Directors? — they look very foolish and niave now. It’s obvious he should have been fired long ago, but all they could bring themselves to do was a ‘leave of absence”. Now Mr. Falwell leaves on his own terms and the Board plays catch up. Time for them to lead not follow. Perhaps it would be timely for many of the Board members to resign now too, as all this depravity was going on ‘on their watch”?

  9. So this man has likely received a generous severance according to the standards of this world and can pretend to a watching world this resignation was his idea all along and he’s free at last. He and the board which kept him in power this long (and announce today a bright future for Liberty University!) might well be selling their souls for a mess of pottage. Don’t any of these people fear God? I have heard from a reliable source it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    1. Greetings everyone,

      Late breaking News: Washington Post – Falwell said he will receive 2.5 million over 24 months, equivalent to 2 years’ salary. After 2 years he will receive around 8 million in retirement. Falwell said he signed a 20 page contract in July 2019 that outlined the terms. “The board was gracious not to challenge that”. Falwell said. There wasnt’ any cause” he said. “I haven’t done anything.”

      Spoken like a lawyer!

      Best regards,

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