Jerry Falwell Jr. confirmed on Monday night that he had resigned from evangelical Liberty University – ending a bizarre episode in which he was said to have quit, and then denied it.
Falwell told ABC that his resignation was official, and he was stepping down as chancellor of the Lynchburg, Virginia-based Christian school, after a pool boy claimed the evangelist watched while he had sex with his wife.
A senior school official earlier on Monday night said he had resigned from his leadership post, but Falwell then told several news outlets that he does not plan to leave permanently.
A school official confirmed on Monday – the first day of classes for students – that Falwell had agreed to resign, The Washington Post reported.
Falwell then said the reports of his resignation were ‘completely false’.
‘I have not resigned. I will be on indefinite leave,’ Falwell later told POLITICO.
When a reporter asked a spokesperson for Liberty University whether Falwell had indeed resigned, the spokesperson answered affirmatively.
The university said a statement would be ‘forthcoming.’
Reached later on Monday, the spokesperson said: ‘I cannot say anything and I can only give a statement from the Board if they give me a statement.’
Falwell said he had told the Liberty Board of Trustees earlier in the summer that he needed a break from work.
He told Virginia Business that the board agreed he take a ‘leave of absence’ after a ‘stupid picture’ emerged on Instagram showing him and his female assistant with their pants unzipped and bellies sticking out.
‘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,’ Falwell said.
He said he’s ‘enjoying it, except for the press.’
The controversy erupted after Giancarlo Granda, 29, spoke out on Monday in an interview with Reuters where he contradicted Falwell’s claims that he was trying to extort the pair and had an affair with his wife, and gave more details about his alleged sexual relationship with them.
He said he was 20 when he met the pair in Miami and that starting in March 2012, he had sex with Falwell’s wife Becki several times a year in hotel rooms, sometimes while Falwell Jr. watched, until 2018.
‘Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,’ Granda said.
During that time, the trio went into business together with an LGBTQ-friendly hostel in Miami that Granda runs.
He said that he was used as a ‘target’ for the couple’s ‘sexual escapades’ and that he was not trying to extort the pair, even though he threatened to go ‘the kamikaze route’ if they didn’t give him what he wanted.
He sat down with Reuters earlier this month. They went to Falwell Jr. with Granda’s claims, which is what prompted his statement on Sunday night.
Now 29, Granda described the liaisons as frequent – ‘multiple times per year’ – and said the encounters took place at hotels in Miami and New York, and at the Falwells’ home in Virginia.
On Sunday night, Falwell Jr. – a prominent Trump endorser and one of the most influential right-wing Christians in America – told The Washington Examiner that he and his family were being extorted.
He said Becki had an affair with Granda that he had ‘no involvement in’, and that he’d chosen to forgive his wife.
Granda claims the opposite.
He showed Reuters texts from Becki where she said she was ‘missing him like crazy’ and also gave an audio recording of her complaining about hearing about the other women Granda had been intimate with.
Falwell Jr. was also on the call and told him that he was going to make his wife ‘jealous’.
‘He’s like telling me every time he hooks up with people. Like I don’t have feelings or something,’ Becki said.
Falwell then chimed in: ‘You’re going to make her jealous.’
Granda replied: ‘I’m not trying to do that.’
He insists he was trying to negotiate a buyout from the hostel business and that he was not extorting the pair.
In one text to them, he said: ‘Since you’re okay with ruining my life, I am going to take the kamikaze route.
‘It really is a shame because I wanted to reach a peaceful resolution and just move on with our lives but if conflict is what you want, then so be it.’
In his statement on Sunday night, Falwell Jr. said, in part: ‘Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved…it was nonetheless very upsetting to learn about.’
His friendship with the Falwells eventually soured, he said, in part because he wanted to dissolve his ties with the couple and fell into a business dispute with them.
Granda first emerged as a figure in the Falwells’ circle two years ago, when BuzzFeed News reported that the couple had befriended Granda and gone into business with him, buying a Miami Beach youth hostel in 2013.
At the time of the BuzzFeed article, a representative of the Falwell family said Granda was ‘offered a share’ in Alton Hostel LLC because he lived in Miami and would act as a manager of the youth hostel.
Corporate records show that he currently has a stake in that venture.
After Reuters presented its initial reporting early last week to the Falwells, a lawyer for Jerry Falwell, Michael Bowe, said the evangelical leader ‘categorically denies everything you indicated you intend to publish about him.’
On Sunday night, however, as Reuters was preparing to publish this article, Jerry Falwell issued a statement to the Washington Examiner in which he said that his wife had had an affair with Granda and that Granda had been trying to extort money from the couple over the matter.
Granda denies any such intent, saying he was seeking to negotiate a buyout from a business arrangement he says he had with the couple.
Falwell’s statement Sunday to the Examiner said nothing about Granda’s account alleging that the evangelical leader had his own role in the affair, and Falwell didn’t address questions from Reuters about it.
In the statement quoted by the Examiner, Falwell said that ‘Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved.’
News of the entanglement would seem to end the influence of Falwell, a towering figure in the U.S. evangelical political movement.
His 2016 endorsement of Donald Trump helped the twice-divorced New Yorker win the Republican nomination for president.
Falwell, 58, took an indefinite leave of absence earlier this month from Liberty University, the Christian school he has run since 2007.
The leave, announced in a terse statement from the school’s board of trustees, came days after Falwell posted, then deleted, an Instagram photo of himself with his pants unzipped, standing with his arm around a young woman whose pants were also partly undone.
Falwell later told a local radio station that the picture was meant as a good-natured joke.
Becki Falwell, 53, is a political figure in her own right.
She served on the advisory board of the group Women for Trump, which advocates for the president’s reelection campaign.
She also spoke as part of a panel with her husband and Donald Trump Jr at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, the signature annual gathering of conservatives.
Falwell and others refer to her as ‘the first lady of Liberty University.’
The university, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, was founded in 1971 by Falwell´s televangelist father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell. The younger Falwell took over in 2007. Today, the university boasts an online and on-campus enrollment that exceeds 100,000 students and holds those who attend to an exacting honor code.
‘Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University,’ the code reads.
In a statement released Friday, before news of the relationship with Granda became public, Liberty University said its ‘decision whether or not to retain Falwell as president has not yet been made.’
Its board of trustees, the statement read, ‘requested prayer and patience as they seek the Lord’s will and also seek additional information for assessment.’
The Falwell saga came amid growing calls for an overhaul of leadership at the school, where alumni recently launched a campaign urging him to step aside.
‘I really think the board of directors should have done this a long time ago, and if there’s anybody who needs to go next, it needs to be them,’ said Maina Mwaura, a Liberty graduate who helped organize a June letter from black alumni criticizing Falwell.
‘This school has become the laughingstock of the country,’ Mwaura added, noting that the board could have prevented the current furor had it acted more quickly to rein in Falwell.
The founder’s son was given a long leash for poor behavior, Mwaura said, ‘because he was the rainmaker’ who brought in significant financial resources.
My family has been blessed with the opportunity to serve Christ and our community over the past 50 years – from when my father founded Liberty in the early 1970’s through today. When my father suddenly passed away in 2007, I quickly and unexpectedly went from being the lawyer working in the background on the business aspects of the school to becoming a very public person, having to overcome my fears of speaking in front of audiences of tens of thousands, with many more responsibilities to the Liberty community and to my own family.
My priority was to build on my father’s vision and to work hard. Thanks to the help of the Board and the extraordinary Liberty faculty, executives, staff and community, we have ensured the University’s sustained growth and financial health while providing the best and most modern on-campus and online educational and spiritual resources to a wider range of students both in person and through digital platforms.
My commitment to Liberty became and has remained my primary focus – and while I am so grateful and thankful for our collective successes, I also realize in hindsight that there was a toll that this took on me, which extended to my family too. During this time of reflection for us and this especially challenging year, and even more so following the events of the past few weeks, my wife Becki and I agreed that this was the right time for me to share more of our story, because the Liberty community deserves to hear it directly from me and from us.
During a vacation over eight years ago, Becki and I met an ambitious young man who was working at our hotel and was saving up his money to go to school. We encouraged him to pursue an education and a career and we were impressed by his initiative in suggesting a local real estate opportunity. My family members eventually made an investment in a local property, included him in the deal because he could play an active role in managing it, and became close with him and his family.
Shortly thereafter, Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved – it was nonetheless very upsetting to learn about.
After I learned this, I lost 80 pounds and people who saw me regularly thought that I was physically unwell, when in reality I was just balancing how to be most supportive of Becki, who I love, while also reflecting and praying about whether there were ways I could have been more supportive of her and given her proper attention.
I came to realize that while it may be easy to judge others on their behavior, the King James Bible reminds us – ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery, but I sayeth unto you, that whoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her in his heart.’ In fact, there are ways we may all be sinning, but the Lord believes in this self-reflection.
I was and have always remained fully devoted to Becki and we have shared many private conversations to better understand and support each other and to strengthen our marriage. Thankfully, our love has never been stronger.
Becki and I forgave each other, because while her indiscretion may have been more obvious and apparent, I realized that there were important smaller things I needed to do better too.
In Ephesians 4:32 we learn – ‘Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving as God in Christ forgave you.’
We extended the spirit of forgiveness to this man with respect and kindness, both for spiritual and religious reasons, and in the hope that we could help him find his way and allow us to put this behind us, without any harm or embarrassment to our family or to the LU community to which we have dedicated our lives.
During the years that followed, we got to know his family and other loved ones, good people who also really care about him. They shared and confirmed to us that he has periodically demonstrated emotionally unstable behaviors with some destructive tendencies, seemingly in response to his inability to achieve his professional goals. Based on information from other sources, we believe that he may have targeted other successful women in similar ways.
While we tried to distance ourselves from him over time, he unfortunately became increasingly angry and aggressive. Eventually, he began threatening to publicly reveal this secret relationship with Becki and to deliberately embarrass my wife, family, and Liberty University unless we agreed to pay him substantial monies.
While this was very upsetting, we had been advised by trusted legal counsel that it was best to maintain contact with this person, as we tried to manage his increasingly erratic behavior and unreasonable demands while extricating ourselves from him both on a personal level and from that real estate transaction.
It was like living on a roller coaster.
While completely dedicating ourselves to Liberty, we were also suffering in silence during our personal time together, while simultaneously trying to manage and deal with this increasingly threatening behavior, which only worsened over time. We were doing our best to respectfully unravel this ‘fatal attraction’ type situation to protect our family and the University.
Even years after the improper relationship had ended, this person continued to be aggressive with Becki and me in a variety of ways. We finally decided that we had to further withdraw completely from him, which resulted in him stepping up his threats to share more outrageous and fabricate claims about us (under the guise of that business entity).
He clearly moved forward with this plan through a specific member of the media who has continued to badger us, as well as other members of the media, regarding the false claims about the nature of the relationship based on the individual’s misrepresentations. 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.
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.
Even though I continued successfully working with our entire Liberty team to achieve so many of our goals, I am now dealing with things in a way that I should have done before – including seeking to address the emotional toll this has taken. 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.
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. I am in the early stages of addressing these issues.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on thine own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him and he will guide straight thy path.’
The trauma of this experience has brought us to a very challenging point in our lives, but we are strong, our faith in Christ is greater than ever, and with His help and with those in the community who we love and who appreciate the impact of forgiveness, we will get through this. We ask for your prayers and support.
Jerry Falwell Jr. has been admonished for blaming his family’s involvement with a pool boy entirely on his wife and claiming she cheated on him with the younger man when he allegedly watched them having sex.
Falwell Jr., the head of Liberty University, released a statement on Sunday night claiming that only his wife Becki was involved Giancarlo Ganda, a pool boy who the pair met when he was 20 in 2012.
He said Becki and Ganda had an affair and that he’d chosen to forgive her for it, describing it as an ‘indiscretion’ that caused him to lose 80lbs when he discovered it because he was so upset.
However, Ganda spoke out on Monday to claim that not only did Jerry know about the affair, but that he watched them having sex.
He says he and Becki had sex multiple times a year in hotel rooms around the country for six years.
Now, Falwell – who was put on a leave of absence from the Christian college earlier this year – is being slammed for trying to pin the entire scandal on his wife.
Twitter users erupted in criticism of his ‘holier than thou’ statement.