Jerry Falwell Jr: Trump-supporting evangelical leader resigns from college amid scandal | The Independent

Jerry Falwell Jr, president of a beleaguered evangelical Christian college and prominent supporter of Donald Trump, has resigned from the university founded by his father.

Mr. Falwell has been on leave from the presidency of Liberty University while embroiled in several controversies. Reports of his resignation on Monday followed the publication of allegations that Mr Falwell and his wife had engaged in a years-long sexual relationship with another man.

In a statement to Politico, he initially claimed he did not quit, but later said he did.

He claimed in a lengthy statement that the man tried to blackmail the family and accused him of threatening to reveal the relationship “to deliberately embarrass my wife, my family and Liberty University unless we didn’t.” agreed to pay him substantial sums”.

“Over the past few months, this individual’s behavior has reached such a level that we have decided that the only way to end this predatory behavior is to make it public,” he said in a statement to the newspaper. and at the Conservatives website. The Washington Examiner.

Giancarlo Granda, who shared messages with Reuters as part of the outlet’s investigation into his relationship with the couple, denied the allegations against him.

“Any allegation of extortion is false, defamatory and disproved by clear documentary evidence,” Mr Granda said. The Examiner. “The Falwells’ attempt to send me sandbags, and The Examinerwith a last minute story without providing The Examiner clear evidence that this was not just a ‘case’ with concocted allegations of extortion reeking of desperation.”

The university president has been placed on indefinite leave from his post after he shared, then deleted, a provocative Instagram photo in which Mr Falwell has his arm around a woman as they both zip up lowered, revealing their bare bellies.

Last week, Virginia Pastor Colby Garman, a Liberty graduate, sent a letter signed by 50 other Liberty alumni to the university and its board of trustees demanding that Mr. Falwell be replaced with a character who ” represents the core of Liberty University’s mission.”

“It is out of our deep love for Liberty University and our great optimism for its future that we are writing to you today to urge you, the Board of Trustees, to permanently remove Mr. Falwell from his position as President. and chancellor and to replace him with a new leader,” the letter said.

Liberty is one of the largest private Christian universities in the United States. Mr. Falwell has been at the helm since the death in 2007 of his father, a hugely influential figure within America’s modern right-wing Christian movement.

Mr Falwell had shocked the evangelical world and the Republican establishment with his 2016 endorsement of then-candidate Trump.

Mr Granda said he was in his early twenties when he first met Mr Falwell and his wife Becki while working as a pool attendant at a Florida hotel. He allegedly began a sexual relationship with Ms Falwell in 2012, which continued until 2018, during which Mr Falwell would watch, according to Reuters.

The Falwells had meanwhile financed a hostel in Miami Beach, in which Mr. Granda had also invested. The Falwells sued for his property in 2015, which was dismissed, and they filed it again in 2017.

Reuters and The New York Times reported in 2019 that in 2015 Mr Falwell asked Mr Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen – who at the time arranged silent payments on behalf of the president to pay for the silence of women who alleged relationships with the president – to get rid of photos that Mr Cohen allegedly claimed he had to be kept “between husband and wife”.

Barry F. Howard