Liberty University says Jerry Falwell Jr. agreed to resign, then changed his mind


    Jerry Falwell Jr. agreed to resign as president of Liberty University after 13 turbulent years at the helm of the prominent evangelical Christian school, but withdrew his resignation after media reports of his decision, the school said Monday night.

    Politico had reported his resignation based on a Liberty University spokesperson, which NBC News could not confirm. But Falwell soon after told Politico he did not resign and did not know why the spokesperson had said otherwise.

    Falwell also denied the reports in an interview on Monday evening with Virginia Business, saying they were « completely false. » He told the economic news outlet that he informed the Liberty University Board of Trustees earlier in the summer that he would be taking a « break. »

    « 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. The Executive Committee met this morning and a conference call gathering of the full board was planned for tomorrow, » the university said in a statement Monday night.

    « Falwell responded by agreeing to resign immediately as President of Liberty University today but then instructed his attorneys to not tender the letter for immediate resignation, » the university said.

    The Executive Committee, as well as the full board, are set to meet Tuesday.

    The fate of Falwell, 58, had been unclear in the wake of an explosive claim made by a former hotel pool attendant-turned-business partner. The man, Giancarlo Granda, 29, told Reuters in an interview published Monday that he carried on an affair with Falwell’s wife, Becki, beginning in 2012, when he was 20, and lasting until 2018.

    Falwell confirmed his wife’s dalliance in a surprise statement first published by the Washington Examiner. He said that the affair led him to suffer from depression but that ultimately he forgave his wife and the man. He did not name him.

    Reuters said Granda shared emails, text messages and other evidence to illustrate the nature of the relationship. Attorneys for Granda and Falwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and efforts to reach them and Becki Falwell directly were not immediately successful Monday.

    Michael Bowe, Falwell’s attorney, told Reuters last week when asked about its initial reporting that his client « categorically denies everything you indicated you intend to publish about him. »

    Falwell became president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, upon the death of his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., in 2007. The elder Falwell, who founded the school in 1971 and was a leader in the Moral Majority, espoused a socially conservative, « pro-family » agenda that was continued by his son, who helped Donald Trump win the endorsement of evangelicals and has become increasingly involved in political issues.

    Falwell’s problems mounted in recent months when he publicly apologized for a tweet showing a person in blackface and posted a photo to his Instagram account in which his shirt was up and he was holding a glass of dark liquid. The awkward image also showed him standing next to a woman, and his pants appeared to be unzipped.




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