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Jerry Falwell Jr. ‘Chose Personal Protection’ Over Service to Liberty, School’s Lawsuit Claims

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Liberty University is seeking millions of dollars in damages in a civil lawsuit it filed against its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., a once-influential figure among U.S. evangelical Christians.

The complaint filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court in Virginia alleges that Falwell crafted a “well-resourced exit strategy” from his role as president and chancellor in the form of a 2019 employment agreement while withholding from the school key details about a personal scandal that exploded into public view last year.

“Despite his clear duties as an executive and officer at Liberty, Falwell Jr. chose personal protection,” the lawsuit says.

Liberty said Falwell improperly mixed his university duties with his personal life despite knowing that “infidelity, immodesty, and acceptance of a loose lifestyle would stand in stark contrast to the conduct expected of leaders at Liberty.”

It also alleges that Falwell failed to disclose and address “the issue of his personal impairment by alcohol” and has refused to fully return Liberty’s confidential information and other personal property.

Falwell left the school in August 2020 after Giancarlo Granda, a business partner of the Falwell family, said he had an affair with Falwell’s wife, Becki Falwell, and that Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur. While the Falwells acknowledge the affair occurred, Jerry Falwell denied any participation and the couple alleged that Granda sought to extort them by threatening to reveal the relationship.

The lawsuit claims that Falwell had a “fiduciary duty to disclose Granda’s extortive actions, and to disclose the potential for serious harm to Liberty.”

Instead, Falwell “furthered the conspiracy of silence and negotiated a 2019 Employment Agreement that contained a higher salary from Liberty,” the suit said.

Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is being sued by the university for failing to disclose an alleged extortion attempt by a man who allegedly had a sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife. In the photo, Falwell speaks during a commencement at Liberty University on May 13, 2017, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Falwell responded to a phone call from the Associated Press on Friday with a text saying he was not available to talk.

It wasn’t immediately clear if he has an attorney representing him in the matter. The AP left a message seeking comment with an attorney who has represented him previously.

A Liberty spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the school had additional comment.

Before the Granda scandal exploded, Falwell had already been on leave after he posted a photo on social media that sparked an uproar. It showed Falwell on a yacht with a drink in his hand and his arm around a young woman who was not his wife, their pants unzipped and his underwear exposed.

The lawsuit, which alleges three counts—breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and statutory conspiracy—is seeking more than $10 million in damages.

Falwell, an attorney and real estate developer, had led the evangelical school since the 2007 death of his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who also founded the Moral Majority, the political organization that made evangelical Christians a key force in the Republican party.

In early 2016, Falwell became one of the first conservative Christians to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency, and defended him after Trump’s lewd remarks about women and sexual assault, captured in a 2005 Access Hollywood recording, became public late in the campaign.

Falwell went on to court controversy and stay in the news, vigorously criticizing Democrats online.

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