Evangelical leader and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has made headlines in the past for his staunch Trump support but recently he’s been making more appearances than usual with one scandal after the next. Here will outline the messes that have been keeping this right-wing Christian powerhouse in the news.
Falwell has been under fire since one story after the next has come out against him, showing him in the middle of shady real estate deals, poor personal life choices, handling of businesses that seem to benefit his family in particular, and his employees at Liberty University say he is running the Virginia school on a system of fear and intimidation.
Recently, Reuters reviewed email exchanges from the past decade between Liberty University employees that revealed that Falwell was berating students, faculty, and staff at the school, calling a student “emotionally imbalanced and physically retarded.” He also referred to the campus police chief as a “half-wit” and with 10 years of emails to look at? This doesn’t begin to touch it all. David Corry, Liberty’s general counsel, said they will offer no comment “without knowing the details or seeing email chains in their entirety.”
But before that shocking reveal, Politico published a harrowing story featuring over two dozen Liberty students and officials saying Falwell has created a “culture of fear.” These allegations are dire, saying Falwell would engage in discussions about his sex life with his employees (with graphic detail) and that he has lined up school resources to deals and projects that will directly profit his friends and family.
The blasting Politico article was written by Liberty alumnus Brandon Ambrosino and was quick to fire off that that Falwell’s behavior is the opposite of what is expected from the leader of one of the largest conservative higher learning institutions in the world.
What’s more, the same story included accounts that Falwell and some family attended a Miami Beach nightclub in 2014, featuring photos of the incident but Falwell has denied the visit and said that the pictures have been “photo-shopped.” In response to Falwell’s denial, Miami photography firm World Red Eye released MORE pictures from the night, responding with a tweet linking to them. Keep in mind that Liberty University has a STRICT “No drinking and No dancing” policy. Yes, I said “no dancing.”
Falwell called the reporter a “little boy” and refused to comment saying he wouldn’t “dignify the lies that were reported.” He says he is involving the FBI in what is obviously a smear campaign against him, suggesting it is an “attempted coup” brought forth in part because of his Trump support.
There were protests on both sides of the argument at Liberty, some students defending their president and some calling for more investigations. Falwell tweeted about the protests saying he was “so impressed” with his students, however, that was AFTER he had posted a meme that made fun of the people who protest AGAINST him.
Liberty general counsel Correy, released the university’s statement in response to the recent media reports.
Falwell’s father, conservative Southern Baptist preacher and Moral Majority leader Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. founded Liberty University almost 50 years ago. Falwell Sr. became a well known TV evangelist and is credited with laying the foundation for what is today’s religious right movement.
Falwell Jr. took over the large university after his father died while his brother took over Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg co-founded by Falwell Sr. While Falwell Jr. is not a pastor, he is still viewed as an evangelical leader.
Falwell’s support of Trump has divided evangelicals, with many speaking out against the President. But nevertheless, Trump has appeared and given speeches at Liberty several times, even imploring the students to travel to Washington to rally in support of controversial then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
There are stories dated farther back than just these from the last few weeks. Last BuzzFeed reported a shady real estate deal involving millions of dollars, a young pool attendant in Miami, and Falwell’s son. And in January, The Wall Street Journal published an article saying that former Trump fixer Michael Cohen hired a Liberty employee and private consultant to manipulate polls in Trump’s favor before the presidential campaign. Not just hearsay, six high-level sources at the university went on record to say that the Liberty employee traveled with Falwell’s son Trey to New York to collect payment from Cohen.
The list of scandals just goes on and on. Earlier this year, Reuters reported that Cohen assisted Falwell in disposing of “racy personal photos” in 2015. On Aug. 27, Reuters reported Jerry Jr. and wife Rebecca helped guide a $1.2 million piece of university property to their personal trainer, former Liberty graduate Benjamin Crosswhite.