LYNCHBURG, Va. (WJZ/AP) — Jerry Falwell Jr. said Tuesday that he has resigned as head of evangelical Liberty University because of ongoing controversies about his wife’s sexual involvement with a younger business partner and in the wake of a social media photo that caused an uproar.
Falwell’s exit marks a precipitous fall from power for one of the country’s most visible evangelical leaders and ardent supporters of President Donald Trump. The Lynchburg, Virginia university was founded by Falwell’s late father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.
Falwell confirmed his decision in an interview with The Associated Press. According to the school, he initially offered to resign Monday, hours after the Reuters news agency published an interview with a man who said that he had a yearslong sexual relationship with Becki Falwell and that Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur. Falwell later reversed course and began telling news outlets he had no intention of leaving. Liberty University spokesman Scott Lamb did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
“The Executive Committee’s Board of Trustees asked Falwell to go on indefinite leave of absence on August 7, to which he agreed. 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 Lynchburg, Virginia based university continued in its statement. “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.”
For hours there was conflicting information on Falwell’s resignation. The executive committee of the school’s board is expected to meet Tuesday morning followed by the full board.
“I call upon the University community and supporters to be in prayer for the University and for all its leadership, past, present and future, as we walk with the Lord through this stormy time of transition,” said Acting President Jerry Prevo in a statement.
The news of Falwell’s possible departure followed the publication of news stories about his wife’s sexual encounters with a much younger business partner when he was 20 years old. They marked the latest in a series of controversies related to the couple to roil the Christian school founded by Falwell’s late father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.
University officials asked Falwell to take an indefinite leave on August 7 following an uproar over a photo he posted on social media, and then deleted, showing him with his pants unzipped, stomach exposed and arm high around the waist of his wife’s pregnant assistant.
On Monday night, attorneys for Falwell and the school were negotiating the details of a possible departure, according to a person close to the school’s board of trustees who also spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss it.
Falwell Jr. told Virginia Business Monday that reports that he was resigning were “completely false.”
In a lengthy statement issued Sunday, the 58-year-old said he and his family were being blackmailed by a man, who had an “inappropriate personal relationship” with his wife Becki.
Falwell Jr. said the affair led to stress and that he was seeking counseling.
“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,” the statement said.
Although Falwell Jr. didn’t name the man, Giancarlo Granda outed himself as the person who is referenced throughout Falwell’s statement.
Granda told Reuters that he was 20 years old when he met the couple in 2012 while he was working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami. In the interview, Granda details of the relationship.
Read more about the alleged sex scandal and Falwell’s work at Liberty on CBS News.
Some Associated Press reporting was used in this article.