LYNCHBURG, Va. — Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of what hails itself as the world’s largest Christian university, officially resigned Monday evening after reports went public that his wife had an affair for a number of years with a young business partner. He had already been on indefinite leave over a controversial vacation photo in which he posed with his pants unzipped.
“After agreeing yesterday to immediately resign then reversing course, Falwell, through an attorney, sent the resignation letter late last night to members of the Board’s Executive Committee pursuant to the terms of his contract of employment,” Liberty University said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The Executive Committee met this morning and voted to accept all the resignations immediately and recommend ratification to the full Board. Later this morning, the full Board gathered via conference call and unanimously voted to affirm the decision of the Executive Committee,” it explained.
Officials outlined that the board, “composed of a mix of alumni, pastors and business executives, active and retired, used most of its meeting to focus forward on the university’s future and steps that could be taken to ensure it remained true to its mission.” A search committee for a replacement for Falwell will be formed at an upcoming meeting.
Falwell, while acknowledging that his wife Becki had committed adultery, said that the man, now 29-year-old Giancarlo Granda, tried to extort the couple and became threatening. He asserted that he had no part in the affair, while Granda claims that Falwell sat in the room or watched from a camera while sexual encounters happened over the course of seven years.
Granda released a recorded phone call in which Becki Falwell expressed that she struggled with the idea of him dating other girls, even to the point of tears, and Jerry Falwell Jr. remarked, “You’re going to make her jealous, Gian.”
The Falwells had been in a business relationship with Granda surrounding a hostel that he owned in Miami, Florida.
“Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved,” Falwell said Sunday night in a statement to the Washington Examiner after Reuters first reported on the matter. “It was nonetheless very upsetting to learn about.”
He stated that he lost 80 pounds in becoming so disturbed about the matter, spending time “reflecting and praying about whether there were ways I could have been more supportive of her and given her proper attention.”
“I came to realize that while it may be easy to judge others on their behavior, the King James Bible reminds us, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery, but I sayeth unto you, that whoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her in his heart,'” Falwell wrote. “In fact, there are ways we may all be sinning, but the Lord believes in this self-reflection.”
He said that he consequently forgave his wife, and the couple sought to put distance between themselves and Granda, but he became “aggressive.”
“Eventually, he began threatening to publicly reveal this secret relationship with Becki and to deliberately embarrass my wife, family, and Liberty University unless we agreed to pay him substantial monies,” Falwell said. “We were doing our best to respectfully unravel this ‘fatal attraction’ type situation to protect our family and the university.”
Granda denies that he had engaged in extortion, telling reporters, “Any allegation of extortion is falsely, defamatory and belied by clear documentary evidence.”
As previously reported, Falwell had already been placed on indefinite leave by the Liberty University Board of Trustees after he posted — and then deleted — a vacation photo to Instagram where he mimicked his wife’s pregnant assistant, but was photographed knowing that his pants were unzipped.
Falwell told WLNI “MorningLine” earlier this month that neither he or the assistant were able to button their pants.
“She’s pregnant, so she couldn’t get her pants up,” Falwell stated. “I had on a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn in a long time, so I couldn’t get mine zipped either.”
“So, I just put my belly out like hers,” Falwell continued. “I should never have put it (the photo) up and embarrassed her.”
The photograph was taken at a “Trailer Park Boys”-themed outing on a yacht, where the Falwells were on vacation.
The vile Canadian-based show filled with profanity, alcoholism, drug use, sexual immorality and other ungodliness features episode titles such as “[Expletive] Community College, Let’s Get Drunk and Eat Chicken Fingers,” “I’m Not Gay, I Love Lucy … Wait A Second, Maybe I Am Gay,” “Gimme My [Expletive] Money Or Randy’s Dead”, and “You Want The Lot Fees, [Sexual Vulgarity]”.
A coalition of Liberty University alumni, students and faculty soon launched a petition calling for the Board of Trustees to permanently remove Falwell from his position as president and “replace him with a responsible and virtuous Christian leader.” They said that the matter was not over a single incident but a pattern of behavior throughout much of his tenure.
“I was never called to be a pastor. My calling was to use my legal and business expertise to make Liberty University the evangelical version of Note Dame,” Falwell told ABC News this week. “Some of us are called to be preachers, that wasn’t mine. I was called to make Liberty University the greatest Christian university in the world, and I couldn’t have done that as a preacher.”