It appears that Jerry Falwell Jr. has finally resigned as president of Liberty University after a day of conflicting media reports triggered by a salacious sex-and-blackmail scandal.
Mr. Falwell told ABC News he has agreed to step down from his leadership posts at the evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by his late father Jerry Falwell Sr..
“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 Notre Dame,” Mr. Falwell said in a late Monday post on ABC News. “Some of us are called to be preachers, that wasn’t mine. I was called to make Liberty University the greatest Christian university’s [sic] in the world and I couldn’t have done that as a preacher.”
The university said in a late Monday statement that Mr. Falwell initially agreed to step down from his posts, including his position on the Board of Trustees, but changed his mind after media reports emerged Monday about the resignation.
“On the first day of classes of Liberty University’s fall term, Jerry Falwell, Jr., agreed to resign as its President and from its Board of Directors, but following media reports about the resignation, withdrew it,” said the university in a late Monday statement.
The Board of Trustees plans to meet Tuesday to discuss the situation involving the son of late Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr., who was placed on an indefinite leave of absence Aug. 7.
The leave of absence was triggered by a photo he posted of himself and his wife’s female assistant posing with their pants unzipped and midriffs exposed, which he later described as a joke, but in a Sunday statement to the Examiner, Mr. Falwell said his family was being blackmailed by his wife’s former lover.
“The Executive Committee’s Board of Trustees asked Falwell to go on indefinite leave of absence on August 7, to which he agreed,” said the statement. “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.”
JUST IN: After a daylong back and forth, Jerry Falwell Jr. officially resigned from Liberty University on Monday night, he told @ABC News. https://t.co/SZfpcH3LJV
— ABC News (@ABC) August 25, 2020
Said acting President Jerry Prevo: “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.”
Unnamed school officials told several media outlets, including the Associated Press and Religion News Service, that Mr. Falwell had resigned, but within hours, he told Virginia Business and Politico that he had not agreed to step down.
In its Monday statement, the university said “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 executive committee plans to meet Tuesday morning followed by a meeting of the full Board, according to the university.
In his Sunday statement, Mr. Falwell said his wife admitted to having an affair with a young man who later became a family friend and business associate, but that he had threatened to expose the relationship unless the Falwells paid him.
“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,” said Mr. Falwell. “We have categorically rejected this person’s demands while dealing with him and this particular member of the media who seemed just as obsessed with the prurient, untrue aspects of this story, however fantastic.”
Also on Sunday, Giancarlo Ganda told Reuters that he had an affair with Becki Falwell after meeting the couple in 2012 while he worked as a pool boy at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach 2012, but that Mr. Falwell knew about the relationship and “enjoyed watching from the corner of the room.”
Sign up for Daily Newsletters