Liberty University sues scandal-hit ex-president Jerry Falwell Jr for $10m

Richard Luscombe in Miami
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters

The prominent evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr is facing a $10m lawsuit from the Christian university founded by his father, and which he served as president until resigning in the wake of a sordid extortion scandal last year.

Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia, claims Falwell hid “potentially damaging” details of the scandal as he negotiated a lucrative new contract for himself with the university’s trustees.

Falwell, whose father, the Rev Jerry Falwell Sr, founded the conservative college in 1971, resigned his position last August after details emerged of the alleged extortion by a pool boy from Miami, who claimed to have had a seven-year affair with Falwell and his wife Becki.

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Among the breach-of-contract lawsuit’s other claims, the newspaper said, are that Falwell, 58, a fervent supporter of the former president Donald Trump, failed to disclose or address “his personal impairment by alcohol”.

The legal action against Falwell, who dropped his own defamation lawsuit against Liberty in December, prolongs the already messy aftermath of his departure from the 79,000-student university.

On Wednesday, Scott Lamb, Liberty’s senior vice-president of communications, announced that Trey Falwell, Falwell Jr’s son, had left his job as the university’s vice-president, without providing detail. Politico reported the move as further evidence the university was “seeking aggressively to distance itself from its former president”.

In reply to an email from the Guardian seeking comment on Friday, Lamb said: “The University’s only word on the subject is the lawsuit itself.” Falwell could not be reached for comment.

Liberty’s trustees gathered in Lynchburg this week to discuss a permanent replacement as president – Jerry Prevo, 76, who founded the university with Falwell Sr. It is unclear to what extent the lawsuit was discussed.

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The lawsuit alleges that Falwell, in hiding the details of the alleged extortion, breached his fiduciary duties to the university as he negotiated for a higher salary. It claims he also kept university property he was required to return. Falwell was the university’s president from 2007 until his resignation.

In August 2020, Giancarlo Granda, who met Falwell and his wife when he worked at a Miami hotel, revealed what he said was a lengthy sexual affair with the couple. Falwell has claimed the affair was only with his wife.

Falwell “led a scheme to cover up the illicit conduct”, the lawsuit alleges, which it says damaged the university and its reputation and breached the school’s code of conduct.