What was Jerry Falwell, Jr. thinking?

The head of the evangelical Liberty University has agreed to take the “indefinite leave of absence” asked for by the university’s Board of trustees after a suggestive photo appeared on the internet of him with his arms around the waist of a Peg Bundy lookalike on a yacht, with both of them showing their midriffs ,and he with his pants unzipped and holding a glass with dark liquid in it.

Liberty University has very strict puritanical rules against drinking and tight restrictions on the kind of interactions that students can have and if any students had been seen doing what Falwell did, he would have come down on them hard.

Liberty students are banned from drinking alcohol and are required to abide by a dress code that stresses “modesty at all times.”

Liberty student Clayton Didinsky, who is starting his senior year, told BuzzFeed News he and his classmates were “shocked” by Friday’s announcement but supported the decision for Falwell to take a leave of absence.

“I did not think this, of all things, would have done it,” Didinsky said. “My reaction to the whole yacht thing is that it was hypocritical. It’s obvious he was not drinking ‘black water,’ and students can’t drink, even if you’re 21.”

He added that students who do drink get into a lot of trouble if they get caught.

What is more is that this photo was not some paparazzi scoop. Falwell himself had posted it before the ensuing uproar made him take it down. He said it was just ‘good fun’.

What was he thinking when he posted that photo? Falwell seems to have some kind of death wish.

Liberty was slapped with a class-action lawsuit in April after Falwell insisted on keeping campus open during the coronavirus pandemic. And last year, several current and former Liberty University employees told Politico of multiple instances of questionable behavior by the school president, including his penchant for graphically discussing his sex life with staffers and fostering a toxic, fear-based workplace.

He has previously been involved in the weird ‘pool boy’ story, involved in shady real estate deals, as well as there being suggestions that he and his wife were swingers who had been photographed in compromising positions and that Trump’s then fixer Michael Cohen had arranged to have the photos suppressed.

Sometimes people who proclaim a very strict puritanical code like Falwell did, but live or want to live a libertine lifestyle, skirt very close to exposure, as if they want to be caught and thereafter openly live the life that they had kept secret. Hence they keep taking ever-greater risks. The preacher Jimmy Swaggart’s penchant for hiring sex workers is a case in point.

So maybe this exposure is the ‘liberation’ that Falwell secretly sought all along. Falwell was one of the earliest evangelicals to support Trump back in the 2016 election and brought other evangelicals along with him. Maybe he will now feel freed to openly do the kinds of gross things that his hero Trump brags about doing.


  1. Matt G says

    You didn’t even mention that he called in to a morning radio show to explain the photo, and was apparently plastered. A *morning* radio show….

  2. Matt G says

    I have a personal experience (sort of) with Jerry Falwell, Sr. My father was the minister of a large Unitarian Universalist church, and regularly wrote opinion pieces for the local paper. Falwell was coming to town for one of his revivals, so my father wrote about him using one of his own quotes against him. Soon after, my father got a call in his office from the church administrator: “Dick, there’s a call for you from Jerry Falwell.” My father assumed that either my brother or I was playing a prank on him, and answered the phone in a funny voice. It was Falwell! He wanted to know the source of the quote. My father said he would dig it up and call him back (these were the days of the IBM Selectric Typewriter…). My father found the source of the quote and called him back, but never got through to him.

  3. Owlmirror says

    Why on earth would he write “black water” instead of “Cola” (or “Pepsi”, or “Coke”)?

    Although, I’d guess that anything that dark (with a bit of leftover foam) would be either stout or porter.

  4. lanir says

    I don’t think when people like that do such things that they’re so much trying to push the limits and live the thrill of almost being caught. I think when your message is so antagonistic to other people that pushing the limits is more about how poorly they think about the people they oppress. I think it’s less about the cheap thrill and more about pushing the bar lower about how you need to treat other people so you can demand more hypocritical things of them. I feel like that’s why it’s so common with people like him. It’s part of their process.

  5. says

    I wonder if any of the Puritans who are turning on Nepotism Junior ever stop to ask themselves why they still support -- more like worship -- the guy who brags about sexually assaulting women, commits adultery with porn stars and then, just before the election, uses a shady lawyer to pay hush money in order to keep the voters from knowing about the porn stars?

    Not to mention the million and one other things Trump does that should absolutely disqualify him from any consideration, ever, from people who look upon Nepo Jr. with shock, shock.

  6. ColeYote says

    Wait, that’s why he resigned? Nothing to do with all the racism or the attempt to stay open in spite of the safety concerns, it’s because he posted a picture of himself drinking and wearing a shirt awkwardly?

    Southern Evangelicals have some seriously fucked-up priorities.

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