The whole sordid Falwell saga laid bare

The website Politico has done a deep dive into all the nefarious things that Jerry Falwell engaged in while president of Liberty University. It is quite astonishing. He managed to avoid oversight by his supposed bosses on the Board of Trustees by forcing out of the board and his administration those who were not loyalists who raised concerns that his behavior was not consistent with the highly puritanical code demanded by the university of its students, faculty, and staff.

The Falwells’ interactions with Granda and other accusers may have been shielded from some of the Liberty community, but multiple former university officials and Falwell associates told POLITICO that Jerry frequently shocked them with risqué comments and, in at least two cases, showed off a photo of himself at the beach with his arms around two topless women. (The Falwells said the story about the photo was “completely false.”) His alleged comments included making open references to women’s appearances, discussing oral sex and offering a gratuitous assessment of his own penis size during his 13-year tenure as head of the evangelical university that his father founded, where sex is forbidden outside of marriage.

While the sexual escapades of him and his wife Becki have received the most attention, there were a lot of financial shenanigans also going on, including putting family members on the university payroll, engaging in shady real estate dealings and kickback schemes, and using his position as president to abuse privileges. Any of those financial irregularities should have been sufficient to have him fired. It is astonishing that it took took so long for him to be exposed, and that it was the revelations of the affair with the pool boy Giancarlo Granda and his photo of himself with his pants unzipped to end his career, because those had been preceded by many other episodes.

It just shows that that these institutions that claim to profess highly religious values are willing to turn a blind eye to all of them provided the money kept rolling in. And there was no question that Falwell was able to raise a ton of money and greatly expand the size of the university. If he and his wife had been just a little bit more discreet in the way they lived their libertine lifestyle, they might have been able to continue this way for much longer.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Any of those financial irregularities should have been sufficient to have him fired.

    Gotta look at the larger picture here. Though a grade-A rat bastard politically and socially, Falwell Sr. was the rare big-name televangelist not in it for the money. In fact, his financial skills were so lacking that he almost went belly-up if not for an emergency rescue funding package from the Moon Unification Church.

    Jerry Jr., otoh, saw, studied, and eventually exploited the monetary opportunities implicit in his father’s empire with talent and zeal. In particular, he expanded the (scam alert!) internet “education” enterprise of Liberty University to such a degree that the school has for many years sucked down more than half a billion dollars/yr just in federally-funded “scholarships”, expanding Liberty Inc’s financial footprint by orders of magnitude.

    ‘Twould be truly un-grateful/Christian of the Liberty board to cut away at Jr’s relatively minuscule $10M golden parachute in that context: any exec who had achieved similar re$ult$ in the corporate sector would lap up that much in annual bonuses alone. (Go for it, Liberty Board of Trustees!)

  2. Matt G says

    Where would American Christianity be without government propping it up? At death’s doorstep, mostly likely. No wonder it’s dying faster in Europe.

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