|Giancarlo Granda (Reuters)|
Suspended Liberty University leader Jerry Falwell Jr. confirmed to Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard late Sunday that his wife, Becki Falwell, had an affair with a young man they befriended and went into business with in Florida eight years ago. In a long statement, Falwell said he and his wife "forgave each other" — he suggested he had also "important smaller things" to atone for, quoting a Bible verse about visual adultery — and had decided to come forward because his wife's former lover had been extorting them for "huge amounts of monies" to stay quiet. "I'm just tired of it," Falwell told Bedard. Falwell said the young man — Giancarlo Granda — had created a "'fatal attraction' type situation," referring to a famous 1987 movie in which a jilted extramarital lover boiled a pet rabbit, among other acts of retaliatory intimidation. Granda, 21 at the time of the affair, told the Examiner in an email that "any allegation of extortion" is false, "defamatory, and belied by clear documentary evidence," adding that the attempt by the Falwells "to sandbag me" with this "last-minute story" just "reeks of desperation," and "the WHOLE truth will come out." The salacious nature of the relationship between the Falwells and Granda emerged when Michael Cohen, the former fixer and lawyer for President Trump, told comedian Tom Arnold in a secretly taped conversation that he had destroyed risqué "personal" photographs involving the "pool boy" on behalf of Falwell weeks before Falwell unexpectedly endorsed Trump for president. Falwell said Sunday he "was not involved" in his wife's "inappropriate personal relationship" with Granda, and mentioned "fantastic" and "prurient, untrue aspects" of the relationship "based on the individual's misrepresentations." Liberty University, a conservative evangelical Christian college founded by Jerry Falwell Sr., confirmed Friday that Falwell has been placed on indefinite paid suspension while the university investigates "various rumors and claims" about him and decides if he will be fired. He makes about $1 million a year as president of Liberty University, The News and Advance reports.
Falwell, 58, has been on leave since apologizing for posting (then deleting) a photo of himself with his arm around a woman, both their pants partially unzipped, at a "Trailer Park Boys" costume party on a 164-foot, six-bedroom yacht owned by NASCAR mogul Rick Hendrick. Falwell's family has reportedly been taking family vacations on the yacht since Liberty University signed a multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with Hendrick Motorsports.
The pool boy/business partner has refused to go quietly. He says Falwell Jr. was an active participant in the affair, according to a report at Reuters:
In a claim likely to intensify the controversy surrounding one of the most influential figures in the American Christian conservative movement, a business partner of Jerry Falwell Jr has come forward to say he had a years-long sexual relationship involving Falwell’s wife and the evangelical leader.
Giancarlo Granda says he was 20 when he met Jerry and Becki Falwell while working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in March 2012. Starting that month and continuing into 2018, Granda told Reuters that the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell looked on.
Granda showed Reuters emails, text messages and other evidence that he says demonstrate the sexual nature of his relationship with the couple, who have been married since 1987. “Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” Granda said in an interview. Now 29, he described the liaisons as frequent – “multiple times per year” – and said the encounters took place at hotels in Miami and New York, and at the Falwells’ home in Virginia.
His friendship with the Falwells eventually soured, Granda told Reuters, in part because he wanted to dissolve his ties with the couple and fell into a business dispute with them.
Granda first emerged as a figure in the Falwells’ circle two years ago, when BuzzFeed News reported that the couple had befriended Granda and gone into business with him, buying a Miami Beach youth hostel in 2013. At the time of the BuzzFeed article, a representative of the Falwell family said Granda was “offered a share” in Alton Hostel LLC because Granda lived in Miami and would act as a manager of the youth hostel. Corporate records show that Granda currently has a stake in that venture.
On Sunday night, however, as Reuters was preparing to publish this article, Jerry Falwell issued a statement to the Washington Examiner in which he said that his wife had had an affair with Granda and that Granda had been trying to extort money from the couple over the matter. Granda denies any such intent, saying he was seeking to negotiate a buyout from a business arrangement he says he had with the couple.
Falwell’s statement Sunday to the Examiner said nothing about Granda’s account alleging that the evangelical leader had his own role in the affair, and Falwell didn’t address questions from Reuters about it. In the statement quoted by the Examiner, Falwell said that “Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved.”
News of the entanglement could pose a fresh threat to the influence of Jerry Falwell, a towering figure in the U.S. evangelical political movement. His 2016 endorsement of Donald Trump helped the twice-divorced New Yorker win the Republican nomination for president.
From a CNN report on Falwell Jr.'s resignation:
The revelation adds new depth to Jerry Falwell Jr.'s swift and remarkable fall from grace. In June he apologized after deleting a much-criticized tweet that showed one person in black face and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
On August 7, Liberty University's executive committee said they asked Falwell Jr. to take an "indefinite leave of absence" after he posted a photo on Instagram that showed him with his pants unzipped and his midsection visible. In the photo, Falwell is holding a cup of dark liquid and has one arm around a woman whose shorts are also unzipped.
In a radio interview soon afterwards, Falwell Jr. said the woman was his wife's assistant. He said the pair were at a costume party and "it was just in good fun," but added he should never have posted the photo and said, "I've apologized to everybody and I promised my kids I'm going to try to be a good boy from here on out."
Falwell Jr. was one of the first evangelical leaders to endorse Trump when he ran for president. He remained a strong supporter after the President took office, irking some Liberty students and former employees who believe Trump doesn't share their values.
The Lynchburg, Virginia, university was founded in 1971 by Falwell's father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a conservative Christian stalwart and founder of the Moral Majority movement. Jerry Falwell Sr. died in 2007.