• Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

Jerry Falwell Jr. resigns as president of Liberty University, reports say

Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned Monday as president of Liberty University after 13 years at the helm of the prominent evangelical Christian school, according to multiple media reports, marking an end to the embattled leader’s tumultuous tenure.

Politico confirmed the news with a Liberty University spokesperson. NBC News could not immediately confirm the report.

Falwell’s departure comes after the school placed him on an indefinite leave of absence on Aug. 7. In a statement Friday, Liberty officials said the “decision whether or not to retain Falwell as president has not yet been made.”

The fate of Falwell, 58, had been unclear in the wake of an explosive claim made by a former hotel pool attendant-turned-business partner. Giancarlo Granda, 29, told Reuters in an interview published Monday that he carried on an affair with Falwell’s wife, Becki, beginning since he was 20 in 2012 and lasting until 2018.

Falwell confirmed his wife’s dalliance in a surprise statement first published by the Washington Examiner, and said the affair led him to suffer from depression but ultimately he forgave his wife and the man. He did not name him.

Aug. 8, 202001:59

Reuters said Granda shared emails, text messages and other evidence to illustrate the nature of the relationship. Attorneys for Granda and Falwell did not immediately respond to NBC News’ requests for comment, and efforts to reach them and Becki Falwell directly were not immediately successful Monday.

Michael Bowe, Falwell’s attorney, had told Reuters last week when asked about its initial reporting that his client “categorically denies everything you indicated you intend to publish about him.”

Falwell became president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, upon the death of his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., in 2007. The elder Falwell, who founded the school in 1971, espoused a socially conservative and pro-family agenda that was continued by his son, who helped Trump win the endorsement of evangelicals and has become increasingly involved in political issues.

Falwell’s woes have mounted in recent months when he publicly apologized for a tweet showing a person in blackface and posted a photo to his Instagram in which his shirt was up and he was holding a glass of dark liquid. The awkward image also showed him standing next to a woman and his pants appeared to be unzipped.

Falwell apologized earlier this month during an interview with WLNI talk radio in Lynchburg.

Allison Burstein contributed.