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Inside Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Unlikely Rise and Precipitous Fall at Liberty University

Becki said she didn’t report the traumatic experience at the time because she felt guilty about the matter. In her mind, she deserved it. A few months later, Becki told Jerry and two attorneys about the incident. Becki said it also took her time to realize that what happened could have been a form of assault. “I said no. Just because we had sex before doesn’t mean he has a free ticket to my body.

Granda and the Falwells rushed towards an explosion. Months later, an attorney representing Granda wrote a letter to Jerry’s attorney stating that Granda wanted Jerry to buy him out of the Inn for $2 million ($1.1 million in cash and $50,000 per year for 20 years, according to a letter sent by Granda’s attorney on Oct. 15, 2019). Jerry refused. Granda’s attorney, Aaron Resnick, did not respond to a request for comment.

Granda’s emotional state deteriorated and he talked about suicide. Becki shared a text Granda sent around that time: “My life is absolutely ruined. When they find my lifeless body hanging in the woods, make sure [my dog] Logan is returned to my family. Bye.”

In June 2020, Granda and Jerry reached the point of no return. “Since you’re okay with ruining my life, I’m going to take the suicide bomber route,” Granda texted Jerry. According to Jerry, Granda said he would tell people that Jerry had a hand in the case, “Revenge is coming soon…I’m taking everyone with me with my side of the story,” Granda sent via SMS. Becki was concerned that Granda would post snippets of the sex tapes she said she shared with him.

“You should now understand that I will not be extorted,” replied Jerry. “I have always treated you fairly and been held back in response to your threats because I didn’t want to ruin your life. In the future please stop contacting me and my family.

With Granda threatening to become a suicide bomber, you’d think Jerry would have kept a low profile. Instead, he’s spent 2020 brazenly courting controversy, like he’s trying to get himself fired. The year began with Jerry holding a bizarre press conference calling on rural parts of Virginia to secede and join West Virginia. In March, he tweeted a conspiracy theory that COVID-19 could be a North Korean bioweapon. When campuses across the country locked down and sent students home that spring, Jerry kept Liberty open. But that was just a warm-up. Two days after the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd, Jerry tweeted a photo of a face mask he printed with a racist photo from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook. It showed people posing in blackface and KKK balaclavas. Jerry tweeted that he would only wear a mask that read “Governor Blackface” on it. Protests and violence erupted in Lynchburg, a city with a large black population. Jerry refused to apologize, even after Black Liberty staff members, including the diversity retention manager as well as top football and basketball players, left the school in a sign of protest. After nearly two weeks of chaos, Jerry reluctantly deleted the tweet.

But Jerry couldn’t break his destructive social media habit. On Sunday morning August 2, Jerry was chilling with Becki and Caroline at the farm when he announced he had posted a photo on Instagram and lifted the phone. So much was wrong with the photo: Jerry had his pants unzipped and what looked like a rum and coke in one hand, with his other arm wrapped around a pregnant woman with her shorts unzipped and her belly showing.

Becki and Caroline were mortified. “We were like, this is terrible! Take that off!” Becki called back. Jerry didn’t see the issue. The photo was taken at a costume party aboard billionaire Rick Hendrick’s 160ft yacht. He was dressed as lead character Julian from the canadian sitcom The boys at the trailer park. The drink in his hand was the Blk brand mineral water he had ordered from Amazon, and the woman was Becki’s assistant. Jerry deleted the photo. But it was too late. Someone had taken a screenshot, and the media was all over the controversy.

On August 7, Liberty’s board of directors placed Jerry on indefinite leave. Jerry said he wanted to fight the decision but didn’t have the energy. Since that July, he had been suffering from shortness of breath, dizziness and slurred speech. He said he was eventually diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, a form of blood clots in the lungs. He was hospitalized when his blood oxygen dropped to 77%. “The lungs were clogged with clots. The pressure in the right side of my heart was triple what it should have been, and it was swollen. I barely got to the car when we went to the hospital,” Jerry said.

Jerry said he was in a diminished state when a Reuters reporter named Aram Roston emailed to say Granda had given a taped interview. Granda claimed that Jerry liked watching Granda and Becki have sex, did Jerry have a comment? Borrowing a page from Trump’s playbook, Jerry wanted to preempt Granda’s story with one of his own, but he was too weak to appear on television. On August 23, he sent a statement to the Washington Examiner. He acknowledged Granda and Becki’s affair, but claimed that Granda fabricated outlandish accusations about Jerry’s involvement in an extortion plot.

Prior to publication, Jerry and Becki had their children sit down. “We never told them until the day before he was about to hit,” Becki recalls. “I didn’t want my kids to know. You know how embarrassing it is? »

A day later, Jerry says that a Liberty board member called Jerry and said if he didn’t quit, he would be fired. Jerry quit.

Since his resignation, Jerry has been locked in a bitter feud with Liberty. The board fired Jerry’s son, Trey, and forbade Jerry and Becki from setting foot on campus, even though their daughter is a senior and Jerry’s parents are buried there. Two days after Jerry quit, an unnamed former Liberty student and friend of Trey’s told Politico that Becki performed oral sex on him at the Falwells’ home in 2008, when he was 22. Becki denied the allegation to me, calling it “so ridiculous.” In April 2021, the board sued Jerry for $40 million to recover his eight-figure severance package. Trustees say Jerry committed fraud when he negotiated a lucrative new contract in 2019 without telling the university he was being extorted by Granda – information the trustees said they were entitled to before renewing the deal multi-million dollar jerry. The lawsuit included accounts of Jerry and Becki’s booze-filled nights at Miami clubs and allegedly alleged that Jerry showed up at Liberty when he “smelled the booze”. Jerry and Becki have denied the allegations. “The trial was my worst day,” Becki said. “I just remember crying all day. It was our own people coming after us.

Jerry said the board held him to an unfair standard. Jerry’s reasoning is that he was a college president, not a pastor. His brother, Jonathan, who preached every Sunday at their father’s church, was pious. “Liberty never had any rules about whether the president or any staff member could drink alcohol,” Jerry said, sounding like the lawyer he was trained to serve. I told him the argument sounded like an extreme case of rationalization given that he was the head of a school that fines female students for wearing a dress more than two inches above the knee. But Jerry said the current management also broke the rules and some headteachers were drinking alcohol. “I couldn’t believe the board was shocked about this,” Jerry said. The trial is ongoing.

Getting rid of Jerry didn’t end Liberty’s image crisis. In August, 12 women filed a federal class action lawsuit alleging the university violated Title IX law by discriminating against women who alleged sexual assault and harassment. According to the lawsuit, which is ongoing, Liberty staff discouraged victims from reporting the abuse and fined some for violating Liberty’s “commitment to biblical principles of purity and abstinence.” Jerry’s successor, Jerry Prevo, issued a statement calling the allegations “troubling” and added, “Liberty University will not tolerate Title IX violations, sexual abuse or sexual assault in any form and at any time.” In October, Scott Lamb, Liberty’s former senior vice president of communications, sued Liberty in federal court, saying he was fired after raising red flags about the university’s response to allegations of sexual assault. Prevo called Lamb’s allegations false in a statement. His trial is ongoing.

In exile, Jerry and Becki’s grievances escalated, like Trump’s after his election defeat. It’s no coincidence, Jerry said, that forces gathered against him in the heat of the 2020 presidential campaign. He pointed out that Granda was being advised by then-counsellor Kurt Bardella. in public relations for the Anti-Trump Lincoln Project. “They wanted to take Jerry out of the picture for the election cycle because he was credited with bringing all the evangelicals around,” Becki said.

Jerry also suspected Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, of using the scandal to expand the Graham family’s influence over Liberty. Franklin Graham’s son, Will, was named vice chairman of Liberty’s board of directors. Prevo is also an ally of Graham. Jerry said Franklin Graham also once told him he wanted to start a Billy Graham University, but it didn’t take off. In September 2020, Jerry and Franklin argued over who should be credited with Liberty’s success. “I said, ‘My father built the foundation, but I built the house. And Franklin got mad. He said, ‘You didn’t build it!’ You should have heard the jealousy in Franklin’s voice,” Jerry recalled. According to Jerry, Franklin Graham told him his future in the Christian world was over. “He said, ‘You will never be anything in evangelical circles again.’ Graham, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

Jerry said being the target of moral opprobrium from evangelicals fundamentally turned him away from the movement. He believes in Christ, he says, but not in the church. “Nothing in history has done more to turn people away from Christianity than organized religion,” he said. “The religious elite have this idea that somehow their sins aren’t as bad as other people’s sins,” Jerry said. Listening to Jerry, I thought he was convinced Liberty wasn’t the fundamentalist school it is. “He was telling reporters that we didn’t mind if gays and lesbians came here. I was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,'” Lamb recalled.