Jerry Falwell Jr. Refutes Reports About His Resignation From Liberty University

Aug 24, 2020
Originally published on August 24, 2020 9:50 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The saga of Jerry Falwell Jr. has taken another turn. Falwell is the son of the founder of Liberty University. That's one of the largest, most influential evangelical Christian institutions in the U.S. Earlier today, NPR and other news organizations reported that Falwell had resigned from his position at the school citing a university source. But later this evening, Falwell told the Virginia Business magazine that reports of his resignation are, quote, "completely false." All this follows a series of scandals, as NPR's Sarah McCammon is here to report.

Hey, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So all kinds of stuff happening today. Catch us up.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. There have been so many twists and turns, really, just in the last few days with this story. And, you know, it all kind of came to a head today when Reuters published an investigation, and I should say that some of the information I'm about to describe here is not for younger ears. But according to Reuters, a former business partner of Jerry Falwell Jr. had - is claiming that he had had a sexual relationship with Falwell's wife, Becki, and that as part of that relationship that Falwell would observe sexual acts between his business partner and his wife. Now, I've reached out to Falwell multiple times for comment. He's promised to have his people get back with me, but that hasn't happened so far today or yesterday. And that report, I should say, followed a statement that Falwell made to the Washington Examiner in which he claimed something related but different, that he had suffered emotional distress over an affair he said his wife had with his business partner in which he said he was not involved - so lots of twists and turns. And then today, a university official said that Falwell was resigning. He's now telling at least one publication that he's not.

KELLY: And this is against the backdrop of - it's been a whole month of scandals and revelations. There was that vacation photo that he posted that made all kinds of headlines.

MCCAMMON: Right, the one with his pants unzipped next to a woman with her pants unzipped. He said that was all in good fun, that she was an assistant to his wife, that she's pregnant and she couldn't zip up her pants, and so they were at a costume party just having some fun, and he apologized for that. But after that, the board of trustees at Liberty asked Falwell - this was a few weeks ago - to take an indefinite leave of absence. He agreed to that. But the question has really been hanging over his head about his future at Liberty University, which, of course, is an evangelical Christian institution, one of the largest Christian universities in the country - evangelical universities. And it has a very strict code of conduct, which explicitly forbids sexual relations outside of marriage between one man and one woman for people in the community there.

KELLY: Right. So what are the consequences for the university, the school founded by his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., the university, the evangelical community at large? How will this play?

MCCAMMON: It's hard to know. In recent weeks in talking with students, I've heard a lot of sadness about Falwell's actions. And this, I should say, Mary Louise, is really just the latest in a series of scandals. There have been questions about his business deals. There have been accusations of racial insensitivity. And so it's been a tumultuous several years. Some in the community don't appreciate his prominent support for President Trump. And so, you know, I think there's a lot of soul searching going on, and it remains to be seen what the board will do. I've asked for an official statement from the board. I expect that at some point in the future. But right now, a lot is up in the air. And, again, Falwell claiming he's not resigning even though a university official has said he is. We'll see what happens.

KELLY: Yeah. And we will continue - I'm sure you will continue asking for direct comment from him and look forward to being able to sit down with him and hear his account of things at some point. NPR's Sarah McCammon reporting there on the latest twist in the story of Jerry Falwell Jr. now denying he has resigned from his position at Liberty University.

Thank you, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thanks, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.