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Liberty University sues former president Jerry Falwell Jr. for $10 million

April 16, 2021
The university contends that Falwell, who resigned last year, withheld scandalous information about himself when he was negotiating a new contract.

Liberty University has sued its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for $10 million, asserting that he withheld scandalous and potentially damaging information from Liberty’s board of trustees in 2019 while negotiating a new contract for himself.

The New York Times reports that the lawsuit alleges breach of contract and fiduciary duty. It accuses Falwell of failing to disclose and address “his personal impairment by alcohol."

Last year, Falwell contended that he was being threatened with extortion by a man who had a yearslong sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, Becki. The university's suit assets that by keeping the sexual entanglement and resulting “extortion” a secret, Falwell endangered and later damaged Liberty’s reputation. Instead of divulging the active threat to Liberty’s board, Falwell "chose personal protection,” the suit says.

The Falwell family name has been synonymous with Liberty University, based in Lynchburg, Va., since its 1971 founding by Jerry Falwell Sr., a Baptist minister and televangelist who co-founded the Moral Majority.

The suit alleges that Falwell deceived Libery's trustees into reworking his contract to include a higher severance payout if he resigned for “good reason” or if Liberty terminated his contract without cause. Falwell told the committee that this would serve as a “safety valve” for him and the university if his support of Donald Trump's presidency proved damaging to the school’s reputation.

The real reason for negotiating the deal, the suit argues, was to protect against the possibility that Giancarlo Granda, the former pool attendant who had the affair with Falwell's wife, would reveal his relationship with the family.

The suit also criticizes Falwell’s broader failure to uphold the spiritual and moral responsibilities of his role as president of the Christian college founded by his father. The school’s bylaws, which Falwell affirmed in 2019, state that the school’s president “provides spiritual and worldview leadership to the university in pursuit of excellence."

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