Spare a thought for the corpse of Jerry Falwell Sr. His heir, Jerry Jr., has not conferred glory on the family name. Capping weeks of scandalous publicity and a suspension from Liberty University, which his father founded and where Junior is president, Reuters has reported new details about his relationship with a Miami businessman. That man, Giancarlo Granda, confirmed he had been in a sexual relationship with Falwell's wife, Becki - with her husband's approval.
"Becki and I developed an intimate relationship, and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room," Granda told Reuters. The encounters took place multiple times a year, from 2012 to 2018, he added. Texts, recordings, and screenshots obtained by Reuters appear to show Granda discussing the relationship with the couple.
The Reuters story adds substance to rumors that have circulated around Granda and the Falwells since at least 2018. But, for the most part, those rumors inferred scandal from a handful of available facts. BuzzFeed News first reported that two Florida men had sued both Granda and the Falwells for allegedly cutting them out of a Miami hostel business, and BuzzFeed's original story contained some potentially salacious details about the Falwells' close relationship with Granda: After meeting him when he was a 21-year-old pool attendant in Miami Beach, they'd "flown him in a private jet" before helping set him up in business.
But the details of the Falwells' relationship with Granda remained murky. Jerry himself, meanwhile, tripped into scandal after scandal. A year after the BuzzFeed story broke, Reuters reported that Michael Cohen - yes, Michael Cohen, the former Trump attorney - had helped him quash "personal photographs" that had fallen into a third party's hands. Those photos were of Becki Falwell, the Miami Herald reported weeks later, and, according to Politico, at least one showed her in a French-maid costume. Jerry sent the image to Liberty employees by accident and allegedly made a habit of discussing his sex life at work. A former university official told Politico about one particularly unfortunate car ride, during which "all he wanted to talk about was how he would nail his wife, how she couldn't handle [his penis size], and stuff of that sort."
Only recently did Falwell's behavior become too much for Liberty to tolerate. After photos surfaced showing him with his pants unzipped and a glass of what looks like beer in hand, he took an "indefinite leave of absence" at the request of the university's board of trustees. But Liberty's long nightmare wasn't over yet. The Granda story still loomed.
Falwell's personal sword of Damocles first looked likely to fall this weekend. In an interview with the conservative Washington Examiner, Falwell, who is one of Trump's most prominent Evangelical backers, said that his wife had had an affair with Granda and that the former pool attendant then blackmailed the couple, which pushed Falwell into a depression. His recent un-Liberty-like behavior was a symptom of his distress, he said. But the interview invited further speculation: that Falwell, facing the loss of his job - and, along with it, the platform that had made him politically relevant - might have been trying to get ahead of a damning story. As it turns out, he was. It's all rather biblical. Falwell offered his wife as a scapegoat, the theory goes, while dodging responsibility for his own part in the affair.
Normally, a couple's consensual sexual arrangements aren't worthy of a Reuters investigation. There's nothing inherently wrong with French-maid costumes or cuckolding fetishes or whatever else - though discussing your sex life at length with an employee can indeed cross legal and ethical lines. But Falwell can blame only himself for the headlines. He is, after all, an Evangelical celebrity, the son of a man who profited greatly from hellfire and brimstone. The university the Falwells built expels students for far less serious infractions. Same-sex relationships are forbidden; so is premarital sex between men and women. Want a bee r? Don't even think about it. It's called the Liberty Way, and Falwell was in charge of enforcing it up until Monday, when he announced that he would resign from his role as president.
Jerry Falwell Jr. will likely find a second act somewhere. Disgraced Evangelical men usually do. Fox News, for example, has space for anyone who wants to rant about cancel culture while glorifying Donald Trump. But Liberty may conclude that it's time for new blood, and that would be for the best. Falwell is not a sympathetic figure - but, in fairness, growing up with Jerry Sr. would damage anyone for life.
This post has been updated to include Jerry Falwell Jr.'s resignation from Liberty University.
Jerry Falwell, Jr. seems like an awful person, but given his family, I feel like you have to grade him on a curve. This is from "Strength for the Journey," a memoir by his father Jerry Falwell, Sr. pic.twitter.com/ZzZKqZreVu- Jon Schwarz (@schwarz) August 24, 2020