Jerry Falwell Jr. and his family raked in millions off Liberty University
How a former pool boy blew the lid off the evangelical hypocrite's massive scam
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Liberty University has now ordered a full investigation into how its fallen former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., and his entire family, made millions of dollars off the evangelical Christian university that promotes a chaste, “moral” lifestyle.
That’s only happening now because a former South Beach pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, came forward alleging that Falwell and his wife, Becki Falwell, exploited him when he was 20-years-old, bringing him into a sexual relationship with them and later blackmailing him to stay silent about it, threatening to send sexual videos they’d recorded to Granda’s then-girlfriend. That revelation forced Falwell to resign — and forced the university to now investigate “all facets” of Falwell’s tenure.
Per a report from Reuters on the investigation of the Falwells and Liberty’s finances:
In 2001, property records show, Falwell set up a private company while he was a lawyer for Liberty, used it to buy an undeveloped tract of land from the school, and then developed a strip mall on the plot. The company sold the property five years later at a significant premium.
In 2005, property records show, Falwell again acted as a private businessman when a university nonprofit affiliate and a company he operated joined together to sell land to a third company - controlled by Falwell’s real estate partner.
And in 2012, in a project Falwell launched as Liberty’s president, the university spent more than $2 million to build a tunnel that links the campus to another shopping plaza near campus. Falwell is a part owner of that shopping plaza…
…Falwell said in interviews that Liberty will pay him $10.5 million as part of a severance and retirement package. Liberty declined to comment on the terms or the amount.
Reuters notes that Falwell’s two sons and both their wives were all on the payroll at Liberty University in different roles, and one of the sons made further money from Liberty through a private company he owned that managed properties for Liberty University. And a campus building project that cost more than a billion dollars was managed by Falwell’s good friend, Robert Moon, who owned the construction company that undertook the work.
And let’s not forget: Liberty University is a tax-exempt institution, so ultimately we’ve all padded the wallets of the Falwells, and that includes money to pay for some students’ tuition:
Liberty relies on hundreds of millions of dollars in Pell grants and government-backed student loans. Liberty students received $618 million in federal taxpayer loans and aid in a single year, according to a 2018 audit report.
Again, Liberty University officials wouldn’t be undertaking an investigation if Falwell had not resigned in disgrace when Granda told his story, first to Reuters in a exclusive interview with reporter Aram Roston, and since then to other journalists and interviewers, including to me on my SiriusXM show last week.
There’s been intense scrutiny — and lots of speculation that turned out, according to Granda, to be true — about the Falwells and Granda’s relationship, ever since their business partnership became public in 2018 after they were sued by a father and son who claimed they were owed a stake in the Miami Beach hostel the Falwells and Granda owned together.
In recent weeks, before Granda came forward, I wrote a piece in which I surmised what was coming down the pike. After Granda’s revelation, I again described how the events had played out, in addition to focusing on Falwell’s outrageous duplicity.
The Falwells met Granda at Miami Beach’s swanky Foutainbleau hotel when he was a pool boy in 2012. Literally beginning on that day in the Falwells’ hotel room, they became involved in a three-way relationship, Granda alleged, in which Falwell watched Granda have sex with Becki. (Falwell has denied this, claiming that Becki had an affair with Granda that he didn’t know about — something Granda flatly denies, and he has phone records and screenshots to back this up.) The Falwells took Granda hiking and water skiing together, brought him into their family, and then decided to invest $1.8 million in a run-down gay-friendly hostel in Miami Beach that Granda wanted to buy.
Politico reported last year that Falwell showed photos of his wife in sexual positions and kinky outfits to other men — Granda confirmed to me in our interview that Becki dressed in sexual costumes — and alluded to at least one other similar relationship the Falwells possibly had with another man. Since Granda went public in recent weeks, a former Liberty University student, a bandmate of one of the Falwells’ sons, came forward to Politico to say that he had sex with Becki Falwell. “She was the aggressor,” he said, describing how she performed oral sex on him.
Granda also described to me how Falwell sent him a photo of a female Liberty University student, exposing herself. He didn’t know the context, or much else about it, but it “triggered an emotional response” because he thought “it must be going on with other people,” and that Falwell was using such photos against other people too.
I couldn’t care less what Falwell and his wife and any other consenting adults do together. The sexual behavior only matters because of the hypocrisy of Falwell — Donald Trump’ first prominent evangelical backer — whose former university has a strict “online honor code” that prohibits students from engaging homosexual sex, pre-marital sex, adultery and any other sexual activity outside a heterosexual, monogamous marriage.
Granda of course was an adult at the age of 20. Still, be believes the Falwells preyed upon his weaknesses. He’d been addicted to video games in high school, he said, and Falwell was able to zero in on his insecurities.
The Falwells come off as enormously manipulative people who used their power to control others and make millions for themselves and their family — which explains why they fit right in with Trump.
With the investigation of the Falwells’ and Liberty’s finances, there’s a lot more to come out in this story. And we still likely have more to learn about why Falwell endorsed Trump in 2016 right after Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, helped Falwell prevent the release of some photographs of a sexual nature involving the couple.
For now, it’s a massive win for truth and justice just having Falwell disgraced, no longer a tool for Trump as he seeks to galvanize evangelical voters in his re-election bid. Let’s hope what happened to Falwell is a harbinger of thing to come for Trump in November.
UPDATE 9/8: A day after I posted this piece, Michael Cohen did indeed make the link between the photographs and the endorsement in his new book, “Disloyal: The Memoir.” He didn’t explicitly say that it was a quid pro quo, which could be an admission of extortion and bribery. But he writes that he “helped persuade” Jerry Falwell to endorse Trump. Later, separately, he explains how he helped make sure the compromising photos didn’t get out, and discusses it as the type of “favor” he would call in for Trump:
“If Becki Falwell was seen half-naked by the students of Liberty University, let alone evangelicals all over the country, it would be an unmitigated disaster,” he writes.
After succeeding at keeping the photos from being released, Cohen writes that he “called Becki and reassured her that the pictures wouldn’t get out, but I could hear the fear and sadness in her voice. I reassured her I wouldn’t let her down, and I didn’t”…
…“In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”