Jerry Falwell Jr.'s queer predicament

Let's not forget about the *other* sexually-compromising photos. And Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, could tell all in his book.

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Back in June, I wrote about Senator Lindsey Graham’s queer predicament. A gay porn actor, Sean Harding, had slammed a homophobic senator with the initials “LG,” implicating Graham in having hooked up with gay male sex workers even as he had voted anti-LGBTQ with the far-right of the GOP. Harding said “every sex worker I know has been hired by this man,” and urged them to come forward.

No other shoe has yet dropped in that story. And who knows when — and if — it will? (Harding said he soon received threats, as did he mother, and he put his Twitter feed on private.)

But there’s lots else going on in the world of right-wing, anti-queer hypocrites.

Now Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., a strident hatemonger who attacks homosexuality and has demanded a strict “chaste” and “virtuous” moral code on the school’s Lynchburg, Virginia campus by students, has taken an indefinite leave of absence over a bizarre, sexually suggestive Instagram photo, and finds himself in a queer predicament too.

The other shoe hasn’t dropped on that story either. But that could happen if Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, decides to out it further in the book he’s working on — a book which the Trump administration tried to stop from publishing, but gave up.

Reportedly, Cohen is in possession of a photo that depicts Falwell’s wife — and perhaps Falwell himself and a pool boy — a photo Cohen describes as “terrible,” and which was among other photos. Cohen has also said, in the context of discussing the photos and the pool boy and others who might have had the photos in their possession, that this photo and other photos he saw are the type that are “between a husband and wife — and the whole bit.”

That all came from actor and comedian Tom Arnold, you may recall, in a tape-recorded phone call with Cohen. “The whole bit” is the tantalizing part, and opens up many possibilities.

The two were discussing circumstances surrounding the 21-year-old pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, whom Falwell and his wife had befriended while they were staying at the swanky, celebrity-drenched Fountainbleu hotel in Miami Beach in 2012. The Falwells soon spent time with Granda, hiking and engaging in other recreational activities.

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And they eventually helped Granda financially, as investors — with a $1.8 million loan — in buying a gay-friendly hostel in Miami Beach that was a den of sex and partying. That story came to light only after a lawsuit filed by a father and son against Granda and the Falwells became public — a lawsuit which was settled last year, in which the father and son claimed they were promised a share in the business as Granda’s partners.

Between Granda, the father and son, and their lawyers, someone had the sexually compromising photographs, Cohen said, and Cohen told Arnold he’d intervened on the Falwells’ behalf to help the photos go away. (Cohen had met Falwell when he accompanied Donald Trump in 2016 to give a speech at Liberty University.) After Cohen’s intervention —after which all of the photos except for one, still possessed by Cohen, were supposedly destroyed — Falwell stunned the evangelical world by becoming one of the first evangelical leaders to endorse Trump. The endorsement came, no surprise, at Cohen’s urging.

No quid pro quo for the endorsement has yet been proven but it was curious that Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign was expecting Falwell to endorse him ahead of the Iowa primary in 2016 — just before Falwell jolted Cruz’s campaign and announced the bombshell Trump endorsement.

What could the photos have shown that was so “terrible,” as described by Cohen? It sounds like they might be Falwell’s wife, Becki Falwell, in sexually explicit costumes and poses or acts, perhaps alone or with others. According to a former Liberty University student, reporting for Politico and who interviewed over two dozen former aides for a piece published last September:

Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants—including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty—photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.

At Liberty, Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his “sex life,” in the words of one Liberty official—a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support….

…More than simply talking with employees about his wife in a sexual manner, on at least one occasion, Falwell shared a photo of his wife wearing what appeared to be a French maid costume, according to a longtime Liberty employee with firsthand knowledge of the image and the fallout that followed.

Falwell intended to send the image to his and Becki’s personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite, as a “thank you” for helping his wife achieve her fitness goals, the employee said. In the course of texting, Falwell accidentally sent the message to several other people.

The trainer, Ben Crosswhite, is someone else who, like Granda, the Falwells seem to have befriended and given special treatment:

The Falwells’ close relationship with Crosswhite is the source of consternation for some of Liberty’s top brass because of what they characterize as a sweetheart business deal Falwell had the university offer Crosswhite.

On July 23, 2013, Liberty University began renting space to Crosswhite for use as a fitness center. “The facility was specifically built into the old Racket Club for Jerry and Becki to train privately” with Crosswhite…

The Politico piece certainly suggests Falwell likes taking photos of his wife in sexually explicit poses and costumes and enjoys showing them to other men — including men with whom the two have developed close relationships. And perhaps Falwell also enjoys having sexual threeways with his wife and other men. Nothing wrong with any of that — unless you’re running a university that condemns people who don’t lead a monogamous heterosexual lifestyle.

Now we have Falwell taking an indefinite leave from Liberty, under fire from Congressman Mark Walker after the photo last week of Falwell with his pants unzipped standing next to a woman described as his wife’s assistant whose pants are also open. That photo, posted to Falwell’s Instagram account and later deleted, was later described by Falwell as a joke.

It’s odd that this photo is what took down Falwell — after everything from the pool boy story to his having promoted blackface and KKK imagery didn’t seem to make a dent. Suzanne Titkemeyer speculates in the No Longer Quivering blog at Patheos that Falwell’s removal could actually be “damage control” by Liberty University in advance of what Cohen may reveal in his forthcoming book, which doesn’t yet have a publisher though Cohen says it will be published this fall.

And that would mean Falwell’s removal is not really about last week’s Instagram photo and very much about the photos Cohen saw and the one Cohen still possesses — which sounds like it’s a lot more damaging than Becki Falwell in a French maid costume.

It just seems like too much of a coincidence to many of us that Falwell and his wife met a handsome young pool boy in Miami Beach and then invested in a hostel with him that just happened to be welcoming of non-heterosexual, non-traditional sexual goings-on. Sometimes things are exactly as they appear — or something close to it.