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Liberty University is suing its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., claiming he smeared the school’s reputation with a sex scandal and hid that information while negotiating a plentiful new contract in 2019.
Falwell was president and chancellor of Liberty from 2007 until August 2020, when he resigned in disgrace.
Earlier that month, Falwell’s pool cleaner-turned-business partner Giancarlo Granda said beginning in 2012 he had sex several times with Falwell’s wife, Becki, while the evangelical university president watched. The Falwells have admitted the affair but denied the more sordid claims.
In the suit, Liberty said the scandal tarnished its reputation as an institution of higher learning, claiming Falwell threw numerous parties and was spotted at several clubs in Miami.
The lawsuit also includes the infamous photo of Falwell with his pants unzipped next to a woman who is not his wife, and a screenshot from a video of Falwell doing weight room pelvic thrusts with two young women standing on either end of the barbell.
The Lynchburg, Virginia, school said its former president’s actions were “in contrast to the high behavior standards that Falwell expected others at Liberty to follow.”
Falwell sued Liberty in October 2020, but dropped the suit in December without explanation. In his filing, Falwell claimed Granda extorted him and his wife for years with evidence of the affair. Liberty threw those claims back at Falwell in Thursday’s suit, saying he should have told school administrators that someone was extorting him.
While negotiating a new contract in 2019, Falwell hid Granda’s alleged extortion from Liberty higher-ups, yet still worked an “escape hatch” into the deal, Liberty’s lawsuit said. That “escape hatch” is reportedly supposed to pay Falwell $10.5 million over several years.
Liberty also said Falwell was drinking heavily in 2019 and 2020, with university administrators suspecting he was drunk multiple times during “work interactions.”
Falwell said the lawsuit was “full of lies and half truths” and intends to fight it, the Associated Press reported.
Liberty demanded more than $10 million related to the alleged contract chicanery, more than $10 million for damage to its reputation, and other unspecified damages.
Falwell became president and chancellor of the university after his father and school founder Jerry Falwell Sr. died in 2007.