Politico

Liberty University sues Falwell for $10M, in sharp break with former president


Liberty University has filed a lawsuit against Jerry Falwell Jr., accusing its former president of breaching his contract and fiduciary duty to the Christian school that has been engulfed in scandal over his personal behavior.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in circuit court in Lynchburg, Va., seeks more than $10 million in damages that the university says it has incurred as a result of what it describes as Falwell’s various indiscretions that harmed the “spiritual mission of Liberty.”

Reached by POLITICO on Friday, Falwell declined to comment. “I haven’t even seen the lawsuit,” he said.

Scott Lamb, a Liberty University spokesperson, said that the “University’s only word on the subject is the lawsuit itself.”

Falwell resigned last year amid allegations by a former pool attendant at a Miami hotel, Giancarlo Granda, who claimed he engaged in a lengthy affair with Falwell’s wife Becki while Jerry sometimes watched. The couple has acknowledged Becki’s affair with Granda, but denied that Jerry ever participated.

Falwell has claimed that Granda tried to extort him over the situation, but the lawsuit filed by Liberty says that he never disclosed that extortion to the university. The lawsuit accuses Falwell of conspiring to keep Granda’s alleged threats from the university so that he could receive a more favorable contract. Had the university known the “full circumstances of Granda’s extortion of Falwell,” the lawsuit says, it would not have agreed to renew Falwell’s contract in 2019.

Granda has denied Falwell’s extortion claim.

The new legal fight is the latest chapter in a brewing battle between Falwell and the university that his father, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, founded. Falwell Jr. has filed a defamation lawsuit against Liberty, and the university has taken steps to cut ties to his family members. Earlier this week, the university confirmed that Falwell’s son, Trey, was no longer a senior official at the school.

The 38-page complaint details the various scandals that have engulfed Liberty and Falwell in recent years that led to his ouster from the university last summer.

It includes various photos of Falwell that appear to run counter to the Christian ethos of the university, such as images of him partying at a Miami-area night club, working out with two young women, and at a costume party on a yacht with his pants unzipped and arm around a woman.

The lawsuit accuses Falwell of failing to disclose to the university “his personal impairment by alcohol, which impairment led Falwell Jr. to actions and courses of conduct detrimental to the spiritual mission of Liberty.”

The university is seeking more than $10 million in damages as part of the lawsuit. Falwell’s conduct has “induced injury to Liberty’s enrollment, impacted its donor base, disrupted its faculty” and “damaged Liberty’s reputation,” the university alleges in the suit.

Falwell told POLITICO in an interview published earlier this month that the Liberty community still embraces him.

“The employees and the board have been nothing but supportive, 100 percent,” Falwell said. “The students all want to get their picture with me. They thank me.”

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