Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. expressed regret over posting a photo of himself at a costume party on a yacht that some considered insulting and hypocritical.
Falwell garnered criticism after posting, then deleting, a photo of himself wearing unzipped pants and his belly out while having his arm around his wife's assistant whose shorts were also unzipped.
In an interview with the WLNI program "MorningLine" Wednesday, Falwell explained the context of the photo, saying that his wife’s assistant is pregnant and was unable to zip up her shorts.
“She’s pregnant, so she couldn’t get her pants zipped,” he told the radio program. “I had on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a long time, so I couldn’t get mine zipped up, either. And so, I just put my belly out like hers.”
Falwell went on to say, “I should never have put it up” and “embarrassed her,” adding that he has “apologized to everybody.”
“I promised my kids I’m going to try to be better,” he added, noting that he and his wife were on vacation and it was a costume party. “I’m going to be a good boy from here on out … it was just good fun, that’s it.”
The image garnered extensive attention after Robert Downen, a religion reporter with The Houston Chronicle, posted it to Twitter on Sunday with the caption “wut is happening.”
The deleted photo was originally posted to Instagram and was part of a costume party inspired by the long-running comedy series “Trailer Park Boys.”
Some charged Falwell with hypocrisy, citing among other things Liberty University’s code of conduct that prohibits students from consuming media that contains “lewd lyrics, anti-Christian message, sexual content, nudity, pornography” either on or off campus.
“Several million women who sat through years of purity lectures would like a WORD,” tweeted religion and politics commentator Amy Sullivan in response to the photo.
“The woman is not Jerry's wife or daughter, which makes the placement of his hand...not compliant with the Billy Graham Rule.”
Conservative commentator Matt Walsh at The Daily Wire noted on his program Wednesday that the problem is that Falwell is the president of Liberty University and students could be expelled and have in the past been penalized for participating in similar activities. "It's extremely poor leadership ... to publicize yourself doing the very thing you punish other people for doing," Walsh said.