Jerry Falwell Jr. sues Liberty University over resignation comments, claims damage to reputation

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 21, 2016.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 21, 2016. | REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Jerry Falwell Jr. has filed a lawsuit against Liberty University, arguing that the evangelical Christian university engaged in defamation and breach of contract regarding his resignation.

Falwell resigned as president of the Lynchburg, Virginia-based school in August following multiple controversies, including a highly publicized sex scandal that involved his wife, Rebecca.

Filed in the Commonwealth of Virginia Circuit Court for the city of Lynchburg, the suit argues that Liberty harmed Falwell's reputation via multiple statements issued after he was forced to resign.

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The suit alleges that Liberty officials accepted inaccurate claims against Falwell’s moral character without doing proper research and forced him to resign.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Falwell said he was “saddened that University officials, with whom I have shared so much success and enjoyed such positive relationships, jumped to conclusions about the claims made against my character, failed to properly investigate them, and then damaged my reputation following my forced resignation.” 

“While I have nothing but love and appreciation for the Liberty community, and I had hoped to avoid litigation, I must take the necessary steps to restore my reputation and hopefully help repair the damage to the Liberty University brand in the process,” Falwell added.

Falwell is being represented by Robert Raskopf of Quinn Emanuel, who said in the same press release that Liberty officials refused to meet with his client to address his concerns.

“We attempted to meet several times with the Liberty University Board of Trustees Executive Committee but were unsuccessful in doing so. Thus, we were forced to seek remedy for Mr. Falwell's ongoing injuries and damage to his reputation through the Court,” stated Raskopf.

In late August, the Board of Trustees of Liberty University announced that they had accepted the immediate resignation of Falwell from his positions as president, chancellor, and member of the board of directors.

Falwell was already on a leave of absence after posting a photo on social media of himself at a costume party on a yacht showing him wearing unzipped jeans while his hand was around the waist of a pregnant woman wearing a tank top and unzipped shorts.

“She’s pregnant, so she couldn’t get her pants zipped,” Falwell explained in a radio interview. “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.”

“I should never have put it up” and “embarrassed her,” he added, explaining that he has since “apologized to everybody” about the vacation photo taken during the costume party.

The resignation came shortly after revelations surfaced that Falwell’s wife had had an affair with a 29-year-old man named Giancarlo Granda, which began eight years ago.

Granda later attempted to blackmail the couple, telling Reuters at the time that Falwell himself was aware of the extramarital affair and “enjoyed watching from the corner of the room.”

Falwell acknowledged in a statement at the time that his wife “had an inappropriate personal relationship with” Granda, but denied any involvement in the extramarital affair.

In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled Memories of Lasting Shadows. For more information, click here.  

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