Liberty University launches investigation into ‘all facets’ of Jerry Falwell Jr. presidency

Jerry Falwell, Jr. giving a speech at the Liberty University commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11, 2019. | Facebook/Liberty University

Liberty University has launched an independent investigation into the tenure of recently resigned president Jerry Falwell Jr., vowing to look into “all facets” of his presidency.

In an announcement released Monday, Liberty’s Executive Committee stated that they have retained a forensic firm to examine “all facets of Liberty University operations during Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s tenure as President, including but not limited to financial, real estate, and legal matters.”

“While we had been willing to extend grace and understanding to Jerry Falwell, Jr. before, once the revelations about his past personal life came more fully to light, we acted swiftly and decisively to ask for his immediate resignation, which we received,” stated Liberty leadership.

“Some may say that all the signs were there for a long time before last week. It’s certainly fair to say that there were questionable comments made, worrying behavior, and inappropriate social media posts, but all the signs were not there until the start of last week.”

The Executive Committee also explained that they were considering the establishment of a new position aimed at holding the university president spiritually accountable.

“Of course, moving forward, we are very mindful that we must seek leaders who demonstrate a full commitment to the spiritual mission of Liberty University by words, actions, and example,” they continued.

“That is why, in addition to starting a search for a new president, we are also reviewing options to establish a new role in the top leadership of the University for someone who will serve as a spiritual coach, mentor, and guide to help ensure that every member of the University leadership fulfills his or her spiritual responsibility to live out the Christian walk expected of each and every one of us at Liberty.”

In response to the news, Karen Swallow Prior, former English professor at Liberty who left the school last year, tweeted, “Here’s to the best years for @LibertyU being ahead.” 

Save71, a group of Liberty alumni who have been calling for leadership reform at the school, struck a more critical tone in response to the news of the investigation.

“We need a lot more detail before we can trust the legitimacy of this investigation,” tweeted the group on Monday afternoon.

“It’s good that the Board is ‘committed to learning the consequences that have flowed from a lack of spiritual stewardship by our former president.’ The Board members must also address their own lack of stewardship. We have yet to hear any remorse from them.”

Last week, following a string of controversial social media posts and being implicated with his wife in a sex scandal, Falwell offered his resignation as president of Liberty University. He also resigned his position as chancellor of Liberty and as a member of the Board Directors, taking effect immediately, according to the Board of Trustees.

He had told the Washington Examiner that his wife had an affair with former pool boy Giancarlo Granda, 29, which began eight years ago. Falwell, who said he did not know of the affair until later, accused Granda of trying to blackmail the couple.

In a Reuters report, Granda claimed that Falwell was aware of the affair as it happened and even watched them when they were intimate. 

Falwell had earlier taken an indefinite leave of absence from his leadership position, with Liberty Board Chairman Dr. Jerry Prevo having assumed the role of acting president.

Falwell said he will receive a severance package totaling $10.5 million because he wasn't formally accused of or admitted to any wrongdoing.

Over the past couple of years, Falwell had been the subject of allegations of questionable business practices when it came to his management of Liberty.

Last year, Reuters reported that Falwell helped his personal trainer, Benjamin Crosswhite, obtain former Liberty property through personally approved real estate transactions.

At the time, Liberty argued that the sale was not unethical, saying the property was a "drain on university resources" and that Falwell did not “abandon his fiduciary duties” to the university.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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