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US evangelical leader Falwell resigns after reports on sex life

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Aug 26, 2020 - 03:03 AM

WASHINGTON — US evangelical leader and ardent Donald Trump supporter Jerry Falwell Jr. has resigned as head of a leading Christian university following reports about his sex life, US media said.

Falwell, 58, had agreed to step down but backtracked following media reports of his resignation, Liberty University, which was founded by his father Jerry Falwell, said in a statement Monday.

Falwell had been on indefinite leave since August 7 amid a furor over an Instagram picture of him and a young woman, both with pants partly unzipped.

Since then he has been hit by sordid reports about his sex life, with a former pool attendant claiming he had a sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife Becki, which the evangelical leader used to watch.

Liberty University said that since Falwell had been on leave, “additional matters came to light that made it clear that it would not be in the best interest of the university for him to return from leave and serve as president.”

Following a meeting of the executive committee on Monday, Falwell had agreed to resign immediately but then reversed his decision, the university said.

Late Monday, Falwell told ABC News and the Wall Street Journal that he had resigned.

In a lengthy statement to the Washington Examiner on Sunday, Falwell said his wife had been having an affair with a young man they met while on holiday in 2012.

Falwell said the affair started after they became business partners in a real estate deal.

Some time later, he claimed, the man “began threatening to publicly reveal this secret relationship with Becki and to deliberately embarrass my wife, family, and Liberty University unless we agreed to pay him substantial monies.”

The young man, named by Politico and other media as Giancarlo Granda, denied trying to blackmail the Falwells.

Granda told Politico he met the couple in 2012 at a Miami hotel where he was working as a pool attendant, then aged 20. He said he began a seven-year affair with Becki and in 2013 the Falwells put up money for a Miami Beach youth hostel co-owned by Granda and the Falwells’ son Trey.

Granda said his affair with Becki started in Miami and that Falwell would sometimes watch them having sex.

“He enjoyed watching us in person and also remotely through video cameras. He also listened to our phone calls,” Granda told Politico.

In Falwell’s Sunday statement to the Examiner, he said he “was not involved” in his wife’s affair.

Liberty University, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, has a strict “honor code” which states that “sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible” on campus.

Falwell was one the first evangelical Christian leaders to endorse Trump, who appeared on the campus twice before his 2016 election victory.

Becki Falwell has also served on the Women for Trump advisory board.

Liberty University’s executive committee and board of directors will meet on Tuesday.

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