Monday, November 02, 2020

As If 2020 Hasn't Be Sick Enough... The Falwell Games



Last week, Fox News reported that Jerry Falwell Jr is suing Liberty University for defamation and, a Trumpier shit-storm of corruption, perversion and hucksterism isn't likelier to be found anywhere in the grand ole year of 2020.

Falwell left Liberty in August after Giancarlo Granda, a younger business partner of the Falwell family, said he had a years-long sexual relationship with Falwell's wife, Becki Falwell, and that Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur. There have also been charges that Falwell participated in more ways than voyeurism, both with Granda (aka, the pool-boy) and Ben Crosswhile (aka, the gym guy), booth of whom have become wealthy because of their sexual relationships with the Falwells. "[T]here have been concerns that the lines between Falwell’s personal profits and that of the school’s have been blurred and, shortly after his departure, Liberty announced it was opening an independent investigation into his tenure as president-- a wide-ranging inquiry that would include financial, real estate and legal matters." And all of this is tied up with the Trump campaign and Trump presidency.

The Virginia lawsuit asserts that "When Mr. Falwell and his family became the targets of a malicious smear campaign incited by anti-evangelical forces, Liberty University not only accepted the salacious and baseless accusations against the Falwells at face value, but directly participated in the defamation. This action seeks redress for the damage Liberty has caused to the reputation of Mr. Falwell and his family... Liberty’s actions are antithetical to the teachings of Christ by playing right into the hands of sinister operatives with ulterior motives."

Perhaps Falwell will sue Politico as well after Sunday's mega-exposé pounded another rusty nail into his repetitional coffin. Just as word was coming out about how Trump is continuing to tank with Catholic voters, reporters Maggie Severens, Brandon Ambrosino and Michael Stratford took a solid wack at the underpinnings of the biggest Trump support group: white evangelicals. The beginning of the trio's piece was amazing: "When Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife Becki strolled around the Lynchburg, Va., campus of Liberty University, the evangelical school which Falwell led as president, they would play a secret game called 'Would you rather.' The middle-aged couple would point to students, men and women, and imagine what it would be like to have sex with them, according to a former student who said Becki told him about the game. The former student, a member of a band with the Falwells’ son Trey, has said that Becki initiated oral sex with him while he stayed overnight at the Falwell home, following other attempts to seduce him. She confided to him the details of the game she and her husband would play, and told him multiple times how she and Jerry would take note of students' appearances. 'Her and Jerry would eye people down on campus,' the former student, who was 22 when Becki performed oral sex on him and is now 32, said."

Now, following an episode this summer in which Falwell posted a photo of himself with his pants unzipped and arm around his wife’s assistant, Falwell has left his job and withdrawn from public life. Supporters of the university, which boasts it has more than 100,000 students, are left to wonder how to disentangle its reputation from that of the Falwell family, given that the two were synonymous for generations. And some are wondering why it took so long-- and until a direct act by Falwell like posting a photo-- for the university’s trustees to take any action.

A Politico investigation, including interviews with dozens of Liberty officials from Falwell’s time as president, found a university community so committed to the Falwell legacy that even trustees considered it unthinkable to exert power over the son and namesake of the university’s revered founder. Plus, the university employed at least 20 relatives of stakeholders-- defined as senior administrators and the 32-member Board of Trustees, according to federal tax disclosures-- which gave many leaders an incentive to stay on Falwell’s good side.

...Falwell experienced so little oversight that he regularly used the university’s private jet for personal travel, often to Florida; kept five of his immediate family members on the payroll, including his 31-year-old son Trey at a salary of $234,310; sold a university-owned home to Trey; extended a university-backed loan to a family friend; rented university property on favorable terms to his former personal trainer; and used the university’s employees for renovations on his home, for which he repaid $175,000, among many instances when Liberty’s resources benefited the Falwells and their allies.

While Falwell’s personal behavior and self-dealing raised alarms among some Liberty loyalists, including people close to his father, they would leave the university-- sometimes in exchange for severance agreements that included non-disparagement clauses-- and keep quiet about their misgivings. Like many evangelicals, they had a skepticism about the mainstream media and feared outside retaliation against the university.

“The church has a bad habit of keeping things secret. They want to keep it in house, take care of it in house. And Liberty’s the same way. It wants to suppress things and keep things quiet-- and that’s what they did with Jerry,” said Mark Tinsley, a former Dean of the College of General Studies at Liberty University who left in 2017.

No one doubted that Falwell, backed by the power of his last name, exerted more control than his nominal bosses, the trustees.

One of Liberty’s most high-profile supporters, board member Mark DeMoss, whose father had donated $20 million to Liberty for construction of DeMoss Hall, one of the largest buildings on campus, was pushed off the board in 2016 after questioning Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump over other Republican contenders for president.

DeMoss had once served as Jerry Falwell Sr.’s chief of staff, and chaired the executive committee of Liberty’s trustees when he was abruptly pushed out of the Liberty fold.

After Falwell surprised much of the evangelical world by choosing the twice-divorced Trump, an infrequent churchgoer, over numerous Republican presidential candidates with strong religious backgrounds and evangelical ties, DeMoss made the rare move of speaking publicly about the decision. He told the Washington Post that Trump’s behavior is “not Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”

...The Moral Majority was both a fundraising behemoth and a rallying point for Christians to get involved in politics. As the group's most high-profile leader, Falwell Sr. travelled the country, staging rallies and parades and helping to register new voters at churches. In 1980, the group threw its support fully behind Republican Ronald Reagan against the evangelical Democratic President Jimmy Carter. After Reagan won a surprisingly large victory, the Moral Majority took credit for mobilizing a new bloc of voters that helped him win Southern states that had four years earlier supported Carter, their fellow Southerner.

“You can almost draw a line from his endorsement of Trump in early 2016 to his being much more, not just comfortable, but feeling invincible,” said one former Liberty administrator. “Because he was on an airplane with Donald Trump, and he’s at a rally, and he’s on TV.”

The Falwells were, increasingly, living glamorously. Falwell would speak to faculty about attending Elton John and Justin Bieber concerts, and sometimes going backstage, one former faculty member said. He told a reporter from Slate that he and Kanye West had “struck up a little friendship.”

Falwell’s children posted photos on Instagram of themselves travelling on private jets. And on more than one occasion, Falwell shared photos of his family’s yacht vacations in exotic destinations like Greece and the Bahamas, one of which-- the photo that featured Falwell with his arm around his wife’s assistant-- attracted national attention last summer and led to Falwell being placed on leave from Liberty.

“They all got careless in the social media age, and Liberty was doing so well financially that Jerry began to think he was invincible-- and the board was satisfied with the school’s success in other financial metrics, and wasn’t paying attention,” the former Liberty administrator said.

...Financial success seemed to embolden Falwell in his willingness to cut deals with family members and friends. Back in 2013, the university had extended a $750,000 loan to Falwell’s friend Bobby Moon to form a private construction company to work on Liberty’s upcoming billion-dollar expansion. The company, called Construction Management Associates, became Liberty’s biggest outside contractor, drawing in up to $75 million per year. Liberty also hired a crane company long owned by Moon and his family, CSE Inc., to work on Liberty's library, adding to the payouts.

Falwell, most often with CMA, tackled lavish renovations for the university. Liberty rebuilt its football stadium, baseball stadium and nearly all of its major sports facilities. It built a new concert hall and added a gun club near campus on Liberty Mountain, where students can join a shooting team or take free concealed carry classes. Liberty renovated its basketball stadium at an estimated cost of $20 million, and then added a second, smaller basketball stadium next door for lower-profile games. Under Trey Falwell’s oversight, the Carter Glass house that used to be the older Jerry Falwell’s office was renovated into a “five-star” bed-and-breakfast for Liberty’s guests.

But Moon wasn’t the only person in Falwell’s orbit who received business while Falwell was running Liberty. Family members, board members and university administrators also landed jobs, contracts and other benefits.

Jerry and Becki Falwell’s former personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite, was sold a fitness facility on Liberty’s campus in 2013 that Crosswhite then partially leased back to Liberty for $575,000 over eight years, a sum that significantly cut the cost of buying the fitness center. (Liberty officials maintained the deal was still advantageous to them from a business perspective.)

Crosswhite declined to comment. In a recent interview with Lynchburg’s WSET news, he denied that the deal was to his advantage.

...In 2019 multiple news outlets reported that Cohen, Trump’s fixer, had bragged about helping to bury nude photos of Becki that had circulated among people involved in the youth hostel deal. In September of that year, Politico published an extensive exposé that covered many of Falwell’s self-dealings and recounted inappropriate behavior by Jerry.

“All he wanted to talk about was how he would nail his wife, how she couldn’t handle [his penis size] and stuff of that sort,” Politico quoted a former university official as saying in that September 2019 piece.

Since then, more stories have come to light. Becki’s friend recalled how the Falwells had an old Price of Admission sign decorating their home, and how Jerry told her, “Yeah, every time someone comes in, I say ‘Oh, that’s for blowjobs.’ ”


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At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical christian hypocrites - they are everywhere!

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

based on yesterday... if falwell wants to, he could be president in 4 years. as much a lothario as trump and just as corrupt as biden. americans will vote for that shit in droves.


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