Jerry Falwell Jr. inherited Liberty University, a Virginia Evangelical Christian college, from his dad, Jerry Sr., who founded the school to create what he hoped would become a Christian competitor to the Ivy Leagues.
Instead, Falwell Jr. is reportedly running the place into the ground. According to a blockbuster report from Politico last week, numerous high-level Liberty employees say Falwell seems to be lending himself a ton of the school's money and is altogether fouling the place's already low reputation. Liberty students are banned from drinking and even dancing with members of the opposite sex — which sure makes it hypocritical for the Falwells to seemingly keep getting caught up in alcohol- and sex-related scandals. Allegedly, a number of racy photos of Falwell and/or his wife are floating around. He and his wife Becki have oddly "befriended" a number of strapping personal trainers/pool attendants/attractive young men for whatever reason. And the Falwells have even been photographed in a nightclub.
Weirdly, many of these stories have played out in Miami, so here's a rundown of all of the alleged shenanigans:
Giancarlo Granda, the former Fontainebleau pool attendant whose business bizarrely received $1.8 million in loans from famous evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr., wants the world to stop calling him a "pool boy." He finds the term demeaning.
And, perhaps more notable, he officially denies knowing anything about alleged "racy" photos referenced in a Reuters story published yesterday. Reuters investigative reporter Aram Roston obtained a clandestine recording made by comedian Tom Arnold in which Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen said he helped Falwell Jr. hide intimate photos that a lawyer "in Florida" had obtained. In the recording, Cohen — a man who has ostensibly seen his fair share of shenanigans — said even he found one of the photos to be "terrible."
Roston was also the reporter who broke the news that Falwell Jr. had mysteriously loaned Granda's business a ton of money and that Cohen was aware of a lawsuit involving Falwell and Granda. Reporters have, ahem, speculated that Granda was the Floridian who had obtained said photos and that Cohen might have leveraged the scandal to get Falwell Jr. to endorse the infamously lecherous and not-at-all Jesus-like Trump in 2016.
But today, Granda's lawyer, Aaron Resnick, denied Granda had anything to do with this.
"Giancarlo Granda has never had any communications with Michael Cohen (directly or indirectly)," Resnick told New Times via email. "He does not know Mr. Cohen. He has never met Mr. Cohen. Mr. Cohen is a convicted felon and admitted liar. Mr. Granda has no idea about the alleged 'personal photographs' Mr. Cohen refers to in his taped conversation with Tom Arnold, which was published by the Washington Post. Mr. Granda has never been involved in any negotiations directly or indirectly with Mr. Cohen. This includes any negotiations through legal counsel. Mr. Granda is not the person referred to by Mr. Cohen in the taped recording referenced in the Washington Post article. Any suggestion that he is that person is absolutely false."
2. Supposedly taking photos of his wife in "various stages of undress" in the Florida Keys. From the Miami Herald:
The sun was setting at the Cheeca Lodge resort in Islamorada when Jerry Falwell Jr. smiled for the camera, a national evangelical leader nearing 50 posing next to a young man he had met poolside in Miami Beach.
The photograph shows Giancarlo Granda, a handsome, 20-something pool attendant whom Jerry and his wife, Rebecca, 52, befriended at the Fontainebleau hotel in 2012, and within months, would set up as part-owner and manager of a $4.7 million South Beach hostel.
It was an unusual partnership: The president of the largest Christian university in the world, a school that prohibits gay sex, agreeing to operate a Miami Beach hostel, regarded as gay friendly, in conjunction with a “pool boy” with virtually no hotel management experience after they met at the storied Fontainebleau, a favored South Florida vacation ground for the Falwells. Yet there they were, not only business partners but mingling socially at Cheeca, an idyllic, exclusive resort in the Keys.
The relationship between the Falwells and Granda forms the backdrop of an improbable Miami story that is causing political ripples beyond South Florida. It involves a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, the “pool boy” as he is described in the lawsuit, the comedian Tom Arnold, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now imprisoned political fixer, naked photographs — and a Miami father and son who say they were defrauded in a real estate deal then forced to change their names due to “threats.”
Falwell, 57, who took over the mantle of Liberty University following the death of his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., has denied the suggestion that in 2015 he sought help from Cohen, who told Arnold in a surreptitiously taped conversation that he embarked on a mission to recover “personal” photographs involving the Falwells.
Cohen has acknowledged performing delicate chores for the future president of the United States, including paying off his alleged paramours with hush money — to prevent the release of embarrassing personal photographs in the past. In his only known interview about the subject, first reported by Reuters and BuzzFeed, Falwell denied the existence of photographs involving himself.
“This report is not accurate,” Falwell told the Todd Starnes radio show. “There are no compromising or embarrassing photos of me.”
Three photographs have been seen by the Herald, however. They are images not of Falwell, but of his wife in various stages of undress. It is not known who took the photographs or when they were taken, and the Herald was not given the photographs and therefore has not been able to authenticate them independently. Two of the photographs appear to have been taken at the Falwells’ farm in Virginia, and a third at the Cheeca Lodge.
3. Flying their "personal trainer" with them to Miami. From Reuters:
The story of the business relationship between [Ben] Crosswhite, Liberty and Falwell appears to begin in 2011.
That year, Falwell urged other Liberty personnel in an email to cut Crosswhite a “sweet deal” allowing him to offer private gym training at the Lynchburg fitness facility, then known as the Sports Racket, which Liberty had recently acquired through the trustee’s donation.
“Becki and I wouldn’t mind working out over there with Ben as a trainer because it is more private,” he wrote in the email, which was reviewed by Reuters. Falwell and his wife, who goes by Becki, each work out with Crosswhite twice a week, the university said. Falwell has become a vocal advocate of the trainer’s skills, as have other university executives and clients who work with Crosswhite.
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The Falwells brought the trainer along on Liberty’s private jet during a 2012 trip to Miami. Later, Falwell sent an email directing Liberty to lease its gym space to Crosswhite’s fitness business, which began a five year lease in 2013. The cost, according to a lease document: $2,300 per month.
Liberty said Falwell uses the university-chartered jet to fly every year to his annual physical in Miami. Crosswhite joined him in 2012 “to explain to the doctors Mr. Falwell’s diet and exercise program and help document the results,” the university said. Because Liberty’s board requires an annual physical for Falwell, the president doesn’t have to reimburse the university for the corporate jet travel to Miami, the statement said.
It was in Miami in 2012, as well, that Falwell met Granda, the pool attendant he would later finance in business. The financial ties between Falwell and Granda have been detailed by BuzzFeed and others.
5. Then getting caught partying in more photos:
For the past two years, reporters have been slowly dismantling the public persona of Baptist evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr., a "family values"-style Trump supporter with major political sway among evangelical voters.
Oddly, many of the stories about Falwell take place in Miami Beach, a full 900 miles south of Lynchburg, Virginia, where he heads the ultraconservative Liberty University. First, there was news in August 2017 that Falwell had helped his son Jerry "Trey" Falwell III purchase a "flophouse"-like hostel in South Beach. Then, in late 2018, it was revealed Falwell and his wife had, curiously, loaned $1.8 million to a hunky pool boy they'd met at the Fontainebleau. Earlier this year, the plot thickened when photos were leaked of Falwell and the pool boy at a resort in Islamorada. Additional photos, which have so far gone unpublished, supposedly show Falwell's wife Becki "in various stages of undress."
Today Politico published another detailed takedown of Falwell, written by reporter Brandon Ambrosino, an alumnus of Liberty University. Among other revelations is yet another embarrassing story from Falwell's time in Miami Beach. Ambrosino says he came across photos by World Red Eye showing Falwell partying at Wall, the nightclub inside the W South Beach, with his son and daughter-in-law. But when Ambrosino asked Falwell about the pictures, he straight-up denied the photographic evidence and suggested the images were Photoshopped:
In a statement on August 21, Jerry Falwell denied the existence of any photo of him at the club. "There was no picture snapped of me at WALL nightclub or any other nightclub," Falwell wrote. "I'm sure you already knew that though."
When told that I had obtained a photo of him for this article, Falwell said I was "terribly mistaken." "If you show me the picture, I can probably help you out," he wrote. "I think you are making some incorrect assumptions, or have been told false things or are seeing something that was photo-shopped."
Over the past couple of years, questionable real-estate deals, a dubious association with an attractive pool boy, and unpublished, reportedly compromising photos of his wife have chipped away at the image of famed evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr. Earlier this week, the Trump-supporting president of the conservative Liberty University found himself embroiled in yet another controversy when Politico published a damning story by reporter Brandon Ambrosino, a Liberty alumnus. Included in the report were photos of Falwell, his son, and daughter-in-law partying at Wall, the nightclub inside the W South Beach.
The photos are tame by all standards, but they're controversial for the leader of a university that strictly forbids coed dancing and drinking alcohol. It appears Falwell understands the potential for fallout, because when Ambrosino showed him the photos, the evangelical leader claimed the pictures were doctored. "If the person in the picture is me," Falwell wrote, "it was likely photo-shopped."
Now World Red Eye, the photography agency that snapped the images of Falwell and his family partying at Wall in 2014, is disputing Falwell's allegations of photographic manipulation. This morning, World Red Eye founder Seth Browarnik posted a statement to Twitter in response to Politico's story.
"For 21 years, I have maintained an impeccable reputation for documenting Miami Beach's storied social scene," Browarnik wrote. "We wholly reject Jerry Falwell Jr.'s baseless allegation... that one of our pictures was 'photo-shopped' or manipulated in any fashion."