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Evangelical college head quits amid sex scandal

Jerry Falwell Jr in May 2019Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Jerry Falwell Jr took a leave of absence from Liberty University after posting a photo of himself on Instagram with his trousers unzipped

The head of a major US evangelical college has denied reports he has quit his job amid allegations about his private life.

The Washington Post, the Associated Press and other US media reported his resignation on Monday, citing officials from the institution.

But the influential evangelical has now denied he has left the role.

Speaking to a Politico on Monday, Falwell Jr said the reports he had quit the post were untrue.

“I have not resigned. How did those reports get out? I don’t know,” he told the news site.

A senior official at Liberty University told CBS News: “Board leadership have been in discussion with Jerry Falwell and expect to be able to make a statement on Tuesday.” They would not comment on the reports he had quit.

Jerry Falwell Jr took a leave of absence earlier this month after posting a photo of himself with trousers unzipped on Instagram.

Further scandals have since emerged, including from someone who claimed to have had a sexual relationship involving Mr Falwell Jr and his wife.

A prominent supporter of US President Donald Trump, he took over at the college after the death of his father, Jerry Falwell.

Mr Falwell Sr founded the university in the 1970s as well as the conservative Moral Majority movement.

What are the allegations?

Mr Falwell Jr was already under scrutiny for a photograph he posted online earlier this month. He appeared in the image with his trousers unzipped and his arm around a woman.

The image provoked outrage and charges of hypocrisy from the political right and left, and calls for Mr Falwell to resign.

Liberty University asked Mr Falwell to take an “indefinite leave of absence” soon after.

Image copyright
Alex Wong

Image caption

Donald Trump attended the Liberty University commencement in 2017

Further allegations have emerged. Giancarlo Granda, a business partner of Falwell Jr’s, told Reuters news agency on Monday that he had a six-year sexual relationship with the evangelical leader and his wife, Becki Falwell.

“Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” Mr Granda reportedly said in an interview.

A lawyer for Mr Falwell Jr told Reuters before their article came out that his client “categorically denies everything you indicated you intend to publish about him”.

On Sunday, Mr Falwell Jr released a statement to the Washington Examiner saying his wife had had an affair and that the man involved had threatened to “deliberately embarrass my wife, family, and Liberty University”.

He also spoke of the “emotional toll” the affair had had on him.

Before Mr Granda’s allegations and Mr Falwell Jr’s statement became public, Liberty University issued a statement on Friday saying it had not yet decided his future as president.

The college’s honour code states that “Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University”.

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