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Falwell Family Values

Becki and Jerry Falwell Jr. (Shannon Finney/GettyImages)

Yesterday Jerry Falwell Jr. released a self-serving public statement saying that his wife Becki had had an affair with an unnamed individual, and his mishandling of the affair led to his recent bad behavior. He also said that the unnamed person was extorting them. The statement portrays the Falwells — who helped finance a Pool Boy’s purchase of a gay-friendly hostel on Miami’s South Beach — more or less as victims.

Today Reuters reports that the infamous Pool Boy was the guy poking Becki — and the Falwell story is kinkier than Jerry Jr. let on:

Giancarlo Granda says he was 20 when he met Jerry and Becki Falwell while working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in March 2012. Starting that month and continuing into 2018, Granda told Reuters that the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell looked on.

Granda showed Reuters emails, text messages and other evidence that he says demonstrate the sexual nature of his relationship with the couple, who have been married since 1987. “Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” Granda said in an interview. Now 29, he described the liaisons as frequent – “multiple times per year” – and said the encounters took place at hotels in Miami and New York, and at the Falwells’ home in Virginia.

His friendship with the Falwells eventually soured, Granda told Reuters, in part because he wanted to dissolve his ties with the couple and fell into a business dispute with them.

More:

Becki Falwell did not respond to emails or phone and text messages from Reuters. After Reuters presented its initial reporting early last week to the Falwells, a lawyer for Jerry Falwell, Michael Bowe, said the evangelical leader “categorically denies everything you indicated you intend to publish about him.”

On Sunday night, however, as Reuters was preparing to publish this article, Jerry Falwell issued a statement to the Washington Examiner in which he said that his wife had had an affair with Granda and that Granda had been trying to extort money from the couple over the matter. Granda denies any such intent, saying he was seeking to negotiate a buyout from a business arrangement he says he had with the couple.

And:

The material Granda showed Reuters includes screenshots from what Granda said was a FaceTime conversation he had with the Falwells in 2019. During that call, Granda said, Becki was naked as the two discussed their relationship while Jerry peeked from behind a door. Reuters was able to verify Granda’s description of the screenshots.

Granda also shared an audio recording that he says captures a conversation he had with the Falwells in 2018. In it, Becki complained about Granda describing his relationships with other people: “He’s like telling me every time he hooks up with people. Like I don’t have feelings or something.” Jerry then chimed in: “You’re going to make her jealous.” “I’m not trying to do that,” Granda replied.

Read it all. If this is true, then the head of Liberty University and his wife are, or have been, swingers.

I never imagined that I would ever be able to write the words “kinky” and “Falwell” in the same sentence, but 2020 just keeps opening up new opportunities for awful.

This puts Falwell Jr.’s performative masculinity in the public eye in new context. Stuff like this tweet (that he later deleted) criticizing a pastor who himself had criticized Trump:

Jerry Jr. was literally a cuck (cuckold), and, if Granda’s account is true, he participated in his ongoing cuckolding willingly. He did all this while presenting himself as a Christian leader.

It raises an important question too about whether or not the Trump campaign used knowledge of the Falwells’ affair to pressure Jerry Jr. to endorse Trump. Former Trump legal fixer Michael Cohen told Tom Arnold that he handled a situation down in Florida in which somebody had some compromising boudoir shots of Becki Falwell that he (Cohen) had to obtain. Funnily enough, right after that, Jerry Jr., who was lined up to endorse Ted Cruz for president, flip-flopped to Trump. Amazing, eh?

Last fall, Politico published a long piece about the culture of fear at Liberty University. From the piece:

Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants—including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty—photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.

At Liberty, Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his “sex life,” in the words of one Liberty official—a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support. In a car ride about a decade ago with a senior university official who has since left Liberty, “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,” this former official recalled. Falwell did not respond to questions about this incident.

More than simply talking with employees about his wife in a sexual manner, on at least one occasion, Falwell shared a photo of his wife wearing what appeared to be a French maid costume, according to a longtime Liberty employee with firsthand knowledge of the image and the fallout that followed.

Falwell intended to send the image to his and Becki’s personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite, as a “thank you” for helping his wife achieve her fitness goals, the employee said. In the course of texting, Falwell accidentally sent the message to several other people, necessitating a cleanup.

In a statement, Falwell denied this. “I never had any picture of Becki Falwell dressed in a French maid uniform, and never sent such a non-existent photo to Ben Crosswhite.”

Crosswhite did not respond to requests for comment.

This is the behavior of a man who is … compensating for something. Men who are secure in their masculinity do not behave like this. And men who are not screwed up in the head do not take pleasure in other people fantasizing sexually about their wives, or — if Granda’s claims are true — watching other men have sex with their wives.

Lo, look what came next in the Politico story:

The Falwells’ close relationship with Crosswhite is the source of consternation for some of Liberty’s top brass because of what they characterize as a sweetheart business deal Falwell had the university offer Crosswhite.

Read the whole thing. 

Now that we know from Jerry Jr.’s confession that he helped set up his wife’s lover with a business in Miami, there are legitimate questions that need to be asked about whether this Crosswhite thing in Lynchburg was similar — this, if it is true that Jerry Jr. sent Crosswhite a French maid shot of Becki. Ben Crosswhite and the origins of his business might well be completely on the up and up. But what we have now learned about kinky Jerry and Becki Falwell operated, these questions must be asked, and answered by the Liberty board.

As you may recall, the Liberty board recently suspended Jerry Jr. from his leadership role at the university following the controversy over his racy Instagram shot from a yacht party. After all this, there is no way Liberty can have Jerry Jr. running anything at the university ever again. The school’s reputation is going to take a massive hit from this — and I understand that there will probably be more scandal news coming.

The pridefulness of Jerry Falwell Jr. is staggering. I want to remind you of this from the Reuters story today:

The material Granda showed Reuters includes screenshots from what Granda said was a FaceTime conversation he had with the Falwells in 2019. During that call, Granda said, Becki was naked as the two discussed their relationship while Jerry peeked from behind a door. Reuters was able to verify Granda’s description of the screenshots.

Granda also shared an audio recording that he says captures a conversation he had with the Falwells in 2018. In it, Becki complained about Granda describing his relationships with other people: “He’s like telling me every time he hooks up with people. Like I don’t have feelings or something.” Jerry then chimed in: “You’re going to make her jealous.” “I’m not trying to do that,” Granda replied.

The only way Reuters could verify that description is if its reporter was able to see the screenshots. Naked Mrs. Falwell, often called “the first lady of Liberty University,” talking by FaceTime with her lover while her pervy husband looks in. This, in 2019! And the audio recording of the two Falwells chastising Becki’s lover for being inconsiderate of her feelings — in 2018!

The Falwells continued their weird arrangement with Granda while 100 percent aboard the Trump train. When Jerry Jr. spoke at the 2016 GOP Convention, he was apparently in a love triangle with a man having sex with his wife. If he wasn’t, then he has a lot of explaining to do about those images and the audio recording.

What sleazy people, Jerry and Becki Falwell. Because Liberty University is so heavily controlled by him, and so thoroughly associated with him, it is going to be very hard for it to come through this crisis. The Swingin’ Falwells’ sins do not make the faculty, staff, and students of Liberty into sinners, but they will stain anyone associated with that institution.

What did senior Liberty leadership know about Jerry and Becki’s lifestyle, and when did they know it? They must be held accountable. I’m sure that for the overwhelming majority of the Liberty community, Jerry Jr.’s confession and the Reuters story come as a shock. What will they do about it?

The Falwells’ relationship with Pool Boy predates Donald Trump’s ascension to political power. Still, the only Evangelical leader more closely associated with Trump than the Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas is Jerry Falwell, Jr. A minority of conservative white Evangelicals have been saying for a long time that this embrace of Trump is going to hurt their witness to the culture. But whoever thought that Donald Trump’s embrace of Jerry Falwell Jr. would hurt his political campaign?

Here’s a video on the Trump YouTube channel, of Becki Falwell, Giancarlo Granda’s former mistress and a board member of Women For Trump, joining Lara Trump in 2019 to talk about strengthening families. Wonder how much longer that’s going to stay there?

 

UPDATE: I want to make clear that it is not fair to blame all conservative Evangelicals for the Falwell scandal. It is not even fair to blame all Liberty University people. The problem for conservative Evangelicals — and, I think, for all of us conservative Christians — is that the Falwells’ sanctimony and scandals fit into a powerful narrative that many liberals wish to believe about us: that we are all sexual hypocrites who preach one thing while doing another.  That is neither fair nor accurate, but when things like this happen, the burden of our high standards falls on all of us.

The only thing we can do is to recognize clearly and without qualification the failures of leadership, and not to engage in whataboutism, but rather, simply, to call our own to repentance, and to repent ourselves. And for the record Catholics have no room to get on their high horse about the sins of Evangelical leadership, nor do us Orthodox and other Christians. The purification of our churches is a severe mercy.

UPDATE.2: I did not see this in the first Reuters story, but in this updated version, there is embedded a 1:51 recording of a conversation between Becki and Pool Boy, in which Jerry Jr.’s voice is heard approving of their relationship. Listen to it for yourself. The Falwells have a lot of explaining to do. How Liberty could allow either of them to have a thing to do with the university after this is unthinkable.

UPDATE.3:

UPDATE.4:It’s official, Jerry’s out — the Washington Post reports.

UPDATE.5: So, what do you figure is going to happen with the Falkirk Center, the conservative Christian think tank Jerry Jr. and Charlie Kirk started late last year at Liberty U? This is from the front page of the center’s website:

Imagine that Jerry Jr. started this thing knowing what he was involved in privately. Unbelievable.

UPDATE.6: Woo-eee, now Jerry Jr. denies he resigned! What a soap opera!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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