Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is taking an indefinite leave of absence from his post as president of the country’s largest Christian college just days after he posted a provocative photo of himself with his pants unzipped.
“The Executive Committee of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, acting on behalf of the full board, met today and requested Jerry Falwell, Jr. take an indefinite leave of absence from his roles as President and Chancellor of Liberty University, to which he has agreed, effective immediately,” a statement from the university’s board reads. He was appointed to the position after the death of his father in 2007.
Falwell faced controversy and criticism after posting a photo of himself on a yacht with a woman he called his wife’s assistant. The two appeared with their shirts rolled up and stomachs exposed. Falwell’s pants were unzipped, revealing his underwear. He ultimately deleted the photo and apologized.
“I promised my kids I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out,” he said Wednesday during a radio interview, insisting that the photo was “just in good fun.”X
But the apology wasn’t enough for Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who once taught at Liberty University, where students are told to dress “modestly.”
“Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling,” Walker wrote on Twitter. “I’m convinced Falwell should step down."
Falwell, an outspoken Trump supporter, has been plagued by a string of controversies in recent months. An investigation by Politico accused him of going into graphic detail about his sex life with employees of Liberty, the largest Christian college in the world. One school official said Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his sex life, and “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.” He even shared a racy photo of his wife with colleagues, according to the magazine.
Politico’s investigation also accused him of funneling university resources into real-estate deals that benefited his family and associates, as well as awarding school contracts to his pals. He’s denied sharing the picture of his wife and any wrongdoing.
In June, Falwell was forced to make yet another public apology amid uproar over his May 27 tweet in which he said he’d only wear a coronavirus mask if it had the 1984 photo allegedly showing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in blackface emblazoned on it. At least three Black university employees resigned as a result of the tweet.
“After listening to African American LU leaders and alumni over the past week and hearing their concerns, I understand that by tweeting an image to remind all of the governor’s racist past, I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point,” Falwell wrote. “Based on our long relationships, they uniformly understood this was not my intent, but because it was the result, I have deleted the tweet and apologize for any hurt my effort caused, especially within the African American community.”
In March, as the coronavirus surged across the country, the evangelical leader made the controversial decision to partially reopen the Liberty campus. Falwell, who’s repeatedly downplayed the threat of the deadly virus, had claimed that officials in Lynchburg, Virginia, had given him the go-ahead to do so, but City Manager Bonnie Svrcek told the Beast she’d never signed off on the plan. All Liberty students will return to campus in the fall semester.