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Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Leadership at Liberty Appears Near End

On Monday, a business associate named Giancarlo Granda alleged in an interview with Reuters that for years he had regular sexual liaisons with Mr. Falwell’s wife, Becki, as Mr. Falwell looked on. He said he met the couple in 2012 while a young pool attendant at a luxury hotel in Miami.

In a statement released Sunday evening that appeared to anticipate the revelations, Mr. Falwell conceded that his wife had engaged in an “inappropriate personal relationship” with Mr. Granda, but said that he “was not involved.” He added that Mr. Granda tried to extort the couple to keep the affair a secret, an ordeal so upsetting that it had caused him to seek mental health treatment.

Mr. Falwell and Ms. Falwell did not respond to requests for comment.

The association with Mr. Granda first received attention in 2019 after reports emerged that years earlier, Mr. Falwell had asked Michael Cohen, a fixer for President Trump, for help suppressing photographs that would have embarrassed the family. Mr. Falwell announced his endorsement of Mr. Trump soon afterward, surprising advisers to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who had been expecting Mr. Falwell to support his campaign.

The end of Mr. Falwell’s tenure would mark the fall of a pugnacious leader who took over leadership of Liberty, one of the largest Christian colleges in the nation, one day after his father’s death in 2007.

Liberty has had a Falwell at its helm since Mr. Falwell’s father, a pastor with a taste for conservative politics, founded the school as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. Jerry Falwell Sr. aimed to turn the college into a national institution and football powerhouse, with the slogan “Champions for Christ.”

The younger Mr. Falwell appeared to fulfill his mission. The school now plays in the top division of college football, winning its first bowl game last year. Liberty reports an enrollment of more than 120,000 students, including 15,000 who attend classes on its expanding campus in Lynchburg, Va.

Mr. Falwell’s own national profile has risen dramatically since he endorsed Mr. Trump’s presidential bid in early 2016, before the Iowa caucus and significantly before most conservative evangelicals had warmed to him. He became one of the president’s most vocal evangelical supporters, speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention and becoming a regular presence on Fox News.

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