Jerry Falwell Jr. confirmed Tuesday that he has resigned his position as chancellor and president of Liberty University, a prominent evangelical university in Virginia.
He told an NPR reporter that he feels “free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, I am free at last! That’s the way I feel.”
Liberty University’s board of trustees confirmed Tuesday that they have unanimously accepted Falwell’s letter of resignation, and stated that they will be searching for a new president.
Falwell’s resignation was initially reported Monday morning but confusion ensued when Falwell denied the reports, saying he was merely on indefinite leave. Falwell later confirmed to the media that he has stepped down from his leadership role at the conservative school, The Hill reported.
The controversy and ensuing confusion stemmed from reports that Falwell’s wife, Becki Falwell, engaged in a years-long affair with a former pool boy turned business associate named Giancarlo Granda. Granda further alleged that Falwell was not only aware of the affair but sometimes observed, according to the New York Post.
While they admit to the affair, both Falwells denied Granda’s further allegation and accused him of extortion, which he denies.
The scandal comes on the heels of a prior controversy which led to Falwell going on leave from his position at the university earlier this month. Falwell had shared a photo on social media of himself with an arm around his wife’s assistant and their pants unzipped.
His explanation — that it was a joke about her pregnancy and his weight and was “all in good fun” — was not viewed as humorous by the university’s board.
Did he resign or just go on leave?
Politico reported that, according to a statement from the university on Monday, Falwell had “agreed to resign as its President and from its Board of Directors but following media reports about the resignation, withdrew it.” The university further explained that, in light of the new revelations of Falwell’s alleged behavior and marital issues, it has become “clear that it would not be in the best interest of the University for him to return from leave and service as President.”
Yet, despite Falwell “agreeing to resign immediately as President of Liberty University today,” the statement said, he “then instructed his attorneys to not tender the letter for immediate resignation.” Reached for comment by Politico on Monday, Falwell had told them the same thing he’d told the Post — he hadn’t formally resigned and would simply continue to remain on the indefinite leave he’d taken following the controversy over the social media post.
Resignation finally confirmed
Late on Monday night, however, ABC News reported that Falwell confirmed that he had finally submitted his resignation letter to the university, settling the day’s confusion once and for all.
Jerry Prevo, who has been named acting president in Falwell’s absence, said in a statement to ABC, “I call upon the University community and supporters to be in prayer for the University and for all its leadership, past, present and future, as we walk with the Lord through this stormy time of transition.”