Liberty University president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. went on indefinite leave Friday after a “racy” social media post triggered calls for his resignation, per a report from the Associated Press.
The picture that started it all
In the photo that Falwell posted to his social media account, he was standing with his arm around a woman, who was not his wife, and both had their pants unbuttoned and slightly zipped down. Both of them had a portion of their stomach showing.
After an uproar ensued over the photo, Falwell came forward and offered context on the picture, which he said was taken during a “costume party” while on vacation.
According to Falwell, the woman in the picture is his wife’s assistant, who is pregnant, and she could not get her pants zipped up over her growing belly.
Falwell explained that he put on a pair of pants that were older and he too, was unable to get them zipped, so he took what he thought would be a funny picture, calling it “good fun.”
By today’s standards, the picture that Falwell posted may have been stupid, but it would hardly be considered racy, especially with context. However, Falwell is facing accusations of hypocrisy, due to the evangelical university’s strict standards of conduct.
The outrage ensues
Immediate outrage from school officials and several prominent politicians ensued as soon as the photo started to spread online.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) was among the first to call for Falwell to step down. He called Falwell’s behavior “appalling” and demanded leadership change at Liberty University.
“The View” co-host Meghan McCain also was outraged, tweeting, “How is this Jerry Falwell Jr. photo even real? Also if you’re running the largest Christian university in America maybe don’t put photos of yourself on social media with your pants undone on a yacht – with random women in bad wigs. So gross, so hypocritical.”
School officials did ask Falwell to step away, and he took an indefinite leave of absence as president and chancellor of Liberty.
The school has also released a statement on the matter, stating, “Liberty University deeply impacted us as students and we hope that its leadership can return to a focus of training ‘young champions for Christ’ with Biblical conviction for the Gospel and justice.”
Falwell has since taken down the picture but he has not publicly commented since stepping down.