RICHMOND, Va. — Jerry Falwell Jr. announced his resignation Tuesday as head of evangelical Liberty University amid conflicting claims about a sexual relationship his wife had with a younger business partner.
Falwell’s exit marks a precipitous fall from power for one of the country’s most visible evangelical leaders and ardent supporters of President Donald Trump. The Lynchburg, Virginia, university was founded by Falwell’s late father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.
Falwell confirmed his decision to resign in an interview with The Associated Press. According to the school, he initially offered to resign Monday, hours after the Reuters news agency published an interview with a man who said that he had a yearslong sexual relationship with Becki Falwell and that Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur. Falwell later reversed course, and began telling news outlets he had no intention of leaving. Then he changed direction again.
“That’s the only reason I resigned: because I don’t want something my wife did to harm the school I’ve spent my whole life building,” he said in a phone interview. “I never broke a single rule that applies to staff members at Liberty, which I was. So I want everybody to know that.”
The university confirmed in a statement that its board had accepted Falwell’s resignation as president, chancellor and board member. All were effective immediately, the statement said.
Becki Falwell also spoke with the AP on Tuesday, saying she and her husband are “more in love than ever.”
“We have the strongest relationship and Jerry is the most forgiving person I’ve ever met,” she said. “It’s a shame that Christians can’t give us the same forgiveness that Christ gave us.”
Falwell had already been on leave since earlier this month after alumni and others recoiled at a photo he posted on social media The image showed him with his pants unzipped, stomach exposed and arm high around the waist of his wife’s pregnant assistant. Falwell has said the photo was taken at a costume party during a family vacation.
The board “put me on leave for showing my belly in a picture and my contract doesn’t allow that,” he said Tuesday. He later added, “I’m 58 years old, and I think there’s something else in the cards for me. And so the board was gracious in accepting my resignation … and it’s time to move on.”