Jerry Falwell Jr.’s continued rise in national political influence. Jerry was AWOL during the time he would have been most useful to Trump – during the November general election. His face would have been spread across Fox News and its many imitators, pronouncing the evangelical doctrine of Trumpism. But that was not meant to be.
It’s amazing the power of a glass of “black water” can have. Soon after photos of Jerry aboard a yacht emerged with his hand around a woman’s (not his wife) midriff and zipper at half-mast, he resigned as President of his dynastic empire, Liberty University. There’s much more to this story, and Falwell denied any monkey business. Suffice it to say, casually embracing a woman on a yacht with pants undone – well, it was perhaps too suggestive of Presidential candidate Gary Hart, who in 1987 was snapped with Donna Rice sitting on his lap on the yacht, Monkey Business.
Well, there was some sordid sexual content involved in the scandal as well. Maybe harmless antics as defined in the secular world, but allegations with a pool attendant, Giancarlo Granda, that would besmirch Falwell’s reputation among evangelicals. “He enjoyed watching,” the young man alleged, confessing a years-long liaison with Falwell’s wife, while the husband was looking on approvingly. That’s not the story Falwell himself tells. In fact, he accused the 21 year old of extorting him and his wife with “outrageous and fabricate[d] claims”, and demanding money from them.
It’s a typical he said-she said story that would have ended there, except that Liberty University “moved quickly” to support and act on Granda’s allegations, which Falwell alleged destroyed his reputation. Falwell filed suit against his own university for defamation of character.
Anybody can file a lawsuit, alleging anything including the kitchen sink in the complaint. The meat and potatoes come during discovery, when something called evidence enters the picture. Depositions sworn under oath become important features. The truth typically comes out when people are being stupid and lying; they go to jail. Falwell withdrew his suit before it came to that steep step of truth.
I don’t know the facts; there is so much secrecy surrounding the evidence that no one will probably ever know the truth. But I’m a lawyer sitting on 40 years of experience, and a client doesn’t withdraw a suit sua sponte without a compelling reason. I wonder whether Falwell worked a deal with Liberty. Experience says, when you’re mudwrestling, even the winner comes out dirty. Not speaking specifically to this case, but an unforced withdrawal agreed as in the best interests of both parties usually means some sort of undisclosed benefit exchanged hands.
Of more curiosity to me is Falwell’s reticence to sue Granda for defamation of character. It’s all there; he has been most public in assertions which are no doubt injurious to Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s reputation as a committed Christian. And yet, there is inexplicable reserve from the lawsuit-prone former President. Perhaps in the spirit of Jesus, he is turning the other cheek in forgiveness. Sometimes, silence is the best way to let someone know they did you wrong. On the other hand, silence can speak volumes. Either way, I really do not miss the silence of Jerry Falwell, Jr.