Liberty board confirms Jerry Falwell Jr.’s indefinite leave
University says no decision made on whether to retain Falwell as president
Update, Aug. 24: In a statement, Jerry Falwell Jr. alleges former friend blackmailed his family over affair with Falwell’s wife.
At a special meeting Friday, Liberty University’s Board of Trustees affirmed the terms of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s indefinite leave of absence and the terms of employment for the school’s acting president, Jerry Prevo.
“The decision whether or not to retain Falwell as president has not yet been made,” according to a statement from the Lynchburg-based conservative Christian university. “The board requested prayer and patience as they seek the Lord’s will and also seek additional information for assessment. The university and its board members have decided to not publicly comment on the various rumors and claims about Falwell at this time.”
The university’s statement confirmed that Falwell’s leave of absence as Liberty’s president and chancellor is paid. Also, the board directed that “Falwell may not act as president, use any powers of the university president, and may not communicate with employees to manage, direct or interfere with the operations of the university.” However, the university said that Prevo may consult Falwell or seek background information from him.
Falwell took the indefinite leave Aug. 7 at the request of the executive committee of Liberty’s board of trustees. The move followed an uproar over an Instagram photo Falwell posted of himself and his wife’s assistant. Taken at a yacht party, the photo shows Falwell with his arm around the woman, while both of their pants are partially unzipped and Falwell is holding a glass of dark liquid that he said was “black water” and “a prop.” During a local radio interview, he later apologized for embarrassing the woman and said he had promised his children, “I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out.” He explained that his wife’s assistant was pregnant and couldn’t zip or button her pants and that he was emulating her as a joke.
Politico reported Thursday that Falwell’s personal use of a 164-foot yacht owned by NASCAR’s Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports is under scrutiny. The controversial Instagram photo was taken aboard the yacht. Liberty has sponsored a Hendrick Motorsports racecar for the last two years; such deals typically are worth millions of dollars. Falwell has used the yacht, which rents for at least $200,000 a week, numerous times, according to Politico. A Hendrick spokesperson told Politico the yacht’s use was not part of the agreement with Liberty, but Liberty’s spokesperson would not confirm that. Politico quoted an anonymous Liberty employee as saying, that the yacht “was never used for university business, never used to try to better the university. It was always [for] Jerry [and his wife,] Becki. Always.”
With more than 110,000 students enrolled, most of them online, Liberty is Virginia’s largest school by enrollment and is the nation’s second-largest online university, behind the University of Phoenix.
Liberty’s next scheduled board meeting is Oct. 30.