Liberty University filed a $10 million lawsuit Thursday against its former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., claiming his actions damaged the school’s reputation and negatively impacted enrollment and donations.
The lawsuit, filed in circuit court in Lynchburg, Va., alleges that Falwell withheld information about a now-publicized affair between his wife Becki and a family friend, Giancarlo Granda, and also was silent about a subsequent allegation that Granda was trying to extort the Falwells of money.
“Instead of divulging to Liberty's Board of Trustees Granda's active attempts at extortion, Falwell Jr. instead led a scheme to cover up the illicit conduct,” the Liberty lawsuit says. “... Falwell worked diligently to coopt Granda into total confidentiality about the most perilous details of the young man's relationship with the Falwells, and to suppress the damaging Granda Allegations.”
The Falwells withheld the information from the university from 2014 through 2020, the suit says. During that time, in 2019, Falwell entered into a new employment agreement with Liberty. A “substantial” raise accompanied the new agreement, the suit says.
“Falwell Jr. thus knowingly withheld from Liberty material information that would have altered the nature of the negotiations of the 2019 Employment Agreement,” the lawsuit says.
If the university’s Executive Committee had “known in 2018 and 2019 that Granda was attempting to extort Falwell Jr., and thus planning to damage Liberty” and had it known the circumstances that led to the attempt, “then the Executive Committee would have refrained from entering into the 2019 Employment Agreement.”
The actions of Falwell and Granda, the suit says, “have injured Liberty's enrollment, impacted its donor base, disrupted its faculty, enabled the 2019 Employment Agreement that proved detrimental to Liberty's interests, and damaged Liberty's reputation.”
Falwell filed a defamation lawsuit against Liberty last year. He dropped the lawsuit in December but said at the time he would “continue to keep all options on the table for an appropriate resolution to the matter.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.