Jerry Falwell, Jr. is facing searing accusations of corruption, manipulation, and deceit, but he’s fighting back with an FBI investigation.
A recent Politico exposé called out the Liberty University president for questionable business deals and even “racy personal photographs,” cleaned up by Michael Cohen, a controversial attorney for Donald Trump.
Former and current board members and employees of the university offered evidence against Falwell, yet none of them agreed to be named in the article. One source even purchased a burner phone to ensure prying ears would not listen.
Among the accusations are allegations of nepotism with his son Trey, who owns a company hired by Liberty University to manage the school’s newly acquired shopping center, as well as awarding university contracts to businesses owned by friends.
The unnamed sources in the article were “reluctant to speak out…but said they see it as necessary to save Liberty University and the values it once stood for.”
The sources, who all signed confidentiality agreements with the University upon employment, claim to live in fear.
“It’s a dictatorship,” one high-level employee claimed. “Nobody craps at the university without Jerry’s approval.”
Another board member commented, “There’s no accountability. Jerry’s got pretty free reign to wheel and deal professionally and personally. The board will approve an annual budget, but beyond that…he doesn’t go to the board to get approval…It simply doesn’t happen.”
To emphasize the point, the article showed an email sent by Becki, Falwell’s wife of 32 years, who contacted school executives after a low-level employee posted a Facebook status criticizing the university for lack of parking spaces.
“Someone needs to talk to this girl. I don’t think that we allow employees to post negative remarks about Liberty,” she allegedly wrote.
But Falwell continues to fight for his innocence, claiming that he never “personally benefited financially from CMA’s [a construction company contracted by the university and owned by a friend] or any other contractor’s work for Liberty University not has any member of my family.”
“I’m not going to dignify the lies that were reported yesterday with a response, but I am going to the authorities and I am going to civil court,” Falwell said to the AP.
After answering several questions from the author of the Politico report, Falwell finally said, “I fear that the true information I am sharing in good faith will simply not make any difference. And will only result in more questions.” He refused to answer more questions after.
He also told The Hill: “Our attorneys have determined that this small group of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provided them to reporters.”
Other journalists called the authenticity of the article in question due to the unnamed sources. “The writer relies almost entirely on anonymous sources. That’s a lot of sources, yes. But they’d have much more credibility if they had names attached to them. On-the-record sources with names attached have more skin in the game than those granted carte blanche to say whatever they want without their names attached. That’s basic Journalism 101 reality,” Bobby Ross, Jr. of GetReligion said.
He continued: “When I voiced my concern about the story, a longtime journalist whom I respect pushed back: ‘Unnamed sources prove necessary in covering closed societies e.g. the Holy See, the Soviet-era Kremlin, and half of Africa. Question is whether Falwell U fits that category and whether [the] writer is straight with readers in characterizing such sources and weighing possible biases.’”
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Alex Wong
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine. She blogs at mikaelamathews.com.