Elmer Gantry In Lynchburg

Jerry Falwell, Jr., and wife Becki

By Peter Galuszka

The resignation of Jerry Falwell Jr. amid a series of scandals may have a strong impact in Virginia where his late father built an extraordinary, ultra-conservative evangelical university in Lynchburg that later became highly politicized lightning rod supporting President Donald Trump.

Falwell has been caught up in a number of controversies including limiting speech on campus, going after The New York Times for trespassing when it reported he insisted that student ignore wearing anti-viral pandemic masks and so on.

What happened with Falwell Jr is as  an American story as apple pie topped with a Cross. It might have some straight out of the pages of Elmer Gantry.

After touting strict school policies that forbid students from drinking alcohol, watching “R”-rated movies or engaging in pre-marital sex, Falwell was pictured aboard a NASCAR mogul’s yacht half dressed with a semi-clad, pregnant woman who was said to be his wife Becki’s assistant. Falwell was holding a wine glass with a liquid in it but Falwell said it wasn’t wine.

Shortly afterwards, he gave an interview to the right-leaning Washington Examiner stating that his wife had been involved with a multi-year sexual affair with Giancarlo Granda, a former Miami Beach pool boy whom Falwell funded to set up a hostel business.

As scandals go, this one got even racier when Reuters reported that Falwell allegedly watched from a corner as his wife and Granda made love. (How long would a Liberty student last if he or she did that?)

Curiously, Falwell became a leader of evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump, who has been married three times and has been known to brag about his infidelities, assault women and pay off a famous porn star not to tattle about their trysts.

I know that Liberty is a non-profit religious institution and may serve its students well but I have to note the hypocrisy on this blog about the supposed immoral, Marxist takeover of showplace state institutions such as the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Their biggest sins appear to be to show concerns about making sure they are making every effort to include minorities in their class bodies and faculty and make sure that teaching goes beyond simple instruction in “Western” civilization. Some critics claim that could lead to promoting White Supremacy which it has at times in the past by excluding contributions made by other races and other cultures.

One irony of Falwell Jr. is that, as a lawyer and real estate man and not a religious scholar, he had saved Liberty from serious financial woes brought on by his father, who founded the school.

According to an article today by Chris Lehmann, a left-leaning journalist and author “Jerry Falwell’s Filthy, Predatory Finances,” Falwell Jr. saved his father’s debt-ridden school by setting up non-profit shell companies and finding rich corporate executives to extend bonds.

It didn’t always work out. One such financier orchestrated a $32 million bond issue for expansion plans and to build a stadium. He ended up in trouble with Texas regulators and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. Ironically, the law firm associated with (hated) Bill and Hillary Clinton ended up holding the deed for Thomas Road Baptist Church, the Falwell family’s congregation as part of a settlement, Lehmann writes.

Falwell Jr. came up with some smart ways to improve. He vastly grew enrollment by making it easier for prospective students to access Pell Grants, Department of Veterans Affairs money and other federal student loans.

Falwell was a pioneer in on-line instruction and through sophisticated sales programs grew the number of on-line students to a stunning 95,000 – the second largest such body in the country. According to Lehmann and another author he cites, Liberty somehow manages to actually spend far less of its online revenues than other schools such as Notre Dame and the University of Phoenix, the nation’s No. 1 online school.

Lehmann points out, that when added up, lots of Liberty’s revenues come indirectly from taxpayers. The school makes big marketing plays to U.S. military personnel and their families.

Personally, I do not care what kinds of personal codes Liberty sets up for its students. That’s their business. I graduated from an all boys’ Catholic high school in the D.C. area. We had our own codes (although not as strict). The school avoided politics until recently, when alumni and conservative jurists Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanagh were nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court. There was quite a split among graduates.

My takeaway from the Falwell affair is be wary of hypocrisy. Father Falwell pulled this with his “Moral Majority” shenanigans. Son Jerry took that lesson on steroids.

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24 responses to “Elmer Gantry In Lynchburg

  1. I think it’s fine to see Falwell tumble hard, but what about the decades of silence about Juanita Broaddrick? And the media protection for Bill and Hillary (I call ’em trailer trash) Clinton?

    • Less hypocrisy, more expectation. Why hasn’t the Right gone nuts over Trump’s sexual behavior? Because he’s not hypocritical about it. People can forgive boorish behavior, even the false denials afterward can be tolerated.

      What is not tolerated is when someone explicitly projects an image that is simply untrue. That’s the violation of trust. That torques people’s jaws. The homosexual priest, and the dirty cop.

      Now, politicians? Clinton, Vitter. What’s the difference? Because we never believed them in the first place, and they had the dutiful spouse standing behind them while they wept it out. We never really trusted them about their personal lives anyway. Let’s hike the Appalachia Trail.

      Now, let a politician get caught in graft? Nine years for Phil Hamilton, and he was a lovable guy. If he had been cheating on Kim instead, he’d be Governor today.

      • Bill and Hillary have been protected to an extent beyond what has been extended to others (Warren Harding in the WH closet; FDR in — well, everywhere). Bill could have raped a 15-year-old on national TV and the MSM would ignore the event. Hell, look at the Post, They endorsed Northam twice, without even bothering to dig into the yearbook. The only difference between Fred Hiatt and Joseph Goebbels is that the latter is dead.

  2. Hence my theory of QAnon.

    There is a group of people, not necessarily right or left, who have seen their religious and social institutions under attack for decades. For examples, the Catholic church, Evangelicals (Falwell, Swagart), and the Boy Scouts, who while they certainly don’t explicitly condone the behavior, surely have been caught implictly doing so by actively suppressing the reports and the necessary restitution.

    QAnon is the fictious backlash. Really? Pedophilic baby-eating Satanists?

    • I don’t follow how we got from Liberty University and Jerry Falwell Jr. to QAnon.

      I am interested in QAnon, however, since I don’t really know much about it.

      • It’s the reaction of people who feel their trust has been violated and who don’t want to believe it. They’ll “kill the messenger”.

  3. I know many graduates from Liberty. The current students and alumni deserve better than Jerry Falwell Jr. I hope they get it with new leadership.

    Since the article seeks to compare problems at conservative institutions with progressive ones, I think it’s worthy to note where treads are leading. Are things trending in a positive direction, or are there signs of trouble?

    I think saying goodby to Jerry Falwell Jr. is a good sign for Liberty.

    I’m not sure things are trending in a positive direction everywhere. Remember the movie Back to the Future? The headline below looks Forward to the Past.

    “NYU Student Group Advocates For Racially Segregated Housing”

    https://thefederalist.com/2020/08/24/nyu-student-group-advocates-for-racially-segregated-housing/

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Falwell will be back. Just like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker.

  5. Somebody warned us about scribes, Pharisees, whitewashed sepulchers. Who was that? It will come in a second…..Some line about not judging others lest you be judged yourself….

    I remember a visit to the campus in the 80s, and as I was passing through the gate I listened to the security radio traffic. A search was underway. One male and one female undergraduate had been seen going into the woods, perhaps for some sexual activity. The cops were set upon preventing that horrible outcome. I had a good laugh about how the universe would eventually deal with such hubris. Even then, knowing the family, it wouldn’t have surprised me that the lesson would be delivered by Jerry Jr.

    Something else I expected in the 80s was that Jerry Sr. would eventually lose control of the institution, and its future would be in other hands. I am surprised this took so long, but here it is finally. Again, overall a positive development for the school. Will it creep more into the secular world, a la Notre Dame, or will it hold to doctrinal purity? My guess is the former. Made that prediction to Jerry Senior during an interview in 1986, I think. He assured me, no, it would remain in the fundamentalist camp.

  6. Rule number one — Never put your faith in another man’s faith.

  7. Chris. You caught me and I fixed it.

    Stephen D. Haner. This Doors song is dedicated to you

  8. Baconator with extra cheese

    So are other campuses requiring “anti viral pandemic masks”? I’m not sure any of us have an “anti viral” mask… but it’s cool to use shock and awe language to put someone who questions the status quo in their place.
    Now change it to “face coverings to mitigate the potential of spreading the virus” and it would be much better and fair.
    Can we refer to Falwell Jr as “Godman-bad” now?

  9. Ripper, Admiral USN

    • Right. I grew up with four other examples of sons
      Revolt against admiral fathers. Including two friends at UVA. It’s primal.

      • Don’t know any of them, but have known plenty of preacher’s kids. Similar. Kinda on point to this.

        • Fame can have a negative impact on one’s children too.

          That’s why I chose not to become a famous sports figure, entertainer or politician. Obscurity and lack of success was better for my children.
          Well, in truth, lack of ability had more than a little something to do with that too.

  10. “Never put your faith in another man’s faith…..” Whenever I see the guy trying to sell me pillows and sheets, with his large crucifix dangling so all the customers can see it, I am reminded of being warned about that. I was told that was almost always a red flag, something that should say “buyer beware.”

    The person who told me that was Falwell Senior…Knowing and writing about him for ten years was interesting…

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