6 things Jerry Falwell Jr. got away with before his unzipped pants took him down


Falwell's employer Liberty University did not have a problem with these other actions.

Liberty University announced Friday that Jerry Falwell Jr. would take an "indefinite leave of absence" from his positions as chancellor and president, a day after he apologized for sharing a photo on social media showing him with his pants unzipped. The school's board of trustees requested he indefinitely step aside over this scandal — a departure from its reactions to his previous questionable behavior.

The latest scandal came on August 2, when Falwell posted a photo on social media of himself holding a drink and his wife's assistant. Both people in the picture had their pants unzipped and belly's partially exposed. "More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht," he wrote in the caption. "I promise that's just black water in my glass. It was a prop only."

Last Thursday, he told a local radio station that the woman in the picture was "pregnant, so she couldn't get her pants up," adding, "I had on pair of jeans that I hadn't worn in a long time so I couldn't get mine zipped either. And so I just put my belly out like hers." He vowed to "try to be a good boy from here on out."

But has not always been a "good boy" before.

Falwell inherited his position in 2007 as part of a succession plan created by his father and the university's founder, the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Since that time he has repeatedly embarrassed the university:

April 2009: Falwell unilaterally offered a full scholarship to a beauty pageant contestant who spoke out against LGBTQ rights. After then-Miss California USA Carrie Prejean spoke out against same-sex marriage during the Miss USA Pageant, Falwell hosted her at the university's convocation. He then offered to provide a free ride to the then-San Diego Christian College junior if she transferred to Liberty, saying at the convocation, "I get so tired of Christians getting berated over their beliefs," and calling Prejean a "hero for what she did."

Weeks later, Prejean was stripped of her title by Donald Trump and his Miss USA organization for failure to fulfill contractual obligations.

August 2013: Falwell announced that if the federal government attempted to require recipients of its aid to comply with LGBTQ nondiscrimination rules, he would simply forgo the money.

"We have so far had no interference in our curriculum from the federal government," he told World Magazine. "We're now in a financial position that would allow us to simply exit the program. ... If it became necessary, that's what we would do."

December 2015: Falwell told students at a mandatory convocation after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that they should become concealed weapon permit holders — so they can shoot Muslim people if necessary. "I've always thought, if more good people had concealed carry permits then we could end those Muslims before they walked in killing," he said. "Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here."

Days later he told a local television station, "If these terrorists had slapped me on the cheek, I would have turned the other cheek, but that's not what they did. Jesus in Luke 22:36 said to his disciples if you have to sell your coat to buy a sword, do it, because he knew trouble was coming."

September 2019: Falwell was accused in media reports of corruption and lying about his private life. A Politico Magazine report depicted Liberty as a "dictatorship" where tuition dollars went to real estate projects that benefited Falwell's family and friends.

It also noted that Falwell falsely denied the existence of photos of him at a Miami nightclub — Liberty University punishes students caught dancing with members of the opposite gender — and that he had asked Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen to help him deal with other "personal" photos.

Three days later, Reuters published Falwell emails smearing his own students and employees as "emotionally imbalanced and physically retarded," among other things.

March 2020: As Virginia and much of the nation shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Falwell made national news for his decision to partially reopen Liberty University — against the wishes of state and local government officials.

"We think it's irresponsible for so many universities to just say 'closed, you can’t come back,' push the problem off on other communities and sit there in their ivory towers," he told a right-wing radio program.

Within days of the reopening, the first Liberty student tested positive for the coronavirus. After news outlets published stories critical of his decision to reopen, Falwell had his campus police issue "arrest warrants" against the reporters.

June 2020: Falwell upset Black alumni, students, and faculty with a racist tweet. Dozens of Black alumni spoke out, multiple Black staff members resigned, and numerous Black student-athletes announced plans to transfer amid concerns about the racial climate on campus.

Some of this was fueled by a May 27 Falwell tweet of a face mask, depicting Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's racially offensive medical school yearbook page. After he apologized for the tweet, the university's trustees stood by Falwell, announcing, "We also know him and know him not to be a racist. Nor do we believe that he has been running Liberty University in a way that discriminates against African Americans."

Liberty University did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.