Last summer, he tweeted that David Platt, a respected Southern Baptist megachurch pastor, needed to “grow a pair.” He mocked Russell Moore, the influential head of the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, as a “bureaucrat.” And he called a parent of a Liberty student a “dummy” for questioning his response to the coronavirus crisis in March.
Mr. Falwell’s explanation for his brash behavior was that he was a businessman trained as a lawyer, not a pastor or spiritual leader. “I have never been a minister,” he tweeted in 2019. “While I am proud to be a conservative Christian, my job is to keep LU successful academically, financially and in athletics.” Liberty’s faculty handbook describes the president’s job as providing “spiritual and worldview leadership” to the school.
In the statement he gave The Washington Examiner on Sunday, Mr. Falwell described a family relationship with the pool attendant that began innocently when he and his wife met Mr. Granda on vacation in 2012, but soured quickly. Mr. Granda was employed by the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. The Falwells were “impressed by his initiative” in pitching them a real estate opportunity, Mr. Falwell wrote. The family soon began socializing with Mr. Granda in Virginia.
Mr. Falwell’s statement depicts the affair between his wife and Mr. Granda as developing in the wake of the business partnership. Though it was painful for him to learn about the affair, he wrote, he has since forgiven Ms. Falwell and said their “love has never been stronger.” Jerry and Becki Falwell have been married since 1987.
The couple’s relationship with Mr. Granda deteriorated over the years. Mr. Falwell’s statement alleges that Mr. Granda became increasingly aggressive, threatening to publicly reveal the affair and fabricate claims about the family. “It was like living on a roller coaster,” Mr. Falwell wrote.
In his interview with Reuters, Mr. Granda denied trying to extort the couple, saying he was instead seeking a buyout from their business arrangement.
“The Falwells are attempting to get ahead of the story by creating a false narrative,” Mr. Granda said in a statement to The New York Times shortly before Reuters published his full account. “The truth is coming soon.”