LYNCHBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Jerry Falwell Jr., the former president of Liberty University, filed a defamation suit against the school Wednesday alleging it breached his contract and sought to damage his reputation with public statements after his resignation.
Falwell, whose father founded the evangelical university, resigned as Liberty University’s president in August after his wife’s extramarital affair and a provocative photo of Falwell was made public.
The suit claims that Falwell was pushed out after a politically motivated scheme from those who oppose Falwell’s support of President Donald Trump, including the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump political action committee founded by Republicans, and Aaron Resnick, the attorney representing Giancarlo Granda, a former pool attendant who alleged Falwell Jr. was aware of his affair with his wife, Becki Falwell, aimed to discredit his standing at the university.
“When Mr. Falwell and his family became the targets of a malicious smear campaign incited by anti- evangelical forces, Liberty University not only accepted the salacious and baseless accusations against the Falwells at face value, but directly participated in the defamation,” the court filing states.
The defamation suit alleges that Liberty’s statements following Falwell’s resignation violated the employment agreement he had signed, which had a non-disparagement clause, and “gave Granda’s lies an air of truth” by forcing Falwell’s resignation.
“On August 26,2020, in its high-profile and publicly-broadcasted Community Service event, before thousands of gathered students and faculty — and the world — Liberty lent credence to Granda’s lies,” the lawsuit says, “stating that Mr. Falwell had engaged in ‘disobedient’ behavior ‘in secret’ that was ‘shameful’ and a ‘sin.’ Liberty then repeated similar statements in a press release and its official magazine.”
A Liberty University spokesperson told 8News that the school’s board of trustees are currently in session for their fall meetings and that Liberty “would need to read and review a lawsuit before making comment, and as of this moment we have not been served.”
“We attempted to meet several times with the Liberty University Board of Trustees Executive Committee but were unsuccessful in doing so. Thus, we were forced to seek remedy for Mr. Falwell’s ongoing injuries and damage to his reputation through the Court,” Robert Raskopf of Quinn Emanuel, the lead counsel representing Falwell, said in a statement Thursday.
Falwell seeks an undisclosed amount of damages from the school and a trial by jury.
“Other than God and my family, there is nothing in the world I love more than Liberty University. I am saddened that University officials, with whom I have shared so much success and enjoyed such positive relationships, jumped to conclusions about the claims made against my character, failed to properly investigate them, and then damaged my reputation following my forced resignation,” Falwell said in a statement. “While I have nothing but love and appreciation for the Liberty community, and I had hoped to avoid litigation, I must take the necessary steps to restore my reputation and hopefully help repair the damage to the Liberty University brand in the process.”
This story is developing. Check back for updates.