Oct. 29 (UPI) — Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. sued the school on Thursday, accusing its board of trustees of defaming him after he was forced to resign amid a sex scandal two months ago.
In the lawsuit, filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia Circuit Court in Lynchburg, Falwell says Liberty trustees “needlessly injured and damaged his reputation” through public statements after he resigned on Aug. 24 after 13 years as head of the evangelical Christian university.
Falwell pointed to comments from school officials that he said affirmed “false claims” made by Giancarlo Granda, a former Florida hotel pool attendant who said he had a years-long sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife Becki. Granda said Falwell knew of and consented to the relationship.
When he stepped down as president, Falwell said there had been an extortion attempt by a man who had an “inappropriate personal relationship” with his wife — a reference to Granda.
The school subsequently began investigating “all facets of Liberty University operations during Jerry Falwell Jr.’s tenure as president,” including financial, real estate and legal matters.
In Thursday’s suit, Falwell says Granda extorted him after a “brief affair” with his wife and blamed the scandal on The Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans opposed to President Donald Trump, who’s been a close ally of the Falwell family.
The lawsuit says Liberty school officials sullied his reputation by publicly denouncing his behavior as “shameful” and sinful.
“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.
Fallwell’s attorney Robert Raskopf said they went ahead with the suit after several failed efforts to meet with the Liberty board’s executive committee.
The school told NBC News on Thursday it needed to review the suit before responding.
“As of this moment we have not been served,” Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb said.
Liberty University was founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell Sr. and Elmer Towns. The elder Falwell died in 2007 at the age of 73.