Liberty University is opening an independent investigation into Jerry Falwell Jr.’s tenure as president a week after his resignation due to allegations of his involvement in a sex scandal.
The evangelical school’s board announced Monday it is conducting a wide-ranging inquiry that will include financial, real estate and legal matters.
In a statement, the board said it had retained an outside firm to investigate “all facets” of the school’s operations under Falwell Jr., and that it was “committed to learning the consequences that have flowed from a lack of spiritual stewardship by our former president.”
Calls for such an investigation had been mounting since Falwell Jr.’s departure last week from the post he had held since 2007.
Falwell Jr. officially resigned last Tuesday, after a news outlet published an interview with Giancarlo Granda, a younger business partner of the Falwell family, who disclosed that he had a yearslong sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, Becki Falwell.
Granda said that Falwell Jr. participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur.
Although the Falwells have acknowledged that Granda and Becki Falwell had an affair, Falwell Jr. has denied any participation. The couple allege that Granda sought to extort them by threatening to reveal the relationship unless he was paid substantial monies.
The couple said in a statement provided to The Associated Press late Sunday that they support Liberty’s board and “welcome any inquiry as we have nothing to hide.”
Granda has denied trying to extort the Falwells. He told the AP that he currently has no plans to pursue legal action against them, but does want to see an independent investigation of the school.
Based on what he saw of the school’s management under Falwell Jr., Granda described it as being run “like a monarchy.”
Falwell Jr. took over as president of Liberty University after the death of his famous evangelist father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.
He oversaw a period of expansive growth and transformation: Liberty’s online program exploded, as did its endowment, the campus underwent a massive transformation and the athletics programs improved.
Falwell Jr. also stayed in the news for a series of divisive remarks as well as his vocal support of U.S. President Donald Trump and was the subject of news stories that focused on his business dealings.
Liberty’s statement acknowledged that Falwell Jr.’s sharpest critics have long been calling for a departure.
“Some may say that all the signs were there for a long time before last week,” the statement said.
“It’s certainly fair to say that there were questionable comments made, worrying behaviour, and inappropriate social media posts, but all the signs were not there until the start of last week.”
The statement also said the school is considering a separate move to reorient it toward its “spiritual mission” by establishing a post in the university leadership dedicated to spiritual guidance for other leaders, ensuring they “live out the Christian walk expected of each and every one of us at Liberty.”