AMIDST damning allegations that Liberty University in Virginia is run by its evangelical President, Jerry Falwell Jr, above, along tyrannical lines and that it’s no longer a school but ‘a real estate hedge fund’, Trump-lovin’ Falwell announced yesterday (Tuesday) that he is asking the FBI to investigate what he called ‘an attempted coup’ against him.
Trouble erupted the previous day when Politico carried an expose that alleged, among other things, that Falwell and his wife, Becki consolidated power at Liberty and that he presides over:
A culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends.
Quotes from staff members in Brandon Ambrosino’s piece about a raft of dodgy dealings by Falwell and his cronies, include:
• We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.
• It’s a dictatorship. Nobody craps at the university without Jerry’s approval.
• Everybody is scared for their life. Everybody walks around in fear.
• Fear is probably his most powerful weapon.
• Someone’s gotta tell the freakin’ truth.
Alleging a “criminal” smear campaign orchestrated against him by several disgruntled former board members and employees, Falwell said he has evidence that the group improperly shared emails belonging to the university with reporters in an attempt to smear him.
He said the “attempted coup” was partially motivated by his ardent backing of Trump. Calling Ambrosino “a little boy”, he said:
I’m not going to dignify the lies that were reported yesterday with a response, but I am going to the authorities and I am going to civil court.
He added that Liberty – the world’s biggest Christian University – has hired “the meanest lawyer in New York,” whom he declined to identify, to pursue civil cases. Falwell also declined to identify the people he said were spreading the emails.
Falwell is the son of the late Baptist evangelist, Liberty founder and Moral Majority leader the Rev Jerry Falwell, above. When he went to meet Jesus in 2007 at the age of 73, many suggested he died of gluttony, that Baptists were prone to obesity, and that the Southern Baptist Convention stood for “stomach bigger than chest.”
Falwell Jr has come under increased scrutiny recently over his personal life and business investments, including his involvement in a Miami hostel.
Falwell said he contacted the FBI last week after he learned that reporters were reaching out to Liberty employees about the emails he insists were stolen.
Liberty owns every single one of those emails. It’s our property. They were working for us when they used our server. And our policies make it clear every email sent on our server is owned by Liberty and if anybody shares it with anybody outside Liberty, it is theft. And so that’s the underlying crime.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
Cybercrime expert Nick Akerman, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney and former federal prosecutor, rubbished Falwell’s assertion of a criminal conspiracy, calling it “totally insane.”
He said the ex-board members and employees can share emails with reporters as long as they had authorised access to them and didn’t hack into someone else’s account. He said trade secrets are also protected under the law, but Liberty wouldn’t be able to make a case there either.
I don’t think any law enforcement agency is going to be interested in this one.
Liberty, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, was founded in 1971 by Falwell’s father with just 154 students. It now boasts an enrollment of more than 100,000, including those in its massive online education programme. It has become an influential hub of conservative politics, frequented by candidates courting evangelical voters.
Falwell was an early and ardent Trump supporter, which created a rift on campus during the presidential campaign and has sparked controversy since.