Jerry Falwell Jr has defended himself after Liberty University announced that it was opening up an investigation into the former president's financial dealings while he was in the top job. Falwell resigned from his position last month amid a series of controversies that culminated in a sex scandal involved his wife and the couple's former business associate.
Shortly after Falwell left his post, Liberty hired an independent firm to conduct an in-depth investigation into Falwell's conduct, including his many financial dealings. Since taking on the senior position in 2007, Falwell, a lawyer, was credited with much of Liberty's vast growth in status and wealth, a large proportion of which has been achieved through real estate investment.
However, Falwell has also faced accusations of financial mismanagement and alleged conflicts of interest, including involving family members in business operations and acting in various different capacities during a number of real estate projects, many of which were worth millions of dollars.
According to Reuters, in 2012 Falwell instructed the university to spend more than $2 million on constructing a tunnel that links Liberty's campus to a shopping plaza nearby. As it turns out, Falwell himself was part-owner of the shopping plaza in question.
Falwell has insisted that these deals benefited Liberty University and that there was therefore no conflict of interest.
In response to the investigation, he openly goaded the media, saying: “I welcome it because it will prove that all you guys are liars. You got nothing.”
Falwell also addressed the fact that several of his family members have been retained on the payroll at the university. Records show that his son, Wesley, was granted $54,744 in compensation in 2017, while Laura Falwell, Wesley’s wife, earned $57,751 that year. In addition, Falwell's other son, Trey, formed a company which was instructed to oversee the management of university properties - the company received $58,000 in compensation from Liberty in 2017, while Trey's wife, Sarah, earned $63,315. Trey also made $189,000 from his position as a vice president at Liberty.
In a statement released through Falwell's layer, Jerry Jr said that there is nothing untoward about his family members being in employed roles at the university and being compensated fairly for their work. “Trey, Wesley, and their spouses get paid fair value for their work and have performed that work very well," he explained.
Referring to the question marks surrounding his family's positions at Liberty, Falwell told Reuters: "Trust me, you do not want to mess with me, OK?”
A Liberty spokesperson said that the Falwell family's dealings with the university are “within the scope of the forensic investigation", though they note that “no determination has been made” as to whether they will scrutinise the personal conduct of Jerry or his wife. The spokesperson added that the university will be sure to investigate "any allegations that fall within its Title IX policies prohibiting sexual discrimination and sexual harassment and its Human Resource policies addressing sexual misconduct".