Jerry Falwell Jr. Made One Big 'Miscalculation'

He figured that as long as he kept Liberty U flush with cash, his own behavior wouldn't matter
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2020 11:00 AM CDT
Jerry Falwell Jr. Made One Big 'Miscalculation'
Then-Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. in a 2019 photo.   (Emily Elconin/The News and Advance via AP, File)

When Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned as leader of Liberty University amid a sex scandal, critics were quick to call him a hypocrite. But that's not quite right, writes CNN religion editor Daniel Burke. Falwell never claimed the religious authority of his famous father. "He never pretended to be holier than thou," writes Burke. His big mistake was a different one: "Like many successful capitalists, he believed that money made him invulnerable." He did, after all, transform Liberty into a financially successful school, overseeing $1 billion in new construction and bumping the football and basketball programs into Division I. And Falwell figured that as long as he kept Liberty flush with money, his own personal behavior wouldn't be much of an issue.

"Saying that he was just a real estate lawyer and not a moral leader was not a luxury he had," one former Liberty University official tells Burke. "That was a fatal miscalculation." The story traces Falwell's history, asserting that he has more in common with his entrepreneurial, bootlegging grandfather than his Old-Time Gospel Hour father. It also quotes people in Falwell's orbit who say he changed after the election of President Trump. Falwell had been one of the first major evangelical figures to endorse Trump, and the 2016 victory raised Falwell's national profile. That, too, helped lead to his undoing. In the end, Liberty's money couldn't save him, writes Burke. "His fatal sin wasn't hypocrisy, it was hubris." Read the full story. (More Jerry Falwell Jr. stories.)

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