Falwell Jr. asks FBI to investigate ‘criminal conspiracy’ at Liberty University
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, says he has asked the FBI to investigate a “criminal conspiracy” at the evangelical school, saying that former employees and board members have leaked documents and emails in an attempt to oust him.
His comments come after Politico magazine published a detailed report about Falwell, accusing him of presiding over a culture of “self-dealing” at the university, including real estate transactions that would seem to benefit his family and associates. Much of the article was based on anonymous sources and leaked internal emails.
The FBI declined to comment when asked about Falwell’s concerns.
Falwell, son of the university’s founder, also says he is considering filing a civil suit against “6 to 8” unnamed former employees and board members, accusing them of breaking confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements they had signed with Liberty.
“The emails are stolen property,” Falwell told CNN on Tuesday, “and the fact that all these people in different states are joining together and sharing stolen emails with the press makes it a criminal conspiracy.”
Falwell said he believes his ardent support of President Donald Trump may be a motivation behind the “conspiracy” to remove him as president.
“There is no self-dealing at Liberty University,” Falwell said. “I have never written a single check, have not gotten a single penny from any Liberty transaction except for my salary, which is approved by the board every year.”
The Lynchburg, Virginia, university was founded in 1971 by Falwell’s father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a conservative Christian stalwart and founder of the Moral Majority movement. Jerry Falwell Sr. died in 2007.
Falwell on Tuesday denounced the Politico article, saying it was “cowardly for the people who fed the information and the lies to this reporter not to allow their names to be used.”
The article was reported and written by Brandon Ambrosino, who describes himself as a graduate of Liberty University.
Politico said it stands behind its story.
“There has been no attempt by Mr. Falwell or anyone acting on his behalf to correct any aspect of the story,” said Brad Dayspring, Politico’s director of communications, in a statement.
“We stand behind all of the reporting in the piece and would encourage people to read it in POLITICO Magazine for themselves.”
A spokesman for Liberty University referred CNN’s questions to Falwell.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that attorney Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, hired John Gauger, Liberty’s chief information officer, to rig online polls in Trump’s favor. The work was done by Gauger’s side business, Red Finch LLC, the newspaper reported.
Falwell, one of the first evangelical leaders to endorse Trump when he ran for president, said he knew a Liberty University employee was working for Cohen but not what the employee was doing.
“I did know before President Trump became a candidate that Cohen had hired Red Finch to help him in a ‘most admired businessman’ poll,” Falwell said, “but don’t know what he did to help him.”
Employees in Liberty’s tech department are in high demand, Falwell said, and so all are allowed to supplement their university work with side projects.
Phone calls and emails to Gauger and Red Finch requesting comment were not immediately returned.
In a statement earlier this year, Liberty supported Gauger, calling him “one example among many outstanding LU employees who have made great contributions in their official roles and also enjoyed success as independent entrepreneurs.”
Since Trump began his presidential campaign Falwell has emerged as one of his most loyal evangelical supporters, which has irked some Liberty students and former employees who believe Trump doesn’t share their values.
Falwell also denied allegations in the Politico report that he shared salacious details about his sex life with Liberty employees. “I’m just going to say it’s not true,” he said.
The evangelical leader also denied Politico’s allegation that he and his family have pushed his younger brother, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell, aside at Liberty University. Jonathan Falwell runs Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, which his father founded in 1956.
Jerry Falwell Jr. said Liberty University bought the church and its K-12 school in 2017 for $22 million. The transaction price was reported as $1 on public documents for real estate purposes, Falwell said.
“We wanted to help my brother out, and the board saw it as a good investment for the university,” Falwell said.
Jonathan Falwell has not commented on the Politico report.