Falwell drops defamation case against Liberty University

Falwell drops defamation case against Liberty University
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Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has dropped his defamation lawsuit against the school that alleged damages to his reputation. 

The decision comes after the former president was pressured to resign following a series of scandals. 

The News & Advance first reported the news Thursday, writing that lawyers for Falwell first notified Lynchburg Circuit Court on Wednesday that their client did not wish to move forward with the legal action, with Judge James Watson granting the motion to dismiss the suit. 

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According to The Associated Press, there was no indication given of why Falwell decided to withdraw his lawsuit filed in late October, which claimed that Liberty officials too quickly accepted allegations from former family friend and business partner Giancarlo Granda that Granda had an affair with Falwell’s wife between 2012 and 2018, and that Falwell had knowledge of the sexual affair and allegedly watched his wife have sex with Granda. 

The lawsuit said the university “set out to destroy Mr. Falwell’s reputation through numerous defamatory statements that affirm the outrageous lies of an unstable individual who attempted to extort the Falwells.”

Falwell, who left the position he had held for 13 years in August, said in a statement to The News & Advance Thursday, “I’ve decided to take a time out from my litigation against Liberty University, but I will continue to keep all options on the table for an appropriate resolution to the matter.” 

Liberty spokesperson Scott Lamb said in a statement to the newspaper that Falwell’s  “unilateral and voluntary dismissal was not prompted by any payments, promises, or other consideration” from the school.

“The University’s administration and Board of Trustees are pleased that Falwell has dropped his lawsuit and look forward to pressing onward with the work of Liberty’s President and Chancellor Search Committee to find the new leadership to succeed Falwell,” Lamb added. 

Although the Falwells have admitted that Granda and Becki Falwell had an affair, Jerry Falwell Jr. has denied any participation. 

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The couple has argued that Granda threatened to reveal the relationship unless he was paid substantial amounts of money by the Falwells.

At the time of the October lawsuit, Robert Raskopf, Falwell’s lawyer, said in a press release that Falwell’s legal team attempted to meet with the Liberty University board of trustees executive committee to discuss the defamation allegations “but were unsuccessful in doing so.”

“Thus, we were forced to seek remedy for Mr. Falwell's ongoing injuries and damage to his reputation through the Court," Raskopf said.

Falwell released his own statement at the time saying he was “saddened” that Liberty officials “jumped to conclusions about the claims made against my character, failed to properly investigate them, and then damaged my reputation following my forced resignation.”

In August, Falwell agreed to resign as president of the evangelical school founded by his father, though he withdrew his resignation hours later. After a day of confusion, Liberty University accepted his resignation. 

The university announced at the end of August that it was launching an independent investigation into Falwell’s tenure.