Liberty disputes reports about Falwell severance payment

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Jerry Falwell Jr.

FILE – In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., pauses during an interview in his office at the school in Lynchburg, Va. On Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, Falwell said that he has submitted his resignation as head of evangelical Liberty University. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Liberty University said it paid its recently resigned president, Jerry Falwell Jr., the two years’ base salary owed under his employment contract Tuesday.

The Lynchburg, Virginia-based Christian university issued a brief statement about the compensation that did not provide an exact figure but said previous “media reports regarding the size and terms” of Falwell’s severance were incorrect. Falwell stepped down in August from his post at the school founded by his late evangelical father after a series of scandals.

“By his pre-existing contract, Mr. Falwell is entitled to two years’ base salary as severance,” the statement said. “Additional compensation that Mr. Falwell receives under his agreement following his resignation are only accrued retirement benefits. These accrued retirement payments reflect reasonable terms after 30 years of service to Liberty, with 13 as university president.”

Falwell, who declined comment in response to questions from The Associated Press last month about the terms of his employment contract and exit package, has previously discussed the matter with other news organizations that reported he would receive $10.5 million. He could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Falwell’s “reportable compensation” from Liberty was $1,099,356, according to a 2018 tax form the school provided AP. Other compensation was listed as $59,655.

Liberty’s statement also said there was no severance or retirement negotiated in exchange for Falwell’s resignation last month.

Falwell, an early supporter and close ally of President Donald Trump, resigned after Reuters published an interview with Giancarlo Granda, a much younger business partner of the Falwell family, who said that he had a yearslong sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, Becki Falwell, and Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur.

Although the Falwells have acknowledged a sexual relationship between Becki Falwell and Granda, Jerry Falwell has said he had no role in the affair.

Falwell had already been on leave since earlier in August after a swift backlash to a photo he posted on social media. The image showed him with his pants unzipped, stomach exposed and arm high around the waist of his wife’s pregnant assistant. He also held a glass of dark liquid that he described in a caption as “black water.” Falwell has said the photo was taken at a costume party during a family vacation.

The week after Falwell’s resignation, Liberty’s board announced it had retained an outside firm to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into Falwell’s tenure as president that would include financial, real estate and legal matters.

Liberty has so far declined to identify the firm it has retained, but spokesman Scott Lamb told AP Tuesday that the work had commenced.

“They have begun their investigative work and those who want to know should understand who they are in a week or so,” he wrote in an email.

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