Alex Wong/Getty Jerry Falwell Jr.
Attorneys for Falwell, 58, allege that Liberty, from which he resigned as president and chancellor in August, “set out to destroy” his reputation by sharing statements “that affirm the outrageous lies of an unstable individual” who allegedly attempted to blackmail him, according to the suit, which was filed on Wednesday and has been obtained by PEOPLE.
The individual in question is Giancarlo Granda, a former Miami pool attendant who told Reuters that he had an affair with Falwell’s wife Becki while Falwell “enjoyed watching from the corner of the room.”
Both Jerry and Becki have confirmed her affair with Granda took place, though both have denied Jerry’s involvement, and have accused Granda of trying to blackmail them, which he has denied in the past and denies once again in a statement to PEOPLE.
"Other than God and my family, there is nothing in the world I love more than Liberty University," Falwell said in a statement, according to Politico. “While I have nothing but love and appreciation for the Liberty community, and I had hoped to avoid litigation, I must take the necessary steps to restore my reputation and hopefully help repair the damage to the Liberty University brand in the process.”
The suit accuses Granda of orchestrating a politically motivated, “malicious smear campaign” against Falwell, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, and accuses Liberty of failing to stand by him as he was targeted in the press.
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In response to Falwell, Giancarlo Granda said: "The WHOLE truth will come out"
“Liberty University not only accepted the salacious and baseless accusations against the Falwells at face value, but directly participated in the defamation,” the suit says.
Falwell alleges that by forcing his resignation, allegedly without so much as investigating the reports, Liberty “sent the unmistakable message to the public” that Granda’s claims were true.
“Up until that point, Granda’s lies were just that – lies, vigorously denied by Mr. Falwell,” the suit says. “But Liberty gave those lies an air of truth and righteousness.”
Alex Wong/Getty; Shannon Finney/Getty; Facebook From left: Jerry Falwell Jr., Becki Falwell and Giancarlo Granda
In his statement to PEOPLE, Granda says he has not received any financial compensation for coming forward with his claims, and is telling the truth about a long-term affair with Becki, Falwell's "knowledge and participation in the affair, [his] hypocrisy; and the Falwells' abuse of power."
"Jerry is attempting to portray himself as a victim. No one should be fooled," the statement says. "The real victims are the Liberty University students, faculty and staff who have been intimidated into silence under his tenure."
Meanwhile, the suit adds that even after Falwell left the school, Liberty continued to try and tarnish his legacy, namely through a speech given to the school community that referred to Falwell’s alleged behavior as “sinful” and an “embarrassment,” as well as a press release condemning Falwell.
He also claims to have been “systematically erase[d]” from the school’s history, as he was scrubbed from the website, portraits of him were removed from campus and faculty and staff members were barred from talking to him.
Jerry Falwell Sr. founded Liberty in 1971, and his son stepped in following Falwell Sr.’s death in 2007. Falwell claims in the suit to have saved the school from financial collapse.
Prior to his resignation in late August, Falwell was already on an indefinite leave of absence following a since-deleted Instagram photo that showed him posing with his wife’s assistant with his pants unzipped and a dark drink in his hand that he claimed was “black water.”
Attorneys for Falwell and Becki Falwell did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
A spokesperson for Liberty University declined comment when reached by PEOPLE, saying the university had not yet been served the lawsuit.
Granda’s entire statement in response to the lawsuit is as follows:
There is no connection to the Lincoln Project. I have received no financial compensation – none – for coming forward and telling the truth about the long-term affair with Becki, Jerry’s knowledge and participation in the affair; Jerry’s hypocrisy; and the Falwells’ abuse of power.
Jerry is attempting to portray himself as a victim. No one should be fooled. The real victims are the Liberty University students, faculty and staff who have been intimidated into silence under his tenure.
Here are the undeniable facts. Jerry sent me a picture of a former Liberty University student exposing herself at his private property. Jerry was a participant in my eight-year affair with Becki and did in fact enjoy watching from the corner of the room. Jerry left his wife out to dry by publicly blaming her for her actions, while denying his own.
It has been reported that I was not the only person to have a relationship with Becki. In my opinion, the reported relationship with their son’s Liberty University band mate warrants investigation. So does the Falwells’ business relationship with Ben Crosswhite.
I stand by all my statements.