Richmond Times-Dispatch

Falwell drops defamation lawsuit against Liberty

Says he’s keeping options open on settling question

- BY RICHARD CHUMNEY

Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has dropped a lawsuit alleging the evangelica­l Christian institutio­n he led for 13 years defamed him after he resigned in scandal this summer.

Lawyers for Falwell notified Lynchburg Circuit Court on Wednesday that their client will not pursue his claim that the school damaged his reputation by repeating what he labeled as lies about his participat­ion in an extramarit­al affair involving his wife and a former business partner.

Judge James Watson granted the motion, terminatin­g the suit without prejudice. Watson’s ruling leaves open the possibilit­y of Falwell refiling a similar suit at a later date. Under

Virginia law, a plaintiff is allowed one nonsuit.

“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,” Falwell said in a brief

statement Thursday.

A Liberty spokespers­on did not immediatel­y respond to requests for comment.

Falwell stepped down as president and chancellor of Liberty in August following a string of personal scandals, including

a stunning allegation he and his wife, Becki Falwell, had a yearslong affair with Giancarlo Granda, a now-estranged business partner.

In the 29-page complaint filed in late October, Falwell claimed Liberty’s board pressured him into resigning before properly investigat­ing Granda’s accusation.

“By forcing Mr. Falwell’s resignatio­n from Liberty immediatel­y following Granda’s false and defamatory statements, Liberty sent the unmistakab­le message to the public that Granda’s false statements were, in fact, true,” the suit alleged.

Granda claimed Falwell participat­ed in some of the liaisons as a voyeur — an allegation Falwell repeatedly has denied. Falwell has accused Granda of attempting to extort him, which Granda has denied.

The lawsuit had sought unspecifie­d damages and a court order barring Liberty from repeating defamatory remarks about Falwell.

The suit claimed Liberty violated its employment agreement with Falwell because the contract included a non-disparagem­ent clause. Falwell’s attorneys have claimed the provision bars university officials from making “defamatory or slanderous remarks” about Falwell and publicly discussing the reasons behind his resignatio­n.

Neither Falwell nor the university have made the full employment agreement public. But excerpts of the agreement detailing the nondispara­gement clause were unsealed last month.

The suit alleged Liberty’s actions “drasticall­y reduced” Falwell’s ability to be publicly involved in businesses and charity organizati­ons. It also claimed Falwell has not been invited to appear on television or to other events as a result of the allegedly defamatory statements.

“In addition, the Defamatory Statements have caused Mr. Falwell immense anguish as he now is deeply concerned that third parties will hold horribly false impression­s of him,” the suit stated.

 ?? 2019, THE NEWS & ADVANCE ?? Jerry Falwell Jr. stepped down as president and chancellor of Liberty University in August following a string of personal scandals.
2019, THE NEWS & ADVANCE Jerry Falwell Jr. stepped down as president and chancellor of Liberty University in August following a string of personal scandals.

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