Jerry Falwell Jr. takes indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University

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Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. participates in a town hall meeting on the opioid crisis as part of first lady Melania the first lady’s “Be Best” initiative at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino on March 5, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Jerry Falwell Jr. announced Friday he’s taking an indefinite leave of absence from his leadership positions at Liberty University, the school his father founded in 1971.

The institution said in a statement that its executive committee requested he take leave indefinitely from his roles as president and chancellor. The school said he agreed, “effective immediately.”

The move follows his latest controversy — a photo he posted to his Instagram from a vacation in which his shirt was up and he was holding a glass of dark liquid. The image showed him standing next to a woman and his pants appeared to be unzipped.

He deleted the post and apologized.

Speaking to WLNI talk radio in Lynchburg, Virginia, where the university is located, Falwell said the woman in the photo was pregnant and the jeans he was wearing didn’t fit, leading to an awkward image.

“I had on a pair of jeans I hadn’t worn in a long time, so I couldn’t get mine zipped either,” he said. “I just put my belly out like hers.”

He apologized, however, for embarrassing the woman in the photo by posting it. He identified her only as his wife’s assistant. “I apologized to everybody,” Falwell told the station.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, a former Liberty instructor, said on Twitter Thursday that Falwell’s “ongoing behavior” was “appalling.”

“I’m convinced Falwell should step down,” he said.

On Friday he applauded the university for making “the right call” in requesting Falwell take leave. “Liberty is such an important institution to our nation, our next generation of leaders & faith,” the congressman said on Twitter.

The university’s statement did not address the matter directly. Falwell also had to apologize in June for posting a photo on Twitter of someone in blackface.

In May, Reuters reported that Falwell once sought the help of Michael Cohen, former personal attorney of President Donald Trump, to destroy private photographs he did not want revealed to the world.

Liberty University is one of the world’s largest evangelical Christian institutions.

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