A tweet that made the rounds over the weekend alleged something rather scandalous about Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the late evangelist who is currently president of Liberty University and a vocal supporter of President Trump.
“Famous evangelical Christian leader Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife together had a tryst with a 21-year-old pool boy in Florida,” says the tweet from a user named Krishan Patel. “Michael Cohen then used this information to blackmail Jerry Falwell Jr. into endorsing Donald Trump’s campaign for President.” At the end was a link to a Buzzfeed article. The tweet has been retweeted about 3,000 times and liked 5,000 times as of Monday morning, with larger accounts spreading the story.
However, the Buzzfeed story linked doesn’t say anything about a “tryst,” or really anything sexual at all. There’s nothing in there about blackmail, either. Furthermore, the story was published in May, nearly seven months ago.
The Buzzfeed story, by Aram Roston, says that Falwell and his wife, while staying at a hotel in Miami Beach in 2012, met and established a “friendly relationship” with a then-21-year-old pool attendant named Giancarlo Granda. The Falwells then began flying Granda around on a private jet and invested in Granda’s business venture, a low-cost youth hostel. The news peg for the story is a lawsuit against both the Falwells and Granda from former business partners Jesus Fernandez Sr. and Jesus Fernandez Jr. alleging that they were cut out of the arrangement.
As for Cohen, the Buzzfeed story reports that he had “arranged” Falwell’s endorsement of Trump in the 2016 election.
Unusual as it is for the president of a major evangelical university to back a 21-year-old pool boy in a business venture, there’s nothing in Buzzfeed’s reporting indicating either that Falwell and his wife had a “tryst” with Granda, or that Cohen’s arrangement of the Falwell endorsement had anything to do with Granda or the lawsuit. Cohen, of course, has been cooperating with authorities, so if he had engaged in such a blackmail scheme on the president’s behalf, it may very well have come to light by now.
The 56-year-old Falwell, the son of the Moral Majority and Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell, drew controversy beginning in 2016 as one of the evangelical leaders who provided early backing to Trump, a man whose reputation for womanizing and scandal made him an unlikely candidate for the Christian right. Falwell has maintained his Trump support even following the various revelations about the president’s hush money payments – also arranged by Michael Cohen- to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.