“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund”
September 9, 2019 10:00 PM   Subscribe

‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence | More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world.
posted by Chrysostom (53 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Who knew?!!!?
posted by Windopaene at 10:12 PM on September 9 [32 favorites]


Grrr
posted by spitbull at 10:12 PM on September 9


Our collective surprised face.
posted by riverlife at 10:43 PM on September 9 [16 favorites]


My dad lives near Lynchburg, and he's mentioned Liberty University buying up the whole place.
posted by tavella at 10:51 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Not enough hot young boys, from the hints I've been picking up in the news lately, but otherwise excellent reporting.
posted by msalt at 10:52 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]




I’d enjoy this a lot more if I thought, for even one second, this might end with the fucker facing even a single consequence that he can’t immediately just brush off.

And seriously, your nickname is Trey because your something something the 3rd? The Venn diagram of people with that nickname and utter assholes is a circle so perfect, angels weep and it’s beauty.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:30 AM on September 10 [37 favorites]


Isn't the real estate part of this like...every private university though? NYU, UPenn, U Chicago, Columbia etc.
posted by windbox at 12:48 AM on September 10 [8 favorites]


Colour me unsurprised.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:11 AM on September 10


I thought he was dead. I spent a lot of my casual reviling time reviling him back in the 1980s. But I guess this is Jerry Junior.
posted by pracowity at 1:51 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


The old joke about many American universities is that they are large real estate corporations that educate people on the side.
posted by spitbull at 2:59 AM on September 10 [11 favorites]


The Full Frontal story is hilarious, I really think they're second only to Last Week Tonight in the comedy laughing-while-crying news department (Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj is third place, which isn't to say they're bad at all). Also good: Some More News on YouTube, which I think gets the tone of disbelieving outrage just right.
posted by JHarris at 3:29 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


The old joke about many American universities is that they are large real estate corporations that educate people on the side.

A lot of them also run pretty profitable sports businesses.
posted by pracowity at 3:35 AM on September 10 [14 favorites]


Isn't the real estate part of this like...every private university though? NYU, UPenn, U Chicago, Columbia etc.


It wasn't always like that, but then the land around most urban universities shot up in value during the urban renaissance in the US, and now every single real estate transaction can make or break a university. It's brought in a lot of corruption and administrative homogenization into academia, but what can you do? MIT was once surrounded by cheap light industrial lots it could expand into and retreat from at leisure. Now that is just no longer the case.
posted by ocschwar at 4:16 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


Google Columbia’s Manhattanville project for a rollicking great story of the nexus of political corruption, real estate gone wild, confused educational ambitions, huge ambitions for public subsidy (dashed) and corporate money (working on it). And also selective investment in academic programs meant as window dressing for the massive gentrification of Harlem (of which CU is an important but hardly exclusive agent).

As a faculty brat and prof of 35 years myself, any romance I had about R1 universities as public mission-driven institutions was long ago rendered laughable for me.

But at least at R1s (and most other American universities, even religious ones) provide some explicit conditions for and principles of academic freedom that are still culturally and legally robust, if weakening especially at public universities by the year. I can write this comment (or an entire book that would shock the conscience) and have zero fear for my job, for example. That’s not true at Liberty, where I know some faculty members slightly because they have a very odd version of a graduate program in my field that has risen to more prominence in recent years. I’ve argued to my professional society that we are in grave error listing that program amongst all the other programs that grant the same degree in the society’s guide to such programs.

I should say my former professional society, although the reasons for that go deeper than my disgust at their tacit endorsement of a program where faculty and students enjoy no academic freedom of speech, in the United States especially.
posted by spitbull at 4:50 AM on September 10 [17 favorites]


I’d enjoy this a lot more if I thought, for even one second, this might end with the fucker facing even a single consequence that he can’t immediately just brush off.

Pretty much this. The reporting will be framed as "Satan striking against our blessed mission from God" or somesuch, and the donations will roll-in from the faithful.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:57 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


Typo: I’m an R1 prof of 25 years, not 35. It only feels like 35.
posted by spitbull at 4:57 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]



Typo: I’m an R1 prof of 25 years, not 35. It only feels like 35.


Happy birthday! You look like you need a drink.
posted by lalochezia at 5:15 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Isn't the real estate part of this like...every private university though? NYU, UPenn, U Chicago, Columbia etc.

Columbia & NYU are in New York. It would be impossible not to make a substantial profit on New York real estate over a period of two or three decades. Real estate near UPenn and U Chicago might not be as bullet proof an investment but still land in a large city near a major university is going to go up in value. Lynchburg is not a major city. Fallwell and his grifter buddies are not professional real estate investors. Liberty University is tied to Fallwell. It would only take one or two juicy scandals, or say a few photos of the right type, for Liberty University to take a major reputation hit with christian parents. Then what happens to Liberty's expansion and the real estate around it?
posted by rdr at 5:28 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Speaking of sports, of course Liberty has doubled down on football. What better sport, relying on the labor of unpaid "student athletes," could there be for a feckless, corrupt "university"? Head coach Hugh Freeze, who resigned from his prior gig at Mississippi after it was determined that he'd called an escort service from a university-provided phone, is the head coach. He has been coaching from the press box while suffering from a staph infection.

(All links to Deadpin, which covers this farce of an institution with the abject lack of respect it deserves.)

Burn it to the ground, all of it.
posted by cheapskatebay at 5:55 AM on September 10 [11 favorites]


As a former Liberty student (I attended in 1988-89), I find the rose-colored view of the Jerry Falwell Sr. years to be laughable. Dad was a grifter, too. He was just better at keeping it quiet.
posted by Optamystic at 6:05 AM on September 10 [35 favorites]


Dad was a grifter, too. He was just better at keeping it quiet.

Maybe, juuust maybe, this could be the thing that lets the collective media stop pretending that any of them are Figures Of Great Moral Leadership who should be listened to in polite society?

Please?
posted by Etrigan at 6:10 AM on September 10 [9 favorites]


Sorry, Etrigan. John Fea, on the article's fallout: "In the end, Falwell Jr. is betting that as long as he takes his cultural war vision for Liberty University directly to the people through social media, conservative political outlets like Fox News (where Liberty advertises), and court evangelical appearances with Trump, and as long he suppressed dissent among his staff and the student body, he will continue to fill seats in the Liberty University classrooms and online venues. Many evangelicals will overlook his indiscretions in the same way they have overlooked Trump’s indiscretions."

(Fea is a good read; his posts about Falwell and LU are here.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:17 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Speaking of sports, of course Liberty has doubled down on football.

They’ve moved up to FBS as an independent, but they’re playing about the cupcakiest schedule I can imagine (New Mexico State twice? Really? Can you even do that?). At least they’re 0-2.

At BYU in November should be fun.

(Say what you will about old Oral Roberts, he thought football was too violent.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:18 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


And seriously, your nickname is Trey because your something something the 3rd? The Venn diagram of people with that nickname and utter assholes is a circle so perfect, angels weep and it’s beauty.

Not even Becky, but... Becki.

Perhaps you may not have friends or loved ones with these names.

There's plenty of hypocritical grifting and general assholery here for us to criticize. I think we should avoid making fun of people's names.
posted by el gran combo at 6:58 AM on September 10 [37 favorites]


Falwell's going to be held to a different standard than Trump. A slightly higher one. That photo of him in the nightclub, even though that would be a perfectly innocent photo in secular circles, will be quite damning to some evangelicals.

Trump is essential to evangelicals' plans. He's possibly their last chance at maintaining the white male supremacy they conflate with Christianity. And they can excuse it away since Trump was never a Christian figure until recently. Falwell isn't as essential. Someone else can carry out Liberty's "mission" as well as he can. Falwell is in a position where he's supposed to be the heir of his father's legacy: An unimpeachable witness and representative of the church. If Falwell's public image is compromised, then he can't fulfill those duties.

He's at risk here. He could have gotten away with the financial misdeeds probably forever. He also could have gotten away with the mistreatment of his students. But, all the sex and dancing and hints of homosexuality will eventually bring him down. In many respects, the libertine lifestyle is close to an unforgiveable sin.

And it's yet another thing that will chip away at the church. Evangelicals are already in serious decline. Young people are already abandoning the faith. This will give them one more reason to refuse their parents when their parents insist on sending them to Liberty or any of the other terrible Christian colleges. And it will probably make many parents think twice too.

All-in-all, I don't share the pessimism on display here. Evangelicals do let a hell of a lot of things slide. They're enormously corrupt. But they do have rules of what they'll accept in their church leadership. Falwell is well on his way to breaking all the rules they hold dear.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 7:29 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Speaking of sports, of course Liberty has doubled down on football.

It's also worth mentioning that Liberty's Athletic Director, Ian McCaw, resigned in disgrace from his previous job at Baylor University over the scandal where the university and the athletic department covered up at least 52 rapes committed by at least 31 football players.

In his defense, Falwell has said, "He is a good man who found himself in a place where bad things were happening and decided to leave" and, "Oh, if he made any mistakes, they were completely technical in nature, not intentional" of the man who was credibly accused of shielding his student athletes from any repercussion of rape accusations and allowed them to continue to rape and gang rape female students.
posted by peeedro at 7:30 AM on September 10 [19 favorites]


as long he suppressed dissent among his staff and the student body, he will continue to fill seats in the Liberty University classrooms and online venues. Many evangelicals will overlook his indiscretions in the same way they have overlooked Trump’s indiscretions."

Getting fleeced by your fake school to own the libs.
posted by Reyturner at 7:30 AM on September 10 [13 favorites]


All-in-all, I don't share the pessimism on display here. Evangelicals do let a hell of a lot of things slide. They're enormously corrupt. But they do have rules of what they'll accept in their church leadership. Falwell is well on his way to breaking all the rules they hold dear.

Even if he does fall - and I'm skeptical - the redemption tour and re-ascension to a position of leadership and power will not be far behind. The only way to truly fall from that group, I think, would be to start teaching heresy like acceptance of LGBTQ people, or other faiths, etc.
posted by nubs at 7:49 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


All-in-all, I don't share the pessimism on display here. Evangelicals do let a hell of a lot of things slide. They're enormously corrupt. But they do have rules of what they'll accept in their church leadership.

It's covered in the very end of the Politico article but I think Falwall has already previewed his defense strategy against these kinds of allegations in his twitter spat with McLean Bible Church pastor David Platt, "I have never been a minister. UVA-trained lawyer and commercial real estate developer for 20 yrs. Univ president for last 12 years-student body tripled to 100000+/endowment from 0 to $2 billion and $1.6B new construction in those 12 years"

The ends justify the means and successful people can't be wrong. He's leaning heavily on the prosperity, not the gospel.
posted by peeedro at 8:05 AM on September 10 [13 favorites]


He's leaning heavily on the prosperity, not the gospel.

Yeah. And he totally forced out his brother, who was the gospel half of the equation.
posted by Melismata at 8:08 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


John Fea's ongoing coverage of Liberty University (thanks MonkeyToes) includes this amazing "rebuttal" (on Twitter of course) by Falwell Jr to a Southern Baptist leader who decried the abuse and inhuman treatment of children on the border.
Who are you @drmoore? Have you ever made a payroll? Have you ever built an organization of any type from scratch? What give you authority to speak on any issue? I’m being serious. You’re nothing but an employee–a bureaucrat.
Fea includes Jeet Heer's response "Did Jesus ever meet a payroll?" but it does seem like Junior's overall position is that he's a real estate developer and a successful biznessman, not a minister.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:45 AM on September 10 [17 favorites]


pracowity: "I thought he was dead. I spent a lot of my casual reviling time reviling him back in the 1980s. But I guess this is Jerry Junior."

Falwell Sr. died in 2007.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:51 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


And not a moment too soon.

Jim Bakker is still rockin' and rollin'. So's Jimmy Swaggart.
posted by rhizome at 8:59 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


Bakker and Swaggart are still around but they never came remotely close to regaining their previous heights. Bakker is on the fringes of the fringe. Swaggart is practically invisible. The organization and university of Oral Roberts is struggling.

If Falwell falls, he’ll have trouble recovering even to their levels. He’s not a preacher. He’s not charismatic (no pun intended). He’s made a ton of enemies within the faith. Sure, there will be a redemption tour because evangelicals eat that shit up. But without the organizing power of a pulpit & church behind him, and without direct access to Liberty’s resources, he’ll have a difficult time.

And if he’s arrogant enough to not ask for forgiveness, then it is over for him.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 9:25 AM on September 10 [5 favorites]



“If you gave [Jerry] Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.”

― Christopher Hitchens
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:35 AM on September 10 [18 favorites]


The fact that place is permitted to call itself a university is exemplar of everything wrong with the world. Liberty "University" is not a real academic institution in any sense of the word and in a rational and just world they'd be busted for false advertising by calling themselves a university.

Ghidorah I once had the dubious pleasure of meeting the current state rep from TX-87: Walter Thomas Price, IV. He goes by "Four" and that's what his campaign posters say his name is.

He's exactly what you'd expect. Gladhanding, superficially friendly to everyone, and not obviously or immediately slimy but not quite good enough at the act to make it on the national political stage so he's stuck in the state lege despite clearly wanting to go national. One of those bland far right wing Republicans who can put the stamp of normalcy and the pretense of being non-racist on the worst excesses of the Republican Party.

I found him pleasant enough for our very brief interaction. But... yeah. No one who is an IV and goes by Four is my friend or on my side.
posted by sotonohito at 10:02 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Regarding "Trey":
My dad's best friend in college was Bobby. Regular guy. His dad (who incidentally wound up being my maternal grandparents' neighbor for many years) was Bob. Both had a given name of Robert, but none of that fancy shit. When Bobby got married, his wife insisted on naming their son Robert, as well, and they called him Trey, just for the silliness of it. Like drinking Stag in a pilsner glass.
posted by notsnot at 11:47 AM on September 10


Falwell Jr. says FBI to investigate 'criminal conspiracy' at Liberty University
Falwell Jr. told Hill.TV that he believes the leak of internal emails was the result of a failed effort among former board of director members to oust him from control. He said the school was in financial distress after the death of his father, Jerry Falwell, and "disgruntled" board members had hoped to use this vulnerability as "leverage to take over."

"They came here thinking that Liberty would remain in financial difficulty. Instead I’ve been able to build a $2 billion unrestricted endowment," Falwell Jr. said.
Again, his defense is "they hate me because I'm so successful."
posted by peeedro at 12:02 PM on September 10 [6 favorites]


Getting fleeced by your fake school to own the libs.

Getting your graduates into position of power in the current administration to own the libs is the less frivolous reality.
posted by srboisvert at 12:39 PM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Falwell is well on his way to breaking all the rules they hold dear.

You're forgetting about another thing evangelicals hold dear: the doctrine of repentance and forgiveness. It's the Get Out of Jail Free card that's saved the careers of preachers forever (notably Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, as someone mentioned above). Junior'll appear in public—probably at a LU assembly—cry the tears, beg God aloud for forgiveness, hang his head, and then laugh all the way to the bank. Remember, these charlatans' followers have a need to save face too.
posted by Rykey at 1:25 PM on September 10 [10 favorites]


While I understand the problems with making fun of someone’s given name (seriously, only the parents of someone named Becki deserve mockery), nicknames, especially for adults, sorry, that’s something you’ve chosen to embrace. That he goes by Trey as his full on business name is at once infantile and also gross, if you want to get into the idea that it’s probably based off of a joke about Spanish, given this family’s overwhelming support (and to some extent culpability) for an administration that makes its bread and butter on stirring up anti-Hispanic xenophobia.

So, yeah, I’m sticking with my distrust and dislike of grown businessmen who only got where they are through gross nepotism going by the name Trey because they happen to be from a family too uncreative to figure out a different name. It’s a pretty comfy hill, really, with all the amenities, and I don’t mind making my stand here.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:34 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I hate defending schmucks like these, but it's perfectly normal for southern men to go by names that would typically be a boy's nickname elsewhere. Trey comes from older French.

There are just soooo many legitimate reasons to hate on the fucker, is all.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:52 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


Bakker and Swaggart are still around but they never came remotely close to regaining their previous heights.

Well yeah, but they still aren't working honest day jobs or anything.
posted by rhizome at 4:54 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Last I heard of Bakker, he was selling some kind of tribulation rations to survivalists.
posted by thelonius at 5:07 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


New Photos Emerge of Falwell at Miami Nightclub. Owner of Miami nightlife website finds additional images rebutting Jerry Falwell Jr.’s claims of photoshopping.
posted by peeedro at 6:34 PM on September 10 [9 favorites]


The scholarly (nerd!) version of the "A university is just a..." joke:

"Hutchins once described the modern university as a series of separate schools and departments held together by a central heating system… I have sometimes thought of it as a series of individual faculty entrepreneurs held together by a common grievance over parking. (p. 15)" - Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University
posted by ElKevbo at 6:59 PM on September 10 [8 favorites]


New Photos Emerge of Falwell at Miami Nightclub. Owner of Miami nightlife website finds additional images rebutting Jerry Falwell Jr.’s claims of photoshopping.

Declaring something fake resulting in multitudes more evidence of its truth is just so 2019. Evangelism keeps up with the zeitgeist!
posted by srboisvert at 11:39 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Parking, let me tell you. I've been an academic denizen of your better R1 universities, first as a faculty brat and then in a series of postings to Cambridge, Austin, Seattle, and NYC (I know lucky me no cornfield campuses). I'm also a musician and I need a car to earn part of my living.

I am immune to the charms of extensive lawns. I hate them. They waste critically needed space that could be used for buildings and parking and the other constantly pressured space needs of a modern university. And they hark back to medieval conceptions of education and institutionality and class power and privilege, as well as producing a bourgeois simulacrum of nature that deceives because it requires endless carbon-based upkeep. (And F your stupid leafblowers, buildings and grounds...)

I am on record as proposing frequently that my university tear down our cramped, dirty, sick old early 20th c. campus quad buildings (landmark status of course) and build a giant 100 story tower in the middle of the place, and surround it with levels and levels of parking. Yeah I know lol.
posted by spitbull at 1:08 PM on September 11


Lawns in general are awful and watering lawns needs to be totally banned in all areas. If you live in a place where it rains enough to sustain a lawn you can have one. Otherwise, xeroscape and stop squandering water on a crop of grass.
posted by sotonohito at 5:56 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


But if I don't have a lawn , what do I say to the kids these days? Get off my xeroscape?
posted by nubs at 10:09 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Reuters: Exclusive: Falwell blasted Liberty student as 'retarded,' police chief as 'half-wit' in emails

Some choice excerpts:
-Ronald Sones, then the dean of the engineering school, was “a bag of hot air” who “couldn’t spell the word ‘profit,’” Falwell wrote in 2011. ...

-Richard Hinkley, the campus police chief, was “a half-wit and easy to manipulate” and shouldn’t be allowed to speak publicly. ...

-Of Kevin Keys, then Liberty’s associate athletics director, Falwell wrote in 2012: “Only get Kevin involved in something if you want it not to work.” ...
posted by jedicus at 10:02 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]


"And I believe in Jesus' teachings to do what's in the best interest of the corporation," said Falwell without providing a scriptural citation.
posted by peeedro at 11:22 AM on September 16 [3 favorites]


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