February 2019 Church & State Magazine - February 2019

Falwell Says Nothing Could Lead Him To Drop Support For Trump

  Rob Boston

Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent leader of the Religious Right in Am­erica, says there’s nothing President Donald Trump could do that would make Falwell withdraw his support.

In a January interview with The Washington Post, Falwell was asked point-blank by the newspaper, “Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?”

Falwell replied with one word: “No.”

When The Post noted the brevity of the answer, Falwell added, “Only because I know that he only wants what’s best for this country, and I know anything he does, it may not be ideologically ‘conservative,’ but it’s going to be what’s best for this country, and I can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country.”

The Post then asked Falwell, “Is it hypocritical for evangelical leaders to support a leader who has advocated violence and who has committed adultery and lies often? I understand that a person can be forgiven their sins, but should that person be leading the country?”

To this Falwell replied, “When Jesus said we’re all sinners, he really meant all of us, everybody. I don’t think you can choose a president based on their personal behavior because even if you choose the one that you think is the most decent – let’s say you decide Mitt Romney. Nobody could be a more decent human being, better family man. But there might be things that he’s done that we just don’t know about. So you don’t choose a president based on how good they are; you choose a president based on what their policies are. That’s why I don’t think it’s hypocritical.”

Falwell also said it “may be immoral” for evangelicals to fail to support Trump.

Unlike many leaders of the Religious Right, Falwell was an early endorser of Trump. Since then, Trump has spoken at Liberty University, the school Falwell’s father, Jerry Falwell, founded. Falwell Jr. serves as chancellor of the university. Trump in turn said he would appoint Falwell Jr. to a task force that is examining issues related to higher education, although that body was never formed

Falwell Jr. has also been in the news lately for an unusual business arrangement he took part in. He has acknowledged that he lent $1.8 million to a swimming pool attendant he met while staying at a luxury hotel in 2012.

BuzzFeed News reported that Falwell and his wife developed a “friendly relationship” with Giancarlo Granda, who was then 21. The relationship grew to the point where Granda took trips with Falwell on his private jet, and Falwell introduced Granda to Trump. Eventually, Falwell began lending Granda “financial assistance.”

When Granda proposed opening a dormitory-style hotel in Miami Beach, Falwell offered to lend him $1 million to purchase the property and an additional $800,000 to renovate it on the condition that Granda would agree to manage the facility – even though Granda had no experience in hotel management.

Falwell’s involvement in the deal came to light only after two men, Jesus Fernandez Sr. and Jesus Fernandez Jr., who are father and son, filed a lawsuit over the matter in 2017. The two say they came up with the idea for renovating the hostel but were later pushed out of the business arrangement. Their suit asserts that Falwell “indicated that he wanted to help Granda establish a new career and build a business.”

In his response to the lawsuit, Falwell asserted in court documents that he and his wife had “provided a loan of $1 million” for the purchase of the hotel, adding, “Later, my wife and I provided additional funds of $800,000 for renovations of Alton Hostel which are being treated as an additional loan.”

The hotel, also known as Miami Hostel, rents rooms for $20 per night and was described by Politico as a “flophouse.”

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