Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Virginia, will be taking an indefinite leave of absence, the university announced Friday afternoon.
The executive committee of Liberty’s board of trustees met Friday and requested that Falwell take the leave, to which he agreed. The university statement said it would be “effective immediately.”
Falwell has been president since 2007 of Liberty University, which was founded by his father, the late Reverend Jerry Falwell.
The leave announcement came after Jerry Falwell Jr. apologized for a recent photo posted on social media in which his pants were unzipped.
Talking with local radio station WLNI 105.9 in Lynchburg, Jerry Falwell Jr. gave an explanation for the photo, in which his arm is around a woman whose pants are unzipped, and he holds a plastic cup filled with “black water,” as he described the liquid.
“Yeah, it was weird. She’s pregnant. She couldn’t get her pants zipped and I was, like, trying to, like … ," he said. “I had on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a long time and couldn’t get zipped either. So, I just put my belly out like hers. She’s my wife’s assistant, she’s a sweetheart. I should have never put it up and embarrassed her. I’ve apologized to everybody. I promised my kids I will try to be a good boy from here on out.”
Liberty University, with more than 100,000 students enrolled, is one of the largest evangelical Christian universities in the world. It has a dress code that advises “cleanliness, neatness, appropriateness, and modesty are important as guiding factors. Students are expected to dress modestly at all times.”
Readers commenting on the radio station story did not approve of Falwell’s social media post.
Among others, U.S. Representative Mark Walker, a Republican from North Carolia and a pastor, called on Twitter for Falwell to step down from his post:
Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling.— Mark Walker (@RepMarkWalker) August 6, 2020
As a Music Faculty Advisory Board Member and former instructor @LibertyU, I’m convinced Falwell should step down.
None of us are perfect, but students, faculty, alumni and @LUPraise deserve better.
Falwell was appointed in 2017 to head a presidential task force on higher education.
Falwell said the photo in question was taken from his yacht.