By Nicole Darrah
Published September 11, 2019
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said he's asked the FBI to investigate a "criminal conspiracy" against him that he alleges has been orchestrated by disgruntled former board members and employees of the evangelical Christian college.
“Our attorneys have determined that this small group of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provided them to reporters," Falwell told The Hill.
The accusations come after Politico published a story Monday, citing unnamed sources only described as current or former officials or associates of Falwell, alleging the university president "presides over a culture of self-dealing" that has inappropriately benefited him and his family.
Falwell, one of President Trump's earliest and staunchest supporters, has also come under increased scrutiny recently over his personal life and business investments, including his involvement in a Miami hostel.
Falwell claimed the emails were leaked as part of an "attempted coup" to oust him as school president, in part because of his support for Trump and the school's financial stress following the death of his father — Rev. Jerry Falwell, the evangelist who founded Liberty and served as Moral Majority leader before dying in 2007 — as "leverage to take over."
Speaking to the Associated Press, Falwell said he's "not going to dignify the lies that were reported yesterday with a response, but I am going to the authorities and I am going to civil court." He referred to the reporter who wrote the story as a "little boy."
Falwell added Liberty University has hired "the meanest lawyer in New York," whom he declined to identify, to pursue civil cases. Falwell also declined to identify the people he said were spreading the emails.
"Liberty owns every single one of those emails. It's our property. They were working for us when they used our server," he told the AP. "Our policies make it clear every email sent on our server is owned by Liberty and if anybody shares it with anybody outside Liberty, it is theft. And so that's the underlying crime."
Liberty was founded in 1971 with just 154 students, but now boasts an enrollment of more than 100,000, including those in its massive online education program. It has become an influential hub of conservative politics, frequented by candidates courting evangelical voters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.