Updated at 7:24 p.m. ET
Jerry Falwell Jr., a leading evangelical ally of President Trump's and son of the founder of one of the nation's largest and most well-known Christian universities, has officially resigned as president of Liberty University after a series of controversies, a university source confirms to NPR.
Falwell has not responded to NPR, but in an interview with the website Virginia Business, he contradicted the university official. He told the publication the reports, published by multiple news outlets, including NPR, are "completely false."
His departure comes on the heels of an investigation by Reuters on Monday in which Falwell's former business partner, Giancarlo Granda, claimed he had a multiyear sexual relationship with Falwell's wife, Becki, which involved Falwell looking on while the pair engaged in sex acts. That report was published a day after Falwell released a statement to the Washington Examiner in which he claimed that he had suffered emotional distress over his wife's affair with his business partner. Falwell described it as a "fatal attraction" situation that included attempts to extort the high-profile couple financially.
Falwell has been at the center of multiple controversies in recent years, including questionable business dealings, accusations of racial insensitivity, complaints about his management style and allegations of other behavior considered inappropriate for the leader of a conservative religious institution.
Previous reporting by news outlets, including BuzzFeed, has described a complicated business entanglement and close friendship between the Falwells and Granda. The couple met Granda in Miami several years ago while he was in his early 20s, working as a pool attendant, according to the reports. The BuzzFeed report also claimed that Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen – who has since been convicted of federal campaign violations and of lying to Congress – helped arrange Falwell's endorsement of Trump. Separately, Reuters has reported that Cohen helped the Falwells arrange to keep private a set of potentially embarrassing photographs.
Falwell agreed to an indefinite leave of absence on Aug. 7 after he posted a vacation photo to Instagram that showed him with his pants unzipped and his arm around a woman who is not his wife, whose pants also were unzipped.
Liberty, whose campus is in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by Falwell's late father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. The conservative Christian university holds its students to a strict moral code, which includes prohibitions on sex outside of marriage and same-sex relationships.
In an interview with a local radio station, he said the photo posted to Instagram was taken "in good fun" at a costume party and the woman, his wife's assistant, could not zip her pants because she is pregnant.
Evangelicals critical of Trump, including some Liberty students, have objected to Falwell's vocal support for the president since early on in the 2016 Republican primary. Falwell's endorsement was seen as an important step toward helping Trump coalesce support from this important Republican voting bloc.
In an interview with NPR in 2017, Falwell was asked for his thoughts about Trump's moral character. Falwell said evangelical Christian theology is about recognizing that everyone is a sinner in need of forgiveness.
"You can't go by who's sinned and who hasn't, because we all have," Falwell said. "The ones that you think are so perfect and sinless – it's just you don't know about it. They're all just as bad. We all are. And that's the bottom line."