Jerry Falwell Jr.’s infamous photo with his pants unzipped was taken during a yacht party honoring a raunchy TV show, lawsuit says

Jerry Falwell Jr
Jerry Falwell Jr., former president of Liberty University, waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump to sign an executive order in 2019.

  • A new lawsuit revives a scandalous photo of former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr.
  • Falwell had his pants unbuttoned, a drink in one hand, and his arm around a woman in the photo.
  • The lawsuit says Falwell hosted a yacht party themed around the raunchy TV show “Trailer Park Boys.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A lawsuit Liberty University filed Friday against Jerry Falwell Jr., its former president, details the circumstances behind a controversial photo Falwell shared of himself on a yacht with his arm around a woman and his pants unzipped.

The photo, which Falwell posted on Instagram in August 2020, caused outrage at the time among the US evangelical Christian community.

Falwell is married, and he appeared to be holding an alcoholic beverage in the photo. Liberty University has a strict code of conduct that prohibits students from drinking, bans sexual content, and requires they dress “modestly.” Falwell is also a power center in Republican politics: His controversial early endorsement of Donald Trump in the 2016 election has been credited with rallying white evangelicals behind the former president.

According to the lawsuit – which is seeking millions of dollars in damages from Falwell Jr., alleging he gave himself a massive raise while covering up scandalous details about his personal life – the photo was taken during a Falwell-hosted yacht costume party. It was themed around “The Trailer Park Boys,” a raunchy Canadian TV show, and included “Falwell Jr.’s entire immediate family,” the lawsuit says.

“Overall, the tone and content of the show is vulgar,” the lawsuit says.

Attendees dressed up as characters from the show. The woman in the photo was another Liberty University employee and the wife of Falwell’s personal assistant, according to the lawsuit. The woman, who was pregnant at the time, unbuttoned the top of her shorts for comfort and Falwell unbuttoned his own pants “in apparent solidarity,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit includes a low-resolution reproduction of the image, which Falwell has since deleted from his Instagram account. Insider has obscured the woman’s face and isn’t identifying her because she did not appear to consent to the photo being made public.

Jerry Falwell Jr yacht photo
Jerry Falwell Jr. posted a photo of himself with his pants unbuttoned, a drink in one hand and his other arm around a woman.

Falwell told the woman in the image that he would keep the image to himself, the lawsuit says. He then posted it on Instagram anyway, calling the liquid in his glass, which looks a lot like wine, “black water.” He deleted the Instagram post soon afterward.

After the incident, Falwell gave an interview with local radio station WLNI where he said the photo was in “good fun” and that he “promised to be a good boy” going forward.

“You know, it was weird because she’s pregnant so she couldn’t get her pants up and I was like, trying to like – I have a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a long time so I couldn’t get mine zipped either,” Falwell said. “So I just put my belly out like hers.”

Around the same time, the Liberty University lawsuit says, Falwell’s wife told Liberty University executives that Falwell Jr. was dealing with excessive alcohol use. Falwell took a leave of absence as the Liberty University president on August 7.

Falwell officially resigned weeks later as more personal details of his life came to light. He filed his own lawsuit against Liberty University over the circumstances of his departure.

In a statement Friday, Falwell said Liberty University’s new lawsuit was “full of lies and half-truths” and he would fight it.

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