The news is abuzz on Monday with the story of Jerry Falwell Jr’s wife Becki and her multi-year affair with a pool boy the couple met at the Fontainebleau Hilton in Miami Beach in 2012. Falwell Jr. confirms the report.
The Daily Beast reported, “Jerry Falwell Jr. says a ‘fatal attraction’ threat to expose an affair his wife had with a pool boy eight years ago triggered an emotional roller coaster before he was suspended as president of Liberty University. The Christian school on Friday said it was investigating. ‘I’m just tired of it,’ Falwell told the Washington Examiner as he released a long statement about the infidelity by wife Becki. ‘It’s just got to end.’ In the statement, Falwell Jr. says he forgave Becki for the affair. He did not name the pool boy, but numerous news outlets have written about the couple’s friendship with Miami pool attendant Giancarlo Granda.”
Now that is bad enough. But then this came out after the first story: Reuters reported, “Giancarlo Granda says he was 20 when he met Jerry and Becki Falwell while working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in March 2012. Starting that month and continuing into 2018, Granda told Reuters that the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell looked on… Granda showed Reuters emails, text messages and other evidence that he says demonstrate the sexual nature of his relationship with the couple, who have been married since 1987. ‘Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,’ Granda said in an interview. Now 29, he described the liaisons as frequent – ‘multiple times per year’– and said the encounters took place at hotels in Miami and New York, and at the Falwells’ home in Virginia.”
My latest. Giancarlo Granda speaks exclusively to @Reuters about his sexual relationship with the Falwells.
“Becki and I developed an intimate relationship and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room." https://t.co/RiSaTMKivC via @SpecialReports
— Aram Roston (@AramRoston) August 24, 2020
Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But it seems to be worse when those who fall prey to scandal are those who portray themselves as moral exemplars. Most Americans are old enough to remember the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals. The situation is depressingly familiar. Though, in a strange twist, it also has a lesson for this year’s presidential race.
In her brilliant book with Brad Todd, Salena Zito’s “The Great Revolt” contends that one of the constituencies attracted to the Trump candidacy in 2016 were those who had been through the trials of life. This is a group the book termed “rough rebounders.” They identified with the president’s personal dramas, locker room humor, and financial ups and downs, as they realized no one is perfect and that those who achieve much risk much. Voters gave Trump basic human understanding over his admitted affairs and other missteps because he never promoted himself as a boy scout.
They knew the man they were voting for was no moral exemplar and they didn’t expect him to be. They wanted a competent populist who would stand up for working class America and they got one. What others in the public spotlight suffer Trump gets a pass on because of his candor about his own life. These voters will continue to support him in 2020.
So, in that sense, by not indulging in sanctimonious hypocrisy while polishing his own halo, the president inoculates himself from the kind of scandal the Falwells are going through at this moment. If the Falwells had stepped off their self-created pedestals for a minute, perhaps they’d get the same understanding.