Reporters have been speculating that former Florida pool attendant Giancarlo Granda was the source of the “racy” photos of religious right leader Jerry Falwell Jr. that Donald Trump’s now-jailed lawyer Michael Cohen says he covered up. Now Granda has issued a public denial — and objected to being described as a “pool boy.”
Reuters investigative reporter Aram Roston broke the news Tuesday that in a taped conversation with actor Tom Arnold, Cohen said he had kept the photos from becoming public at Falwell’s request. The lawyer believed the person who possessed the photos destroyed them. Sources had also told Reuters that Cohen persuaded Falwell to endorse Trump, but said it had nothing to do with the photo matter.
Suspicion about the source of the photos focused on Granda because his business had received $1.8 million in loans from Falwell, something else uncovered by Roston. Granda was a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau, a luxury hotel in Miami Beach, when Falwell and his wife stayed there in 2012, and they all became friends, the Miami New Times reports. Granda and Falwell’s son Trey later bought a hostel in Miami Beach. Falwell also reportedly flew Granda on his private jet and introduced him to Trump.
Aaron Resnick, a lawyer for Granda, denied that his client had anything to do with the photos. “Giancarlo Granda has never had any communications with Michael Cohen (directly or indirectly),” Resnick told New Times in an email. “He does not know Mr. Cohen. He has never met Mr. Cohen. Mr. Cohen is a convicted felon and admitted liar. Mr. Granda has no idea about the alleged ‘personal photographs’ Mr. Cohen refers to in his taped conversation with Tom Arnold, which was published by the Washington Post. Mr. Granda has never been involved in any negotiations directly or indirectly with Mr. Cohen. This includes any negotiations through legal counsel. Mr. Granda is not the person referred to by Mr. Cohen in the taped recording referenced in the Washington Post article. Any suggestion that he is that person is absolutely false.” Resnick also said the “pool boy” moniker is demeaning and that Granda prefers to be described as a graduate student at Georgetown University.
Meanwhile, Falwell, who is known for his extensive anti-LGBTQ activism and strong support of Trump, has told right-wing radio host Todd Starnes there are “no compromising or embarrassing photos” of him. “While we have a long-standing friendship with Michael Cohen, we never engaged or paid Cohen to represent us in any legal or other professional capacity, and Cohen did not ever resolve any legal matter on our behalf,” Falwell told Starnes on Fox Radio. “This report is not accurate.”
Falwell is president of Liberty University in Virginia, an evangelical Christian institution founded by his notoriously homophobic father. It expects students to adhere to a strict code of sexual conduct, with sex reserved for marriage between “a natural-born man” and “a natural-born woman.” Falwell and the school also hold many other far-right positions, including opposition to abortion rights and denial of evolution and climate change.
Cohen this week began serving a three-year federal prison term for crimes that include tax evasion and campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments made to protect Trump.