Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of conservative, anti-LGBTQ Liberty University in Virginia, was aided by disgraced and jailed lawyer Michael Cohen — formerly President Trump's personal attorney — in hiding "racy" pictures of him from the public, Reuters reports.
Falwell's endorsement of Trump early in the 2016 election is seen as pivotal to the businessman winning the GOP nomination and, eventually, the Electoral College. As one of the most prominent evangelical Christians in the nation, Falwell holds much sway over conservative voters; he advocates against abortion rights and regularly demeans LGBTQ people. It shocked many that Falwell would put his weight behind a thrice-married serial adulterer who has been accused of sexual assault and once supported a woman's right to choose.
But Reuters reports that the endorsement was not necessarily a quid pro quo for Cohen "fixing" the private photos. Cohen and Falwell had a long relationship before the election, and the attorney helped convince Falwell that Trump was a good candidate, according to Reuters.
The information about the pictures was recently discovered in a taped conversation between Cohen and actor Tom Arnold that Reuters obtained.
Beginning in 2015, the Falwells hoped to keep "a bunch of photographs, personal photographs" from becoming public, Cohen told Arnold. "I actually have one of the photos," he said. "It’s terrible."
An unnamed person obtained the pictures and threatened the Falwells with their release. Cohen helped broker a deal that saw all the images destroyed. Reuters did not include specifics of the deal in its story.
The code of conduct at Falwell's Liberty University, founded by Falwell’s notoriously homophobic father, states that “sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural born woman are not permissible.” The university has hosted several anti-LGBTQ events, including some that endorse so-called conversion therapy. Among its other far-right positions, the school supports creationism and climate change denial.