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Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. in 2019. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Jerry Falwell Jr. will take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his roles as president and chancellor of Liberty University after posting a photo of himself with unzipped pants and an arm around a woman on social media, according to the school.

The state of play: The picture, which has since been deleted, drew backlash and charges of hypocrisy from conservative political figures because the university's honor code strictly prohibits students from having "sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage," and recommends they dress with“appropriateness” and “modesty."

  • Falwell, an ally of President Trump's, has drawn criticism for his political positions in the past, including his decision to bring students back to campus in March despite the threat of the coronavirus.

What they're saying: Falwell, who has served as Liberty's president since 2007, apologized for the photo on local radio in Lynchburg, Virginia, saying, “I’ve apologized to everybody. And I’ve promised my kids I’m going to try to be — I’m gonna try to be a good boy from here on out.”

  • Falwell defended the incident as a "costume party" parodying the comedy TV show “Trailer Park Boys.”
  • "It was a costume party on a — we were on vacation. And, anyway, long story short it was just in good fun. That’s it.” Falwell described the woman in the photo as his “wife’s assistant.”

GOP Rep. Mark Waller, a minister with ties to Liberty University, called on Falwell to resign on Friday, tweeting: “Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling. As a Music Faculty Advisory Board Member and former instructor @LibertyU, I’m convinced Falwell should step down."

Go deeper

Student media sounds alarm on unsafe university reopenings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

College media outlets are calling out their universities for failing to address the potentially-devastating communal spread of COVID-19 in their college towns.

Why it matters: With local newspapers in decline, campus papers have increasingly become the default for how students and community members get their news.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

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