Oct 31, 2022 - News

Miami filmmaker releases documentary on Jerry Falwell Jr. scandal

The cover art of the "God Forbid" documentary, with two people standing by a pool and the outline of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s face in the water.

Image courtesy of Adelis Riveiro via Hulu

Miami filmmaker Billy Corben describes his latest documentary "God Forbid" as a trojan horse.

  • An alleged sex scandal involving Christian Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr., his wife Becki and a former Miami Beach hotel pool attendant might draw viewers in.
  • But then the lens widens to chart the rise of the evangelical political movement — from TV preacher Jerry Falwell Sr. supporting Ronald Reagan to his son endorsing candidate Donald Trump and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Driving the news: In "God Forbid," which premieres tomorrow on Hulu, former Fontainebleau pool attendant Giancarlo Granda recounts his 7-year relationship with Becki Falwell, which he says began in 2012 and involved sexual encounters while her husband watched.

  • Falwell Jr. — who at the time was president of the evangelical Liberty University before resigning in 2020 — has denied that he was involved in his wife's affair with Granda. The Falwells have since accused Granda of blackmailing them, which Granda has denied.

The latest: A Miami attorney connected to the scandal is suing to block Hulu from airing the documentary, alleging that audio recordings were made without his knowledge, the Miami Herald reports.

Catch up fast: After Granda met the Falwells 10 years ago, the couple gifted him an ownership stake in a South Beach youth hostel. But a lawsuit filed by a business associate at the hostel helped make the alleged relationship go public.

  • The suit was settled in 2019 for an undisclosed amount.

The intrigue: In 2015, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said he worked on behalf of the Falwells to retrieve "personal" photos held by the associate, according to the Herald.

  • About a year later, Cohen helped arrange Falwell Jr.'s endorsement of Trump, which led to a huge evangelical push for Trump on his way to victory, the Herald reported.
  • Granda, who also wrote a book about his experience called "Off the Deep End," said in that documentary that he went public to take down Falwell Jr. — whom he described as one of Trump's closest allies —ahead of the 2020 election.

Zoom out: The doc also delves into the rise of the Christian conservative movement dating back to the Moral Majority, a group founded by Falwell Jr.'s father which opposed civil rights, pornography and abortion.

  • The Moral Majority was credited with helping Reagan win the presidential election in 1980.

What they're saying: Corben and executive producer Alfred Spellman said at a screening for the Miami Film Festival last week that they wanted to expose the religious hypocrisy behind the alleged "throuple" while highlighting the role this scandal may have played in Falwell's pivotal endorsement of Trump in 2016.

  • "It's a trojan horse, you kind of tempt the audience in with the candy, and then suddenly you feed them some vegetables and along the way, you learn something," Corben said at the film screening at Tower Theater.

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