It had only been a few months since Giancarlo Granda, then a 20-year-old pool attendant at the upscale Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, had met Jerry Falwell Jr., then the president of Liberty University, and his wife, Becki. Granda had agreed to enter a relationship with the two, one in which he says that he and Becki would have sex while Jerry watched, sometimes in person.
“As long as we recorded [the sex], he was OK with it,” Granda explained. “A lot of pressure came from Jerry. Basically, her job was to seduce me and successfully have sex with me. And if she wasn’t able to do that, Jerry would get upset.”
Suddenly, Granda broke it off. It wouldn’t be the last time.
“I told Becki, we can’t have sex because I found a girl my age. I want to date her. I like her a lot. We obviously can’t keep doing this,” Granda recalls in Hulu’s new documentary God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty, which debuted Tuesday. “She didn’t take it very well. Becki cried, she made me feel guilty for it…. She would tell me, ‘God put us together.'”
So Jerry intervened. At first, Granda had thought that he was simply a kind guest at the hotel, but his older sister had made him aware that he was the leader of one of the most conservative colleges in the country. Granda was impressed by Falwell’s power. Still, he had soon wanted to be able to date women his own age, rather than more than twice his age.
“Jerry said, ‘Well, [Becki] doesn’t have to know. We won’t tell her,'” Granda said. “And I said, ‘No, I’m sorry, I can’t. I don’t feel comfortable doing it.’ What I did agree to, and it’s not, it’s not right, I continued the emotional connection. I kept texting her, I kept talking to her every day. I felt like I was living a double life.”
Granda said Becki continued to call and text him daily and provided many of their alleged exchanges to the filmmakers.
For their part, Jerry and Becki have maintained that Granda had a relationship with Becki only; They say it was much shorter than he does and that Granda eventually attempted to extort them over it. Neither are part of the doc.
Granda said that if he didn’t respond to Becki right away, she would call him crying.
“If I didn’t respond for a couple days, then Jerry would call me. He was disappointed. He’d say, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Like, she loves you so much. Why are you trying to break away? She’s been so nice to you. And we’re going to bat for you for this property. Why break up now?'”
He alleged in the doc — and in his new book, Off the Deep End: Jerry and Becki Falwell and the Collapse of an Evangelical Dynasty, that the relationship between the three transitioned from a friendly one, in which they were helping him to make business connections and even went into business with him themselves, to one in which they felt like they were trying to control him.
Granda recalled receiving what he calls a “graphic text” from Becki, who said she was watching a video of them having sex. Granda said he hadn’t realized that they were being recorded.
“I felt like it was a subtle hint as to, you know, ‘We got the goods on you too. Like, don’t forget that,'” he said.
The aspiring real estate mogul was delighted when Falwell introduced him to his famous friend Donald Trump, who was starring on The Apprentice. Granda was a fan of Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, and he even signed Granda’s book at the meeting; It reinforced for him that he needed to stick with the Falwells, so he could be successful, too.
Granda said he soon began feeling guilty, though, when he learned that students at Liberty University, which had been founded by Falwell’s father, are bound by a strict moral code. He knew the Falwells weren’t conducting themselves in the same way. A lot of personal turmoil accompanied the situation.
“The lies just started building up. I had to lie to my girlfriends. I had to lie to my family. It was exhausting,” Granda said. “If you look at the Falwells, they were living their best life. They were professionals at living a double life.”
Director Billy Corben, known for Cocaine Cowboys, also delves into the important role that Falwell’s endorsement of Trump played in electing his friend president a few years later, which Granda said is part of the reason he decided to come forward.
He had finally ended his relationship with the Falwells, after Jerry allegedly failed to come through with what he had promised him. Granda suspected, too, the Falwells had something to do with a job offer being rescinded.
So when a reporter approached Granda with questions about his relationship with the Falwells, Granda decided to talk. He was confident about that decision in the film.
“It feels like right now, this is happening for a reason. Me confessing to the world what happened will somehow stop one of Trump’s closest allies, which is Jerry Falwell Jr.,” Granda said. “I felt like I had a responsibility.”
But it was also personal.
Granda texted Jerry in the end, “Meeting you and Becki was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Now everyone is coming down with me.”
Falwell was mired in multiple scandals already when Reuters broke the Granda scandal in Aug. 2020, with an interview with the other man himself. He resigned from Liberty, pocketing a reported $10.5 million.