Racy Pics Lead To Falwell Blackmail

Steve Helber / AP file

Jerry Falwell, JR. has some explaining to do. The Evangelical leader called Michael Cohen in 2016, weeks before he endorsed Donald J. Trump for President, for help with a little matter. Somehow racy pictures of him had fallen into an unnamed man’s possession. Allegedly, the man was threatening to release them to the public if Falwell didn’t give him money.

As is the case in today’s unusual political climate, celebrity Tom Arnold was the first to know of the blackmail claims. Michael Cohen is said to have told Arnold about the racy picture blackmail in March 2019. Arnold sent a recording of the conversation to The Washington Post. Cohen is heard saying in part, “There’s a bunch of photographs — you know, personal photographs — that somehow, the guy ended up getting,” There is no word on how the alleged blackmailer got his hands on the pictures.

Before The Endorsement

As the blackmail demands mounted, Falwell decided he needed help. He turned to Trump’s personal fixer, Michael Cohen, to get the matter settled. Reuters reported that Cohen warned the other man that he would turn the matter over to the authorities if he continued with the blackmail. The blackmailer stopped and handed over the pictures to Cohen. With the issue resolved, Falwell was out of the woods.

Or was he? While Cohen allegedly destroyed all of the photos, he admitted to Arnold that there was still one in his possession. “I actually have one of the photos,” and concluded, “It’s terrible.” Which leads one to wonder why Trump’s personal fixer would keep a ‘terrible’ photograph if he wasn’t planning on doing something with it. By his own admission, Cohen had committed crimes to protect Trump. Could blackmailing Falwell be one more added to the list?

Blackmail For Endorsement?

It is not a giant leap to believe Cohen may have blackmailed Falwell into endorsing Trump. Yet, at this time there is no evidence of this being the case. However, before Falwell jumped onto the Trump Train, he and other members of the Religious Right movement were going to endorse Senator Ted Cruz for President. Allegedly after the incident with the racy photographs, Falwell had a change of heart.

With the change of heart, Falwell went to Iowa and began endorsing Trump in earnest. Moving the Christian vote to the thrice married candidate. Many politicos believe this was the moment when Trump went from also-ran to top contender. The fact it came months after Cohen helped Falwell with the blackmail issue seems suspect.

Denial and Loyalty

While blackmail cannot be proven, what can be shown as gospel truth is Falwell’s deep loyalty to Trump. Recently the Evangelical leader has called for ‘reparations’ to Trump, “I now support reparations-Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as payback for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.” The Tweet does not mention the obstruction that took place during the Obama administration or any of the other Presidents who have been investigated while in office. Also, it ignores the fact that a Republican official initiated the investigation and places the blame squarely on Democrats, who were not in power at the beginning of the investigation. Denial and loyalty are powerful tools.

Falwell, through his lawyers (who remained unnamed), denied Cohen’s story to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. The lawyer said, “there are no compromising or embarrassing photos of Falwell, period!” Then finished with:

“While the Falwells have a long-standing friendship with Michael Cohen, they never engaged or paid Cohen to represent them in any legal or other professional capacity, and Cohen did not ever resolve any legal matter on their behalf.”

With the suspect timing of Falwell’s endorsement of Trump, it does seem something happened. There will be more digging into the story, and eventually, Cohen could produce the alleged racy photograph that could put an end to Falwell’s religious career.