It all started back in 2012: Jerry Falwell Jr & his wife met a young pool boy on vacation. Then they started ‘helping’ him.. The Falwells were staying at a ritzy hotel in Miami, where 21-year-old Giancarlo Granda was working as a pool attendant. The hunky young man started mysteriously spending a lot of time with the middle-aged couple during their stay. And later he started flying with them on their private jet to various places. He was seen hanging out with the couple on many occasions, without any explanation.
Pro-Trump Pastor Jerry Falwell Gave Hot Young Pool Boy $1.8 Million & Flew Him First Class on Personal Vacations While Promoting Anti-Gay “Christian Values” as Liberty University President. Shortly after befriending the pool boy, the Falwells asks some associates to help them find a business they could buy in order to give their new friend “a good income.” They eventually settled on purchasing a “youth hostel” in Miami, providing the $1 million down payment on the mortgage (the property was valued at more than $4 million at the time), plus $800,000 to renovate the place. After the renovations, promotional material for the hostel listed the former pool boy as the owner, though later court papers list the owner as a shell company that is owned by the Falwells, their son, and one other family member.
This youth hostel was actually the first part of this whole sordid affair that came to light in 2017 when a reporter for Politico wrote: My Weekend at the Falwells’ South Beach Flophouse and Falwell, Jr. Opened ‘Gay-Friendly’ Youth Hostel With 21-Year-Old Pool Boy . The hostel offers what is described as dorm-like accommodations for $20 a night. There is a bar on the premises, a liquor store next door, and a sign on the front door that lists things not allowed inside, including both politics and religion. It is also described as veery gay friendly, with posters for cabaret shows at local gay clubs on display in the aforementioned bar, for example. In other words, it is a business making money on things that Falwell, his ministry and his university all regularly and vitriolically condemn. But you’ll notice when you read that story that most of the reporter’s concern is about possible tax-evasion that this purchase of a youth hostel may represent.
The story finally started registering when this happened: Jerry Falwell Jr and pool boy sued over business venture. Two Miami businessmen, a father and son with the names Jesus Fernandez Sr, and Jesus Fernandez, Jr. had consulted back in 2012 or 2013 with the former pool boy about possible business ventures that he could enter into with the backing of the Falwells, and they had at least one meeting with both Jerry Falwell Jr. and Granda the pool boy. They allege that they were promised shares in the business and other payments, which have not been forthcoming. It was in depositions for this trail that the amount of money the Falwells had given to the pool boy (that $1.8 million above) was revealed. Falwell claims it was a loan, but has so far not produced any proof that there is a repayment plan or that any money has been coming back to them.
Still, at these point it is all a little odd, and several people were making guesses about the nature of the relationship between the Falwells and the pool boy (I mean, why did they suddenly take an interest in a much younger pool attendant to the point of flying him around in their private jet, putting him up at their home at least once, and handing him nearly two million dollars?). Those of us who were guessing various sexual shenanigans (are the Falwells into something like a hot-wife or cuckold kink? Do they just like threeways?) weren’t being taken seriously.
Until this bombshell: Exclusive: Trump fixer Cohen says he helped Falwell handle racy photos.
So Michael Cohen (currently serving a 3 year federal prison sentence for tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations over his hush payments made to a porn star Donald Trump had an affair with in order to keep the affair secret) was asked by Jerry Falwell Jr to recover some “racy photos, the kind that should remain private between a husband and wife” that someone was trying to blackmail him with. Cohen flew to Miami, and claims that he met with the person, made some kind of offer, and that the person destroyed all of the photos–except one that Cohen himself kept. This happened just a few months before the 2015 Iowa caucuses, and crucially, just before Jerry Falwell, Jr stunned a lot of people by endorsing Donald Trump. An endorsement which, by the way, has been widely reported to have been engineered by Cohen.
Some people will ask why this whole sordid affair is newsworthy. First of all, Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a public figure who regularly endorses political candidates and causes, encouraging his large following to vote and donate in these political issues. He does with the aid of several large tax-exempt organizations (some of which are legally forbidden from advocating specific political causes, by the way). There are legitimate questions about just how much of his supposedly private for profit business ventures have been financed with tax exempt donations to the non-profit entities. In which case, these businesses are being financed illegally with taxpayer money. Among the favorite targets of Falwell’s tax-payer subsidized condemnations are the civil rights of gay people, the health and reproductive rights of women, the civil rights of muslims, et cetera and ad nauseam.
On top of all of that, it appears that his endorsement of Trump, which came at a crucial moment just before the Iowa caususes, may have been a repayment to Cohen and Trump for helping to make the sex scandal of the “racy pictures” go away.
Falwell hasn’t just railed against what he calls sexual perversion, he has actively worked to roll back laws protecting everyone’s right to decide their own reproductive health, including trying to legally regulate what consenting adults (straight and queer alike) can do in the privacy of their own relationships. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to such issues for the last several decades that someone who publicly reviles other people for their personal sexual activity has some sexual skeletons in their closet, yet here, once again, that appears to be the case.
Now, we don’t know the exact contents of these racy pictures that Cohen paid someone to destroy. We don’t know for a fact whether the pool boy engaged in some kind of kinky sex with Mr & Mrs Falwell beginning in 2012 and continuing through early 2016 when they were still regularly seen in his company (remember, he was living, attending college, and running that business in Florida, which the Falwells live in Virginia, so all the times they were seen together weren’t merely a matter of happening to bump into a neighbor). We don’t know if that is what so endeared him to them that they shelled out $1.8 million to buy him a sketchy business in 2013. We don’t yet know how much money nor where said money came from that Cohen paid out to someone in Miami in 2015 to make the racy pictures go away. Likewise we don’t yet know who it was that was using those photos.
Now, since one of the times that the pool boy stayed at the Falwells’ mansion in Virginia was after Cohen made the racy photos go away, I think it is very clear that the pool boy wasn’t the person trying to blackmail them. It is very possible that the pool boy is in some of those photos—Cohen described the pictures as “very bad,” so they clearly can’t just be pictures of Falwell and his wife having sex all on their lonesome, as is implied by the phrase “of the sort that should remain private between a husband and wife.”
I have no beef with people living a monogamish relationship. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone the right to engage in kinky sex. One of the points I frequently make when talking about the injustice of sodomy laws, restrictions in reproductive rights, and civil rights for queer people is that as long as no one is getting hurt and everyone involved is a consenting adult—what people do to get their rocks off should be their own business, and outside the review of the law.
But I do have a beef with hypocrisy from people who are actively engaged in taking those kinds of rights away from other people. Particularly if they are either making their living from the tax payer (politicians, prosecutors, police, and so on) or making their living from tax exempt activities (which means indirectly funded by tax payers). If it turns out that Falwell’s decision to endorse self-described pussy-grabber Trump in the Republican primaries in part in gratitude for trying to make the scandal of the racy photos go away, well, we enter an entirely different level. Falwell more than meets the legal definition of a public figure, and this affair—whatever the salacious details—involves public money, the outcome of political campaigns, and the subsequent assault on the rights of LGBT people, women, immigrants, people who do not subscribe to Falwell’s brand of evangelical christianism, and others.
Giancarlo Granda, now in his late twenties and attending grad school in Georgetown, has issued a number of terse replies to various reporters over the series of events. When asked whether he knew anything about the photos, his reply was that he wasn’t the person who attempted to blackmail the Falwells. Which wasn’t exactly the question that was asked. He has a few other gripes with the way the story has been reported: Jerry Falwell’s Pool Boy: Stop Calling Me “Pool Boy”. Sorry, Giancarlo, that isn’t likely to happen. You were doing your job in a skimpy swimsuit as a pool attendant at a Miami hotel when the Falwell’s met you and pulled you into their life in whatever capacity. You went on those trips with them on their private, tax-exempt jet. And I don’t know anyone who believes it was because of your business acumen. So I’m not willing to think you’re a completely innocent victim in all of this.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Fernandez’s lawsuit. And if Cohen really did save one of the pictures, well, who knows what will happen, next?
Meanwhile, you might enjoy this video: Rachel Maddow: Michael Cohen Said He Fixed ‘Racy Photo’ Problem For Falwell Jr (Rachel also warns you may feel the need to take a shower after hearing some of the details):
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There was a whole series of stories I intentionally kept out of this week’s Friday Five because it’s an involved tale that falls into a theme I’ve blogged about a lot, and I had more than a few thoughts on it. So I had planned to run it as a Weekend Update post. I also kept this week’s Friday Five a bit more succinct than has been typical, of late, in part because since I had Friday off, I had intended to spend Thursday evening binging Lucifer season 4 on Netflix. Which I did.
No spoilers: I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I cheered, and please oh please let there be a season 5!
Anyway, my extended weekend started off both relaxing and productive. I had some errands and chores I wanted to get done, and most of those have been attended to. I’ve also napped more than I meant to, I’ve gotten a lot of reading in, and so forth. By Saturday morning when I originally planned to finish the other blog post, I just didn’t want to. Because, often my weekend updates are about really sordid things, and that’s what this series of stories is. I just wasn’t in the mood, or rather, I didn’t want to put myself into the sort of mood I would likely be after I finished that post. And I thought, well, there is a certain resonance to posting it on Sunday, so maybe I’ll work on it then.
Instead, I got up, took my meds, did a little bit of tidying in the kitchen, then laid down and slept for something like five ours. And I still don’t want to go there. So you’re getting a brief, and late, Weekend Update that is about good or cool or rockin’ things, instead of the sordid stuff about a public figure.
First up, just a nice little feel good story: Mom Gets a Surprise When She Skips Her Own Graduation to Attend Her Son’s. Woman goes back to school later in life, and finds out that the day she is supposed to accept her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at one university, is the same day that her son is getting his Bachelor’s in Music at a different university. So she decides to skip her ceremony to attend her son’s. A classmate of the son happens to have a workstudy job in the office of the university president, and told the president the story. So the president calls the president of the other university and the cook up the scheme to surprise both mother and son, by presenting mom’s diploma at their ceremony.
Novelist and comic-book writer Chuck Wendig has been tweeting a lot about the family of foxes that have a den not far from his writing shed, and he’s posted an album of the adorable photos for all to see.
Finally, a couple of cool things:
Coeur d’Alene artist turns decaying tree into little library:
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GOOD OMENS in 35,000 dominoes:
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First, last night my husband and I saw Avengers: Endgame at the nearby theatre where you can get real food and drinks brought out to you. They make an nice Old Fashioned, by the way. Anyway, we had just gotten seated in the crowded theatre before the advertisements started and my phone buzzed—and before you say anything, I always shut it off before the Previews start and I put my watch into theatre mode, so I’m not one of those guys. Anyway, I check it and there is a panicked text message from one of my aunts who is scared that my husband or I are dead. Or something. Why, because she saw this news: 4 dead after construction crane crushes cars in Seattle.
I refrained from pointing out that since the greater metropolitan Seattle area has a population of about 1.5 million, the probability that Michael or I were part of an incident were four people died and three more were injured was about 0.0000046%. And statistically there is a traffic fatality in the region about once every three days. And we don’t actually live in Seattle, any more, and tend to spend our entire weekends up in Shoreline and Edmonds and the other neighboring suburbs. But I understand that it’s a very grisly image: you’re driving along, minding your own business, and several tons of steel fall out of the sky, crushing your car and several around you. As it was, the crane had fallen several hours earlier, when Michael and I were eating a late brunch in a Family Pancake restaurant in Edmonds. And at the time my aunt heard the news and panicked, we were sitting in a theatre in Mountlake Terrace—we weren’t in Seattle at all.
Today in follow-up news I learn there is kind of a connection: one of the four people killed was a student at Seattle Pacific University, where I attended years ago. I am happy to learn that the baby and mother who were among the injured were released from the hospital last night. I hope they have a speedy recovery.
Now, we go from tragic accident to another horrific mass shooting. On the last day of Passover as a synagogue, no less: Woman killed, 3 injured in shooting at California synagogue. Just horrifying the people think walking into a house of worship with an automatic weapons is a reasonable response to anything. And that the only thing that we could possibly do in this situations is the old thoughts-and-prayers BS: ‘The blood spilled today is on your hands’: Trump slammed for ‘thoughts and prayers’ comment after synagogue shooting.
Hate crimes are up since the alleged president was unduly elected. And they are being committed by angry white men who are often literally citing the pussy-grabber-in-chief during the execution of their crimes. This isn’t tragedy, this is part of an active campaign of hate and terror, encouraged by the person currently occupying the White House: Opinion: Why Poway Proves Again That Trump Has To Go. But also aided and abetted by the vast majority of the Republican Party. Yesterday I linked to a story about why Twitter doesn’t mass ban Nazis (Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too), but there’s more to it than policy. The algorithms which work perfectly fine in other parts of the world to identify and ban Nazis and Nazi sympathizers to conform with local laws, sweep up a lot of Republican politicians, including the president. Not because the algorithms are less perceptive than humans, but because those politicians are saying, promoting, and encouraging the genocidal beliefs and policies of the Nazis.
And I will say it again: this isn’t a new phenomenon. The Republican Party has been the home of white nationalism since the sixties.
And those white nationalists are just getting bolder and bolder: Self-Proclaimed Nationalists Interrupt Author, Chant ‘This Land Is Our Land’ at Politics and Prose Bookstore. They’re completely oblivious to the fact that the land all of us U.S. citizens live on was stolen from Native Americans, who were massacred and driven off. It’s stolen land. I’m also irritated at them stealing lyrics from the guy who’s guitar famously sported the slogan, “This machine kills fascists.”
They were there because Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology, medicine, and health at Vanderbilt University, as at the store to do a reading and discuss his recent book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland. The protestors are apparently all former members of Identity Evropa, another white supremacist group many of whose members were recently identified as members of the military and police officers—who began losing their jobs because of some of the illegal activities associate with the group. The new group calls itself AIM (American Identity Movement), and was insisting that they had nothing to do with the old group, but that’s already been shown to be a lie.
In another act of thievery, I have to point at the the initialism AIM is also the name of the American Indian Movement, an group that advocates for Native America civil rights and so forth. So it’s not enough that they try to assert ownership of stolen land, but they’re operating under a stolen name, too.
But we can’t let all this hatred turn us into haters ourselves! Neither can we allow these acts of terror and intimidation to succeed. I agree with Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein: The rabbi injured in the shooting wants Jewish people to ‘fill up the synagogues’.
“We’re not going to be intimidated or deterred. Terror will not win and as Americans, we can’t and won’t cower in the face of this senseless hate… A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness. We need a lot of light now.”
In case you’ve already read more about it than you like, I’ll put it behind a cut tag. So don’t click if you don’t want to see… Read More…
What does a self-loathing closet case anti-gay ex-Congressman do after somehow getting a sweetheart deal on his financial crimes prosecution?
So, disgraced former Republican Congressman Aaron Shock is in the news again: Former GOP Congressman Aaron Schock spotted at Coachella making out with a guy and What Happens at Coachella Doesn’t Stay at Coachella (If You’re Hanging with a Gay Right Wing Republican). He was a public official who voted for and campaigned on anti-gay causes. He tried to make it legal for people to fire folks merely for being suspected of being gay. He voted against amending federal hate crimes laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability. He voted against the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in December 2010. He has never renounced those positions, even after resigned from office while he was being charged with a lot of financial malfeasance.
Last month prosecutors reached an agreement with Schock where all charges against him were dropped in exchange for him paying $42,000 to the IRS (taxes owed on a fraction of the money he illegally obtained while in congress) and $68,000 to his congressional campaign fund. As part of the deal, Schock’s campaign committee pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses.
For years rumors circulated around about the anti-gay congressmen, because of his unusual fashion choices and the years of being unmarried and wealthy but always having unmarried male “roommates.” But things hit mainstream media after someone reported that his personal Twitter account and Instagram account was following hundreds of gay models and male athletes who were always known for posting pictures of themselves scantily clad. Shock abruptly unfollowed those hundreds of accounts en mass when a major news site finally mentioned the gay rumors
Then on a taxpayer-funded trip abroad Congressman Shock had this guy who was listed as a staff photographer (but he never took pictures) put in a hotel room with a door adjoining his, get upgrades and other things using programs that are usually meant for spouses, and so on. The supposed photographer sat with Shock at banquets similarly to the spouses of other congressmen on the trip, The supposed photographed posed in pictures standing beside Shock like the spouses of other congressmen and the American service members abroad they met with on the trip. Read that again: the official staff photographer didn’t take pictures, he posed as if he was the congressman’s spouse in the pictures.Let’s not forget the time when when he was walking around a gay neighborhood with reporters during Pride week where he was supposed to be talking about some urban issues but he kept getting distracted on camera with his eyes following the hot shirtless men who walked by. Those are among the many, many, many reasons that everyone with a lick of sense had been saying for years that the anti-gay (ex-)Congressman is probably a closeted gay man.
I’ve seen people–gay people–posting on some sites that Shock’s private life is his business, and if out gay guys want to hang with him, we shouldn’t judge.
He used the power of his office to cause harm to queer people. He used the power of his office to argue that anyone should have the right to fire, evict, or refuse to give medical services if they even suspect that person might be gay. He argued that employers and private citizens should be able to pry into other queer people’s private lives and discriminate against them. Until he makes amends for that by coming out, apologizing for the harm he caused, and make some kind of significant contribution to pro-queer causes, he has forfeited any right to a private sex life of his own. And I can absolutely judge any other queer people who friends with the douche who enabled hate crimes and more.