Author denies book claims Falwell died broke
On Wednesday, August 6, the New York Daily News published a cautionary tale about how the Rev. Jerry Falwell died $20 million in debt thanks to a failed real estate deal. Now it appears the Daily News and other media outlets who reported on the story, like the Atlantic Monthly, New York gossip site Gawker.com– and yes, even the Hook– are the ones who need to be cautioned.
The misinformation was reported in an article about the forthcoming book Falwell Inc. by Forbes reporter Dirk Smillie. The next day, Falwell's son Jerry Jr. went on local television to deny the report that Falwell had lost even a dime on Liberty Village–- a planned Christian community of 1,135 homes that served for a while as training grounds for the Lynchburg police SWAT team, and presently houses some students of Liberty University.
"The reporter never bothered to call us, to ask for verification or comment," Falwell told Roanoke's WDBJ-TV. "It's even more egregious because it's about someone who's deceased and can't defend himself."
Reached by the Hook today in his New York office, Smillie confirmed Falwell's statement. "They goofed," says Smillie of the Daily News. "It's false."
"I think what happened," he continues, "is that they connected what Falwell was marketing with Falwell himself. The developer to whom he sold the land lost $20 million and declared bankruptcy, but he hadn't invested in it, nor did his ministry."
Still, while Falwell didn't lose any money on the deal, his university did stand to gain if the Candler's Mountain development turned a profit. "The deal was that Liberty University would have gotten either 2.5 percent of each sale or 10 percent of the net income, whichever was larger," says Smillie, "but, of course, that never materialized."
The New York Daily News had not returned the Hook's call for comment at the time of this post.