The head of the evangelical Liberty University, which has strict rules over dress code and social activities, has been accused of hypocrisy after he shared a photo of himself with his pants unzipped to reveal his underwear.
Jerry Falwell Jr, who is also a prominent backer of Donald Trump and one of America’s most power evangelical leaders, posted the photo, which apparently shows him portraying a character from the cult Canadian comedy Trailer Park Boys, to Instagram this week.
Falwell Jr deleted the image, which he said was taken on a yacht, but it was shared by a Houston Chronicle reporter on Twitter.
The photo shows Falwell Jr, who has recently been criticized for reopening Liberty University despite the coronavirus risk, wearing a black T-shirt and dark pants. The pants have been unzipped at the fly and are stretched open to reveal Falwell’s navel, stomach and upper crotch.
Falwell’s underpants, which appear to be grey, are visible.
“More vacation shots,” Falwell said in a comment below the photo. “Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht.”
In the photo Falwell is carrying a glass which is filled with a dark beverage.
“I promise that’s just black water in my glass,” Falwell wrote in the comment. “It was a prop only.”
An accompanying video, obtained by the Pulpit and Pen website, says Falwell was portraying Julian, one of the lead characters in Trailer Park Boys.
Julian is known for wearing black T-shirts, having a black beard, and perpetually holding a glass of rum and coke, but less so for wearing his pants unzipped to reveal his underwear.
Liberty University did not immediately respond to a Guardian email asking why Falwell had shared a photo of himself with his pants unzipped.
On Twitter the the singer and actor Bette Midler said the photo had “strained her eyeballs”, while author John Pavlovitz posted: “Imagine the righteous outrage from people like Jerry Falwell if those kinds of pictures had been posted by AOC; the sermonizing we’d have heard from the “families values” folks. #hypocrites.”
Falwell’s outfit seemed inconsistent with dress code regulations of Liberty University, a favorite of evangelical Republicans. The university rules that skirts may not be shorter than two inches above the knee and forbids male students from wearing shorts in class.
Liberty University does not have a specific rule regarding wearing one’s pants unzipped to reveal the crotch area, but does state that “hairstyles and fashion should avoid extremes”.
Falwell has previously faced questions over his behavior, including after he was photographed partying at a Miami nightclub.
At Liberty University, students who attend a dance face a fine of $20, and are also barred from “visiting alone with the opposite sex at an off-campus residence”, according to the Washington Post. The university also deems sex outside of marriage, and same-sex relations, to be “not permissible”.
Falwell also raised eyebrows after he and his wife struck up a close friendship with Giancarlo Granda, a 21-year-old pool boy. Falwell went on to contribute $1.8m to Granda’s purchase of a Miami hostel which the New York Times described as “gay-friendly” and Politico said was a “cesspool of vice”.