Speed Reads

Loose Ends

Did Jerry Falwell Jr., a Miami Beach 'pool boy,' and Michael Cohen's special skills tip the 2016 election?

These facts are uncontested: Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife met and befriended a 21-year-old male pool attendant at Miami's tony Fontainebleau hotel in 2012; they invested in a gay-friendly South Beach youth hostel at the recommendation of the pool attendant, Giancarlo Granda, and named him co-manager; they introduced Granda to Donald Trump at Falwell's Liberty University in Virginia in 2012; Falwell endorsed Trump for president in early 2016; and Trump's former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen told comedian Tom Arnold in March that he had intervened to protect the Falwells by trying to bury racy, kinky photos of them in late 2015, in a dispute involving the "pool boy" and the hostel.

Any strings tying those events together are speculative and disputed, as is their relationship to the 2016 presidential race, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Falwell, the son of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell Sr., isn't an ordained minister, but his unexpected, pivotal endorsement of the thrice-married Trump "became a permission slip for deeply religious conservatives who were attracted by Mr. Trump's promises to make America great again but wary of his well-known history of infidelity" and other typical deal-breakers, the Times says. Trump's subsequent and enduring strength among white evangelicals helped propel him to the Republican nomination and the White House.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had been counting on strong evangelical support, and in mid-January 2016, Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, told the Cruz campaign that Falwell had committed to endorsing Cruz, two people involved in the campaign told the Times. When a top Cruz adviser called to speed up the endorsement, Falwell said he couldn't endorse anyone, blaming Liberty's board, then a few days later, he endorsed Trump, the Times reports.

The Falwells have denied that there are any compromising or embarrassing photos of them and say they were unaware Cohen had allegedly intervened on their behalf. Cohen, in jail, has not commented on the allegations Arnold covertly recorded him sharing. Read more about the bizarre story at The New York Times.