Ex-Liberty spokesman says he was fired for raising concerns
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former spokesperson for Liberty University is suing the evangelical Virginia school after being fired, alleging in a lawsuit filed Monday that his termination came in retaliation for voicing concerns that sexual misconduct accusations were mishandled.
Scott Lamb, a vice president-level executive at the school where he was hired in 2018, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he pushed for answers about what was being done to investigate claims raised in a lawsuit filed over the summer by 12 women, and was continually dissatisfied.
The women’s lawsuit, which is still ongoing, alleged the school had a pattern of mishandling cases of sexual assault and harassment and had fostered an unsafe campus environment. A student-led movement has since been established to advocate for systemic reforms, and the nonprofit investigative journalism outlet ProPublica published a deeply reported investigation Sunday with findings similar to the allegations raised in the lawsuit.
Lamb said in the interview that the university, which has a gleaming campus in Lynchburg, has plenty of resources and should have used them to open a third-party investigation of the women’s claims.
“We put $300 million in the bank last year, and some change. We have two-point-something-billion in the endowment, and we can’t afford to just deal righteously with these people. Why?” Lamb said.
Liberty University General Counsel David Corry said in a statement that the university “categorically denies Mr. Lamb’s claims that his termination was in any way the result of advice he had given on how the university should respond” to the women’s lawsuit. He said Lamb was terminated with cause as a result of a meeting about “a recent review of the area under his management.”
“Lamb’s lawsuit is a transparent effort to rebuild his own reputation by shamefully playing on the goodwill of supporters of sexual assault victims. We look forward to addressing his claims in court,” Corry said.
Lamb’s lawsuit alleges that he was terminated for engaging in activity protected under Title IX, the federal law that protects against sex discrimination in education, after challenging the university’s handling of the complaints.
His complaint says things came to a head in a meeting early this month when he told top school officials that “he would not be silenced or participate in a cover up of activities” at the university.
The following day, he was approached about negotiating a separation agreement and on Oct. 6, he was fired, according to the lawsuit.
Lamb also alleges that he was retaliated against for his participation in an outside investigation conducted into the tenure of Jerry Falwell Jr., the former president whose personal controversies and acrimonious departure from Liberty last year garnered national headlines.
His lawsuit says he sat for 20-25 hours of interviews as part of that probe, the findings of which the school has not discussed publicly.
Lamb’s lawsuit broadens the list of litigation the school has faced recently. In April, the school sued Falwell, seeking millions in damages. And in July, a former NFL player hired last year to help lead diversity initiatives sued, alleging racial discrimination in his demotion and subsequent firing.
Lamb said he was offered a severance package if he signed a nondisclosure agreement, which he declined. His firing has meant not only the loss of his income and benefits but scholarship funding for his four children who attend the school, he said. His lawsuit seeks to recoup past and future wage losses and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“I’ll forsake the scholarship and the salary and the benefits ... to keep my tongue free to speak of which I’ve seen,” he said.
A Liberty spokesperson did not respond to questions from AP about what the school has done to investigate the female litigants’ claims, aside from resending a statement issued in July, when the lawsuit was filed. Nor did the spokesperson respond to a request for comment about ProPublica’s investigation.
Kendall Covington, a senior at Liberty and a student representative for Save71, an alumni-led organization advocating for reform at Liberty, said the group welcomes Lamb’s apparent willingness to push for change.
She said the student body had not received any kind of acknowledgment Monday about the ProPublica story, something she called “par for the course.”
“Liberty University needs to actually address what’s occurring,” she said.