Jerry Falwell Jr: *The Chronicle of Higher Education* Interview

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, just gave an interview to Jack Stripling of The Chronicle of Higher Education. The first part of the interview covers ground we have already covered here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. The second part of the interview is pretty revealing. Stripling annotates some of Falwell Jr.’s answers in brackets.

Here is a taste:

Are you going in to your office?

I don’t have as many meetings as I used to, but whenever I do need to have one, yes, I’ll go in and have one.

Do you wear a mask?

No.

Do you ever wear one?

No.

Why not?

I don’t get close enough to anybody to need one. I got the antibody test, and I have not had Covid-19.

[The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”]

You got the antibody test because you felt you had symptoms, or you were just wondering if you’d won the Covid lottery and might be immune?

I was just curious. I kept hearing so much hype about it; I just wanted to see how real the threat was.

The fact that you didn’t have the antibodies, does that make you think that the threat is exaggerated?

No, I’m just glad to see it wasn’t bad enough around here that I’d caught it.

[Of 31,140 reported coronavirus cases in Virginia, 74 are in Lynchburg, where Liberty’s main campus is.]…

When do you think you will have to make a decision about the fall?

Whenever I want to. Whenever I decide that the powers-that-be have concluded that it’s safe to open, then I’ll make the call. But not until then; I don’t have to. There’s no pressure.

We’re giving faculty their contracts, but we are making them contingent on enrollment levels. And there’s a chance a lot of kids won’t come back because parents are scared to send them back. So we’re going to keep our options open.

[Liberty professors do not have tenure, except in the law school, where accreditation requires it. The university has a $1.6 billion endowment, and it boasts an enrollment of 100,000 online students.]…

Have you had any direct conversations with President Trump since this pandemic began?

Yeah, he called yesterday. I was sitting in the car, and the phone number popped up and I didn’t recognize it and I answered it: “Jerry,” the president said.

I can’t tell you what he said, but it was just a friendly conversation.

I told him about what we were planning to do with The New York Times about the trespassing charges, and he said, “I hear that people are dying at Liberty. Now I hear there’s zero cases. He said, “Why don’t they correct it?” I said, “Good question.”

What did he think of how you were handling The New York Times?

I never say what the president says to me.

You just did!

Not really.

Fair enough. In your Fox interview, you were floating the idea that North Korea and China might have created the virus. There’s been criticism that there’s just no evidence for this, that this is conspiratorial thinking. Was it appropriate to voice that out loud?

Afterward, everybody else started saying the same thing. I was ahead of the game on that one.

It’s funny: A lot of Ivy League schools have connections to that Wuhan lab. I don’t know if you’ve heard that. I don’t know if they’re working over there. I just read last week there’s some connection between Ivy League schools and that Wuhan lab. I don’t know if that means anything.

If I didn’t know better, I would think you were planting a seed that Ivy League universities are part of some conspiracy to release the coronavirus. Is that what you’re saying?

No, no, no. I was just surprised to read that they were involved with that lab.

This is the exact kind of stuff that people complain about with you: Just floating the ‘isn’t this curious?’ type of thing. Now you’ve added Ivy League universities to the list, as if they’re part of some problem.

That was published in the mainstream media. They did it to raise suspicion. I didn’t. I was just telling you what they said.

[Scientists have said they doubt the new coronavirus emerged from a lab in Wuhan. But the theory remains resonant in political circles. In response to follow-up questions about Ivy League connections to the Wuhan lab, Falwell provided an article from Bloomberg about a Harvard University chemistry professor who had been arrested in a crackdown on intellectual-property theft sponsored by China. There is no evidence that Charles M. Leiber, the professor, had anything to do with the novel coronavirus, despite social-media posts suggesting otherwise, FactCheck.org reported in FebruaryThe Chronicle provided Falwell with a link to FactCheck.org’s reporting on Leiber. “Interesting,” Falwell replied].

How would you feel if you opened Liberty and you had a student or faculty member who got really sick, or even died? Would you feel tremendous guilt?

That’s why I said I’m going to exercise extreme caution before making decisions. You weigh all the factors, and you make the risk known, and it’s their choice whether to come. I don’t see how that’s any different than going on a ski slope in the state of Virginia.

But I wouldn’t open school and say we recommend you come if this thing’s still going like it is now. You’re welcome to come, but please realize that we can’t control what we can’t control.

I wouldn’t care how many showed up and how many didn’t. A lot of schools would.

Because you have so much money.

If you want to put it that way [laughing]. I didn’t say that; you did.

You’ve kind of been saying it.

We don’t have the financial pressures that a lot of schools have.

Read the entire interview here. It may be behind a paywall.