The threats of “mean” lawyers, FBI investigations, and attempts to attack the masculinity of reporter Brandon Ambrosino, are a mere distraction from Falwell having to address his hypocritical behavior and the culture of fear he has created at Liberty University. Instead of coming before his community–the largest Christian college in the world– in a spirit of repentance or humility, Falwell is going to focus on how he was actually the victim in all of this. Whatever the FBI decides to do about this “attempted coup,” or however Politico managed to get access to these e-mails, the evidence does not lie. Falwell has some explaining to do.
Andrew Egger of The Bulwark, a website founded by conservative radio personality Charlie Sykes, makes a similar argument in a piece titled “Jerry Falwell Jr. Is Starting to Sound a Lot Like Donald Trump.”
But what’s interesting here isn’t just that Falwell seems to be an even bigger creep than we’d previously imagined. Just as noteworthy has been the response the piece prompted from Falwell. His back against the wall, deserted by former allies, Falwell has hit back—not by leaning on his faith-leader credentials, but by diving headfirst into #MAGAsphere conspiracy-mongering.
“Our attorneys have determined that this small number of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provide them to reporters,” Falwell told The Hill in a Tuesday interview. He added that he had asked the FBI to investigate the matter.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Falwell has beat a steady drumbeat to the tune that the Politico report is politically motivated “fake news,” insisting he is the target of an “attempted coup” and suggesting ominously that “Politico’s new CEO is a big Democratic donor.”
The first noteworthy thing about this response is that it has nothing to do with him. Falwell seems to have internalized the Trumpian lesson that the best defense is a good offense. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether he’s a terrible boss, husband, Christian, and leader, so long as he can convince a critical mass of people paying attention to this news cycle that the people gunning for him are worse.
But the more important strategy here is even more primal than that. By pursuing this particular triage strategy, Falwell seems to be trying to persuade his audience to ignore the specifics—and instead merely regard whose team each side is on.
Read the entire piece here. My only criticism is that Falwell has been sounding like Donald Trump for a long time–there is nothing new here. Perhaps the only real difference between the “leadership” style of these two autocrats is that Trump does not use e-mail.