*Rolling Stone* on Liberty University in the age of Trump

Check out Bob Moser’s comprehensive piece at Rolling Stone on Liberty University and its disgraced president former president Jerry Falwell Jr. Those who have followed this story won’t find much that is new in the piece, but it is the most comprehensive article I have seen on Liberty and Falwell in the age of Trump.

Here is a taste:

Most people I interviewed recalled a particular time when it became totally, irrefutably clear to them that Falwell was morphing into a very different character and that the climate at Liberty was changing along with him. This convo was the one for Sauskojus. “It was the clearest before-and-after moment,” she says. “All of campus was like, ‘Oh, shit!’ And from there on, all through that next election year, it was just one political convo after another. By the time Trump came on MLK Day, a lot of us were like, ‘Oh, OK, some of the things Jerry says aren’t just because he’s bad at public speaking. It’s because he’s espousing what is just an ugly and racist brand of evangelicalism.’ ”

Read the entire piece here.

The court evangelicals and hotel Trump

Over at The Washington Post, Sarah Pulliam Bailey reveals all the court evangelicals who have stayed at the $650 a night Trump hotel in Washington D.C. Here is a taste:

Jerry Falwell Jr., former president of Liberty University, said he stayed there for a gala for the opening of the Museum of the Bible in 2017 and has eaten in the lobby’s restaurant several times because he is fond of seafood as well as the establishment’s owner. “It’s like supporting a friend,” said Falwell, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters. When he was president of Liberty, the university would pay for his travel, he said. “It’s not like they’re giving us better rates. We pay full price.”

Robert Jeffress, who is pastor of First Baptist Church, a prominent Southern Baptist Church in Dallas, said he has stayed at the hotel about a dozen times since it opened and gets a discount because he is a regular customer. He said his choice of hotel, which his church pays for, has nothing to do with his support for the president and comes down to one factor: Its proximity to the White House. “It’s ridiculous to think that the president could be swayed … by where guests stay,” he said.

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, stayed in the hotel for one night in August 2018 when he was in town for a White House dinner for religious leaders, a trip that was paid for by his North Carolina church The Summit. Greear’s spokesman Todd Unzicker said Greear had booked an Airbnb but decided to switch to the Trump hotel because he could meet with other pastors staying there, and because he thought it had a good space to record a video for his ministry. “It’s like the convention hotel,” Unzicker said. “It’s convenient.”

Read the entire piece here.

Falwell Jr. wrap-up at *The Washington Post*

While I was on a short blogging vacation, The Washington Post published an informative overview of the fall of Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty University. Here is a taste of Michael Miller’s and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece:

For 2½ years, Giancarlo Granda had been telling his family about the generosity of his business partners. The wealthy couple from out of town had taken him under their wing, he said, rewarding the Miami pool attendant’s ambition with a stake in a multimillion-dollar real estate project. Now he wanted them to meet.

In a trendy Italian restaurant inside the South Beach property where he’d become a part owner, Granda introduced his parents and sister to his unlikely benefactors: Jerry and Becki Falwell.

Over wine and pasta, the president of Liberty University and his wife praised the square-jawed 22-year-old, saying he was like an adopted son, Granda and his sister recalled.

“Oh, my God. They’re so nice,” Granda’s mother said of the Falwells afterward. “They’re so charming.”

“You see?” Granda recalled replying. “They just want to help me out.”

Read the rest here.

Where is Jeh Johnson’s speech on the Liberty University website?

On Friday, former Obama cabinet member Jeh Johnson spoke at Liberty University. Though he did not mention Donald Trump, his speech on leadership could only be interpreted as a criticism of the president. If you want a sense of what Johnson said, you can read my blog post here.

Today, the video of Johnson’s speech is no longer on the Liberty University website or YouTube page. The Liberty University News Service article on Johnson’s visit is gone. It’s as if this speech never happened. But it did.

UPDATE: The article about Jeh Johnson’s visit can be viewed on the Wayback Machine Internet Archive.

I have no idea why this is the only Liberty University convocation of the 2020-2021 academic year that has been removed. Maybe Jeh Johnson did not want it shared.

Or maybe some things at Liberty never change.

Let’s remember that interim president Jerry Prevo is a Jerry Falwell Sr. loyalist and was the honorary co-chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign in Alaska. Perhaps the Falkirk Center does indeed represent the spirit of Liberty University as it moves into the post-Falwell era.

Jeh Johnson speaks at Liberty University

Jeh Johnson was Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. Today he spoke to Liberty students about character and leadership. Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump, much of this speech was about Donald Trump (and perhaps Jerry Falwell Jr.) During the Q&A he tells campus pastor David Nasser that he believes racism is a systemic problem.

Watch:

Good leaders, Johnson argued:

  1. Tell people the truth
  2. Build consensus (and do not merely find consensus).
  3. Surround themselves with people willing to offer hard truths
  4. Never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. (Like separating immigrant children from their parents).
  5. Live by the Golden Rule

Click here for Politico‘s story on Johnson’s visit.

Two days earlier, campus pastor David Nasser spoke about race in America and on the Liberty campus. He still seems skeptical about systemic racism and believes that a religious revival will solve everything, but before you say he doesn’t go far enough, please try to understand his speech in context. Nasser is trying to address important issues and understands his audience. These are worthwhile steps. Nasser says he is getting some blow-back on campus for his efforts.

People on the Christian Right are noticing what Nasser is doing at Liberty and they are not happy about it. The right-wing Christian website Capstone Report is upset about a recent event on Liberty’s campus:

Here is a taste of the Capstone Report’s post:

According to the source, a Liberty University dean promoted a Christian study of the book The Heart of Racial Justice. The book study is an attempt to radicalize young nursing students in the Social Justice rhetoric, we were told by worried conservatives at Liberty.

The book promotes what are now common tropes among the Critical Race Theory-Intersectionality and Social Justice Wokevangelical movement. Namely, that American Evangelical Christianity is defective, individualistic and promoted evil power structures.

On page 209, the authors assert that the Christian West has used its power to preach an “individualistic gospel” over true forms of Christianity. Instead some type of communitarian form of Christianity is promoted and preferred.

And on pp. 88-89, the authors preach an anti-corporate message claiming that White Americans “must face what people of their ethnicity have done to others” and that “Western government and corporations are the world champions of spin doctoring and spin control” and that the West pursues economic and military conquest of others around the globe.

If this book were written in 1979 instead of 2009, everyone would recognize the Marxist roots of that critique.

The core of the book teaches white people enjoy white privilege and have exploited other people groups historically. There is no nuance in this view showing the historical reality that every people group in history has done something like the authors allege—it is what the pages of history continue to show—whether the Islamic invasion of Europe reversed only by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours or the vast invasion of the West by the Great Khans of the Steppes.

On the day (Thursday) between Nasser’s remarks and Johnson’s visit, the Falkirk Center, Liberty’s culture war wing and public voice, held a conference on campus. The folks at the Capstone Report sound just like what I heard yesterday at the Falkirk event. Liberty University is trying to address racism on campus, but their public image, as represented the Falkirk Center, remains the same. As might be expected, the university is in the midst of a post-Falwell identity crisis and we are seeing it all play out on YouTube and online.

Slacktivist is on fire today!

Thurston Howell III

Fred Clark, aka Slacktivist, packed a lot of stuff in a post today titled “Some say he was an outlaw.” Here are some highlights:

On the difference between Jerry Falwell Sr. and Jerry Falwell Jr.: “But look a little deeper and you’ll find only differences in degree, not in kind.” I made the same argument today at Religion News Service.

On today’s story about disgraced Southern Baptist minister and seminary president Paige Patterson: “But this long-time general in the culture wars also seems to be just another white-collar grifter fighting the class wars on the side of the 1 percent.”

On Eric Metaxas’s punch: “Metaxas, for some reason dressed like a cross between Thurston Howell and James Spader in Pretty in Pink….” Correction, Fred. That should be Thurston Howell III! 🙂

Read the entire post here.

Reforming Liberty University in the post-Falwell era should begin with the Falkirk Center

Here is a taste of my piece today at Religion News Service:

On Aug. 26, hundreds of students, wearing masks and properly distanced, gathered in Liberty University’s Williams Stadium for Campus Community, a weekly event that campus pastor David Nasser calls “one of the largest Bible studies in the world.”

It was the first Campus Community of the new academic year and Nasser did not avoid the elephant in the room (or, in this case, on the field). He directly addressed the resignation of former Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. after allegations that Falwell and his wife, Becki, had initiated a multiyear sexual affair with a Miami pool boy named Giancarlo Granda.

This moment that we’re in is a mess,” Nasser said, and “I am sorry.” He added, “Liberty is more than a college. … We are God’s college and as our founder (Jerry Falwell Sr.) always said, ‘If it’s Christian it ought to be better,’ certainly better than this.”

These were powerful, heartfelt words. It’s obvious that Nasser is a good man who wants to bring healing to the university he loves. Such healing starts with acknowledging Falwell Jr.’s sin and affirming a commitment to make Liberty, in Nasser’s words, a more “God-glorifying place.”

But for many onlookers, the problems at Liberty run much deeper than a sex scandal. If the university is serious about cleaning up the mess, it will need to take a hard look at the approach to Christianity and public life that the university’s leadership has championed for more than four decades. With Falwell Jr. gone, Liberty does indeed have a chance to be a “better,” more “God-glorifying place,” but it will require serious reforms. The first step should be to close its culture war “think tank,” the Falkirk Center.

Read the rest here.

I should also add that the Falkirk Center is having a big “Faith Summit” tomorrow called “Get Louder: Fighting for the Soul of America.” Speakers include Mike Huckabee, Eric Metaxas, Charlie Kirk, John MacArthur, and Jenna Ellis.

Michael Cohen links the “killing” of racy photos to Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Trump endorsement in 2016

Here is Aram Roston at Reuters:

In his book released today, Michael Cohen, the former fixer for U.S. President Donald Trump, ties for the first time the 2016 presidential endorsement of Trump by American evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr to Cohen’s own role in helping to keep racy “personal” photographs of the Falwells from becoming public.

As Reuters reported last year, the Falwells enlisted Cohen to keep “a bunch of photographs, personal photographs” from becoming public, Cohen said in a recording, made surreptitiously by comedian Tom Arnold. “I actually have one of the photos,” he said, without going into specifics. “It’s terrible.”

In “Disloyal: The Memoir,” Cohen describes thinking that his involvement in the Falwell photo matter would be a “catch and kill” — the practice of American tabloids to obtain and then suppress unfavorable stories about celebrities — “but in this case it was just going to be kill.”

He later writes: “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”

Cohen has said that he helped persuade Falwell to endorse Trump just before Republican voters gathered in Iowa in February 2016 to nominate a presidential candidate. Falwell not only publicly vouched for Trump’s Christian virtues but also barnstormed with the candidate. His backing of Trump — a twice-divorced candidate who had talked about grabbing women’s genitals and engaged in extramarital affairs — was one of the major surprises of the 2016 campaign.

In the book, Cohen doesn’t explicitly say that the endorsement was the favor he sought in return for his help in having kept the Falwell photos from getting out. But his account marks the first time he has linked the two issues.

Read the entire piece here.

Was Liberty University a school or Jerry Falwell Jr.’s personal business?

Aram Roston and Joshua Schneyer of Reuters are uncovering things. Here is a taste of their recent piece:

Falwell, who took over as president of Liberty in 2007 after years as a lawyer handling its real estate interests, intertwined his personal finances with those of the evangelical Christian university founded by his father.

He put his two sons – and their wives as well – on the university’s payroll. He arranged the transfer of a multi-acre Liberty facility to his personal trainer. He enlisted a friend’s construction company to manage an ambitious campus expansion costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

And before becoming school president, Falwell set up two companies that enabled him to cut property deals with one of the many nonprofit entities affiliated with the university, Reuters found. In each of the deals, Falwell played multiple roles with potentially conflicting interests: He was an officer of the university, a board member for the nonprofit selling the land, and a private developer who could profit from the transactions.

“It’s very worrisome to have these sorts of financial arrangements going on and they deserve intense scrutiny,” said Michael Bastedo of the University of Michigan School of Education.

In 2001, property records show, Falwell set up a private company while he was a lawyer for Liberty, used it to buy an undeveloped tract of land from the school, and then developed a strip mall on the plot. The company sold the property five years later at a significant premium.

In 2005, property records show, Falwell again acted as a private businessman when a university nonprofit affiliate and a company he operated joined together to sell land to a third company – controlled by Falwell’s real estate partner.

And in 2012, in a project Falwell launched as Liberty’s president, the university spent more than $2 million to build a tunnel that links the campus to another shopping plaza near campus. Falwell is a part owner of that shopping plaza.

Read the entire piece here.

Jerry and Becki vs. Jim and Tammy

Over at Religion News Service, University of Missouri historian John Wigger compares two evangelical sex scandals separated by 33 years. Wigger is the author of PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire. Here is a taste of his piece at Religion News Service:

Is there a road back for Jerry and Becki Falwell?

The second acts of Jim and Tammy Bakker suggest that there is. Irrepressible and unfiltered, with big hair and outrageous lashes, Tammy’s focus was never solely on the church, so it was easier for her to branch out. While she never lost her faith, after the collapse of PTL and her divorce from Jim, she ventured beyond the borders of evangelicalism, becoming an icon of the gay community, the Judy Garland of televangelism.

After prison, Jim initially rejected the prosperity gospel that had been so much a part of his success and downfall at PTL. But it was not long before he returned to his roots. He and his second wife, Lori Bakker, have built a new ministry called Morningside on 700 acres near Branson, Missouri. There Bakker has exchanged the prosperity gospel for doomsday apocalypticism, finding a way to turn a profit by selling freeze-dried survival food and gear to preppers. He has also turned to conservative politics, aligning with Donald Trump. It is brilliant, in a way, connecting to current trends and a new base of support.

Whichever path the Falwells choose, they will not be the last of their kind.

Much of American evangelicalism’s success rests on its close connection to American popular culture. But appropriating cultural expectations is risky business. Lines blur and compromises are ignored until scandal erupts.

Read the rest here.

Liberty University’s board of trustees will investigate “financial, real estate, and legal matters” while Falwell Jr. was president

falwell-jr

Ruth Graham, now at The New York Times, has the story. Here is a taste:

The board of trustees of Liberty University announced on Monday that it had retained an independent forensic firm to conduct an investigation into the school’s operations under Jerry Falwell Jr., who resigned last week in the wake of a sex scandal after serving as its president and chancellor since 2007.

The statement from the board of trustees said the firm would “conduct a thorough investigation into all facets of Liberty University operations during Jerry Falwell Jr.’s tenure as president, including but not limited to financial, real estate and legal matters.”

Read the rest here.

There is nothing new about what happened to conservative evangelicals this week. But how will they respond?

metaxas-at-party

It was a rough week for conservative evangelicals in the United States. The president of the largest Christian university in the country resigned after a sex scandal. A popular evangelical radio host and author was caught on tape punching an anti-Trump protester. The vice-president of the United States gave a speech in which he replaced the words of the New Testament with references to American nationalism. The president of the United States, in an attempt to appeal to his evangelical base, gave a speech that celebrated Christian participation in Manifest Destiny.

None of this is new. Evangelical leaders have been part of sex-scandals before. Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and Bill Hybels come immediately to mind. Fundamentalist churches have a history of sexual abuse. In the early 1970s, Billy James Hargis was accused of having sex with male and female students at his American Christian College.

Evangelicals and their fundamentalist heirs have acted violently toward their enemies before. Texas fundamentalist J. Frank Norris was charged with murder when he shot and killed a lumber worker who came to his office to complain about something Norris wrote in his religious newspaper.

Ministers and politicians have been twisting scripture to serve political ends since the American Revolution. I wrote an entire chapter about this in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

Finally, presidential candidates have often blown racist dog-whistles, sometime disguised as history, to rally their white supporters. Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon all come to mind.

How will conservative evangelicals, especially those who support Donald Trump, respond to all this? Rather than seeing what happened this week with Jerry Falwell Jr., Eric Metaxas, Mike Pence, and Trump as part of a long history of hypocrisy and moral failure,  I am afraid most conservative evangelicals will ignore these issues, fail to see the continuity between past and present, and reject any claim that these events reflect deeper, more systemic problems within evangelical Christianity.  Instead, they will continue to believe that another four years of Donald Trump, a president who has exacerbated and exposed the darkest parts of American evangelical history, will somehow bring revival to the church and restore America to a golden age that probably never existed in the first place.

The pool boy speaks to ABC News and offers more disturbing details about his relationship with the Falwells

George Stephanpaolous interviews Giancarlo Granda:

Here is the Politico article referenced in the ABC piece. A taste:

Former Liberty University student says Becki Falwell, the wife of the university’s then-President Jerry Falwell Jr., jumped into bed with him and performed oral sex on him while he stayed over at the Falwell home after a band practice with her eldest son in 2008.

The student was 22 at the time of the encounter, near the start of Liberty’s fall semester. He said she initiated the act, and he went along with it. But despite his rejection of further advances, he said, Falwell continued pursuing him, offering him gifts and engaging in banter through Facebook messages.

Read the rest here.

The last fundamentalist empire died yesterday in Lynchburg, Virginia

Falwell and Falwell

Male authoritarian figures presiding over regional empires were an important part of 20th-century Protestant fundamentalism. I began to think historically about these empires during divinity school when I first read William Trollinger’s book God’s Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism.

For a long time I thought I would write a similar book about Carl McIntire, a South Jersey fundamentalist who was able to expand his empire across the nation through radio. (See Paul Matzko’s book The Radio Right). In 2001, while I was doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Valparaiso University, I drove to Trollinger’s house in Bluffton, Ohio to talk with him about fundamentalist empires and learn more about how he used questionnaires in his research. (Do you remember this, Bill?). I also used questionnaires (and oral history interviews) as I started work on a potential McIntire biography, but Philip Vickers Fithian kept calling me back to the eighteenth-century. I have a few boxes of research on my McIntire project sitting under a table in my home office. Some day I may open the boxes and get back to work.

Who were these fundamentalist emperors? The Bob Jones (and Bob Jones Jr.) empire was based at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina and it was sustained through a host of fundamentalist Christian schools. John R. Rice started out in Wheaton, Illinois and eventually moved to Murfressboro, Tennessee. His empire revolved around evangelism and The Sword of Lord, the most widely-read fundamentalist periodical of the age. McIntire’s empire was complex. It included radio, colleges and seminaries, hotel conference centers, and a popular newspaper called The Christian Beacon. Earlier fundamentalist emperors included Riley,  J. Frank Norris, and Mark Matthews.

Most of these fundamentalists taught the doctrine of biblical separation. Drawing upon 2 Corinthians 6:17 (“come our from them and be ye separate, says the Lord”), they preached personal holiness and the rejection of “worldly” activities such as movie-going, dancing, card-playing, alcohol use, and smoking cigarettes. They guarded their understanding of biblical orthodoxy like 17th-century Massachusetts Puritans. They were especially concerned with defending the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus, and a dispensational view of the “last days.” Historian George Marsden has described them as “militant” in their defense of these doctrines.

When mainline Protestant denominations strayed from fundamentalist orthodoxy, these leaders led their followers out of the denominations. Some of them created their own sectarian denominations–many of them personality driven. Others started independent congregations. In both cases, these emperors presided over their empires with little accountability. They were their own religious authorities or, as they might have put it, their authority came directly from God.

Separation was one of the ways these leaders kept their empires under control.  Sometimes they even separated from other fundamentalist or evangelical Christians who did not separate from liberal theologians. This was often referred to as “second-degree separation.” (Many of these fundamentalist emperors broke with Billy Graham when they learned the evangelist was working with Protestant mainline churches and pastors during his mass crusades).

Jerry Falwell Sr., the founder of Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, came of age in this era of independent empire builders. He started his ministry as a young pastor connected to John R. Rice’s empire. Falwell once described Rice as a father figure and mentor. Rice provided Falwell with networking opportunities and the young pastor used these connections to build his fiefdom in Lynchburg, Virginia. When Falwell was trying to get Liberty Baptist College (later Liberty University) on the map, he asked Rice for the names and addresses of those on his massive Sword of the Lord mailing list.

By the mid-1980s, Falwell ruled over one of the nation’s most recognizable fundamentalist empires. He continued to serve as the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church. Liberty University was growing. And he was leading the Moral Majority in a fight to restore America to it supposedly Christian roots. Falwell Sr. was the king of Lynchburg, Virginia and America’s most well-known culture warrior. And, unlike many other fundamentalist emperors, he became a fixture on the national scene. When older fundamentalist leaders like the Bob Jones Jr. and McIntire criticized Falwell for working with non-fundamentalists–Catholics, Mormons, and others–who shared his moral concerns, Falwell ignored them.

The older fundamentalists eventually died off. Rice’s empire had no clear successor. A member of the Jones family no longer serves as president of Bob Jones University. At the end of his life Carl McIntire was preaching to a few people in his living room in Collingswood, New Jersey.  Even Falwell, the author of a 1981 book titled The Fundamentalist Phenomenon, abandoned the label “fundamentalism.”

But Jerry Falwell had two sons. After his death in 2007, Jonathan Falwell took over his father’s post at Thomas Road Baptist Church and Jerry Falwell Jr. became the president of Liberty University.

Jerry Falwell Jr. did not posses his father’s gift for communication. That gift seems to have gone to Jonathan. But Jonathan was not a culture warrior. Nor did Jerry Jr. seem drawn to his father’s moral crusades. He was a lawyer and a businessman. He would use these skills to lift Liberty out of financial debt and turn it into the largest and wealthiest Christian university in the world.

In the end, a successful fundamentalist empire requires a leader who can do four things:

  1. Defend doctrinal orthodoxy.
  2. Cultivate a culture of personal holiness bordering on legalism.
  3. Rule with a strong authoritarian personality.
  4. Go on the attack against outside threats from theological and political liberals, communists, socialists, and other forces of secularization.

In the case of Jerry Falwell Jr., it seems as if the limits of his skill set clashed with profound changes in American culture that made the world a very different place from the one in which his father ruled. Let’s take these one-by-one:

By all accounts, Falwell was not interested in theology, the defense of evangelical doctrine, or even the meaning of Christian higher education. Unlike his father, he did not have to stand behind a pulpit every Sunday morning and deliver a sermon. He did not have to shepherd a flock. He left the spiritual life of Liberty University to others. Falwell Jr. ran Liberty University like a business. He seemed unconcerned with integrating faith and leadership and never engaged with what has become over the last couple of decades a robust and vibrant conversation about the purpose of church-related higher education. He never considered bringing Liberty into the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), a clear sign that separatism and the independent spirit of fundamentalism are hard to shake once they have been embedded in an institution.

Almost every person I know who left Liberty University after a semester or two has complained about the strict rules. The rules are also a remnant of Liberty’s fundamentalist past. We can criticize the legalism of American fundamentalism, but this call to personal holiness generally served as a moral check on fundamentalist emperors. As conservative evangelical leaders became more “culturally engaged,” and began to loosen their moral grip on their students and congregations, they were faced with new temptations. In the last several years, it became clear that Liberty’s rules did not apply to Jerry Falwell Jr. But as we learned this week, his libertine spirit could not escape the ghosts of fundamentalism, particularly the movement’s longstanding commitment to personal holiness and codes of behavior.

If Falwell Jr. inherited anything from his father, it was the old fundamentalist propensity for authoritarian leadership. From most reports he tolerated no dissent. But we live in different times. 20th-century fundamentalist authoritarianism is no longer acceptable in an age of Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, corrupt CEOs, and shared governance in higher education.

Finally, Falwell Jr. tried to be a good culture warrior. His efforts at living up to his father’s legacy on this front partly explains his support for Trump. But Jerry Jr. couldn’t pull it off like his father did. Again, he just didn’t have the skill set. Moreover, he could no longer get away with saying the kinds of things about race, social justice movements, sexual ethics, and the LGBTQ community thae Falwell Sr. always ranted about while seated on his Lynchburg throne.

Perhaps Jerry Falwell Jr. was the last fundamentalist emperor.

Liberty University accepts Jerry Falwell Jr.’s resignation

Liberty Campus

Get up to speed with these posts. I think it is finally over.

Here is the Liberty University press release:

Lynchburg, VA—The Liberty University Board of Trustees acted today to accept the resignation of Jerry Falwell, Jr. as its President and Chancellor and also accepted his resignation from its Board of Directors. All were effective immediately.

After agreeing yesterday to immediately resign then reversing course, Falwell, through an attorney, sent the resignation letter late last night to members of the Board’s Executive Committee pursuant to the terms of his contract of employment. The Executive Committee met this morning and voted to accept all the resignations immediately and recommend ratification to the full Board. Later this morning, the full Board gathered via conference call and unanimously voted to affirm the decision of the Executive Committee. Falwell’s severance compensation was dictated by the terms of his pre-existing employment agreement without any adjustment by the University or its Board.

The Board, composed of a mix of alumni, pastors and business executives, active and retired, used most of its meeting to focus forward on the university’s future and steps that could be taken to ensure it remained true to its mission. The Board set its next meeting in Lynchburg to select a search committee for its new President.

Acting Board Chairman Dr. Allen McFarland, said, “I am so encouraged by the unity of Christ that I saw exemplified by our Board today. Liberty University’s future is very bright and in capable hands of leaders who are committed to being good stewards of what the Lord has entrusted!”

Jerry Prevo, who will stay on as Acting President, said, “Our students are ready to be world changers as Champions for Christ.  Their spirit is strong as they look to the future. I intend to do all I can to nurture their spiritual side as they grow academically and enjoy all our campus has to offer.”

Falwell was the fourth president of Liberty University, assuming the role after his father, Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., passed away in 2007. He previously served as the university’s general counsel. During his time as president, Falwell Jr. oversaw more than $1 billion of ongoing or planned construction as the campus was almost entirely transformed with new world-class academic buildings and athletics facilities. He worked with university leadership to achieve record enrollment in residential and online programs, which now stands at over 100,000 students. The university’s heartfelt prayers are with him and his family as he steps away from his life’s work.

I am now watching three things:

  1. What will happen to the Falkirk Center at Liberty University? This is the culture- war arm of  Liberty University and the place on campus most associated with Falwell’s divisive pro-Trump rhetoric. Falwell is no longer listed on the website.
  2. Will Liberty University conduct a national search for a new president? Or will someone be chosen from the inside?
  3. What is the relationship between the Falwell pool boy tryst and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign? I still think Michael Cohen may have something to say about this.

Monday in Trumpland

rncLogo2020

It was a rough start to the week for the president. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, a Trump loyalist who is one of the few staff members who has not left the administration, announced that she is leaving her position. The resignation comes after Conway’s teenage daughter blasted her mother on Twitter and claimed that she was seeking emancipation from Kelly and her husband, GOP anti-Trumper George Conway. This is yet another tragic story of how Trumpism has negatively affected an American family. I wish the Conways well.

While the Conway story unfolded, we learned that Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Trump’s most loyal evangelical defenders, was involved in a sexual tryst that included his wife Becki and a Miami pool boy. Falwell Jr. resigned late last night, but this story is not going away. I am guessing we will know more when former Trump fixer Michael Cohen releases his tell-all book.

Trump continues his efforts to stop the use of mail-in ballots for the November elections. Watch Trump yesterday at the GOP convention in Charlotte as he accepts his party’s nomination. My “favorite” part of this off-script rant in the video below is when Trump claims that this is the “greatest scam in the history of politics, I think, and I’m talking beyond our nation.” Well, I am sure Hitler, Stalin, and others, wherever they are right now, are glad that they are off the hook as the worst political scammers in world history.

Almost all of what Trump says in this clip is either misleading or untrue. Meanwhile, Trump’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told Congress yesterday that the U.S. Postal Service should have no problem handling mail-in ballots.

And then came the evening session of the Republican National Convention. Over and over again we heard Trump’s supporters say that he cares about America and all Americans. Unfortunately, this entire first night seemed more like a Trump rally–a direct appeal to the president’s political base. There was very little effort to expand the Trump coalition. And anyone who suggests that Trump is for “all Americans” has had their head in the sand the last four years. He has demonized all his enemies–even dissenters within the Republican Party.

Court evangelical Charlie Kirk started off the night by claiming that Trump is the “bodyguard of Western Civilization” who will protect our families and neighborhoods from the “vengeful mob.” We should all be afraid. He also praised Trump for cultivating a “civil society” in the United States. But if the young court evangelical’s bombastic rhetoric is any indication, I am not sure if he understands the meaning of the phrase “civil society.”

At the beginning of his speech, Kirk identified himself as the leader of Turning Point USA. Why didn’t he mention his role as the founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center? Can there be a Falkirk Center now that Jerry Falwell Jr. is gone?

At one point, Kirk surprisingly acknowledged “the complexities of the past.” But there was nothing complex about his speech, nor do we see complexity in anything Kirk writes every day on his Twitter feed.

Here is Kirk’s idea of “complexity”:

 

And then there was this piece of COVID-19 revisionism. Pick it up at the 56:18 mark:

This video looks like something that might have run on state television in the Soviet bloc. There was a lot propaganda last night. This was the worst.

And let’s not forget the former Fox News host and Donald Trump Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. I haven’t seen anything like her speech since Howard Dean in 2004. Actually, Guilfoyle’s speech made Dean sound like an academic historian reading a paper at a professional conference.

Watch:

I doubt many people noticed, but former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker praised Donald Trump’s ownership of the New Jersey Generals, a team that was part of the short-lived United States Football League (USFL):

Walker said that when Trump became owner of the Generals in 1984 he “learned about the history of the team.” I am not sure what to make of this claim since the USFL and the  Generals were founded in 1983. But it is good to know that Donald Trump is such a sports historian.

There were really only a few speeches that could have been delivered at a non-Trump GOP convention. Two of them came from former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina governor Tim Scott.

The show continues tomorrow.

OK, I think it is official now. Jerry Falwell Jr. resigns from Liberty University

Liberty_University_LaHaye_Student_Union_IMG_4121 (1)

Again, here is Ian Lovett from The Wall Street Journal:

Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned as president of Liberty University late Monday night, following a tumultuous day during which he tussled with the university’s board of trustees over his future at the school.

In a phone call to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Falwell said he had just sent his resignation letter to the board of the Christian school in Virginia. Mr. Falwell was placed on an indefinite leave of absence two weeks ago, following criticism about a photo he posted on social media showing him with his pants unbuttoned, a cup of dark liquid in one hand and his other arm draped around a woman. The woman, who Mr. Falwell said was his wife’s assistant, also had her pants open.

Read the rest here.

In a late night call to the *Wall Street Journal*, Jerry Falwell Jr. says he was placed on “indefinite leave” by “self-righteous people”

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

If you can break through the paywall, check out Ian Lovett’s piece on Jerry Falwell Jr.’s on-again, off-again resignation from Liberty University. It was last updated at 1:03 this morning. Lovett talked to Falwell (it appears Falwell initiated the call) about his “indefinite leave” from Liberty and the negotiations surrounding his inevitable resignation.  Here is a taste:

“The board put me on leave, took away my duties as prez, and that’s not permitted by my contract,” Mr. Falwell said Monday night. “And they put me on leave because of pressure from self-righteous people.”

He said he was still due his full compensation.

Read the rest here.

Falwell’s description of his indefinite leave in this piece seems to contradict what he said in an earlier interview he did last night with Virginia Business in which he called the leave a “sabbatical” and an opportunity for him to “take a three-month break” from his Liberty duties.

It is also strange that Falwell doesn’t say anything in this Wall Street Journal story about the Reuters story about his wife’s affair with Giancarlo Grande and his involvement in the tryst. At one point he claims that he has done nothing wrong apart from the “stupid” Instagram photo he posted earlier month. This, of course, contradicts his Sunday night statement confession to the Washington Examiner.

Falwell was not invited to speak at 2020 GOP convention well before the pool boy story broke

Here is Jerry Falwell Jr. delivering his “Osama, Obama, and Your Mama” speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention:

The New York Times is reporting that Falwell was not back for the 2020 convention. Here is Glenn Thrush:

A return speaking role seemed inevitable after Mr. Falwell hosted the president for the university’s commencement in 2017, and the earliest discussions of the 2020 convention lineup did, indeed, include him, according to a Trump campaign official.

But convention planners quietly ruled him out late last year, amid concerns about Mr. Falwell’s private life — long before Monday’s blockbuster report by Reuters alleging a long-term romantic entanglement between himself, his wife and pool attendant, according to three people familiar with the situation.

Read the rest here.  I guess I don’t understand what Falwell did before he was placed on indefinite leave that would make him an embarrassment to Trump or his administration. 🙂