There are a lot of Twitter biographies that include the disclaimer, “Retweets are not endorsements.” But in some cases, no matter what they may say, a retweet is an endorsement. It is beyond dispute that one such case is when a college or university president hits the retweet button. With that being said, if there is any justice in this world, one university president ought to have a lot of explaining to do. Namely, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University.
Falwell was one of the earliest and loudest religious right supporters of Donald Trump. Indeed, he was so enamored with Trump that in 2017, he told Judge Jeanine Pirro that he considered the Donald to be evangelicals’ “dream president.” Somewhere, his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., must have been smiling. After all, Jerry Sr. would back any Republican, no matter how execrable he or she may have been, if that candidate made the right clucking noises on social issues.
That interview with Judge Jeanine set a tone that has been, for want of a better term, deplorable. For instance, he insisted that there was “inside information” that proved there really were, as Trump initially put it, “very fine people” among the thugs and racists in Charlottesville. After Democrats made major gains in the 2017 statewide elections, Falwell harrumphed that they weren’t legitimate because Democrats ran it up in Northern Virginia.
And when Trump came under fire for referring to African nations as “shithole countries,” Jerry Jr. claimed it was a lot of fuss over nothing.
More recently, Jerry Jr. openly called for the 2020 elections to be postponed
It has been amply established that Jerry Jr. has proven himself to be his father’s son in every way. But Falwell may have really outdone himself this weekend. How’s that, you ask?
Well, on Sunday, Trump had a chilling message for four Democratic congresswomen of color–better known as “The Squad”–who have been among his biggest tormentors. He told them that they ought to “go back” to their home countries and fix them if they didn’t like it here. Most of the nation recoiled in outrage. Not Jerry Jr. He merrily retweeted this screed. We have receipts.
Admittedly, past history makes clear that it would have been far too much to ask Falwell to condemn these tweets. But it’s one thing to remain silent about such hateful comments. It’s quite another to effectively endorse them by retweeting them.
Even allowing for Liberty’s historically conservative bent, it is beyond comprehension that a university president would find it even remotely acceptable to retweet such racist and hateful tweets. It’s hard to believe Jerry Jr. isn’t aware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explicitly considers “go back where you came from” to be prima facie discriminatory.
Apparently Falwell has forgotten that his full-throated support for Trump has caused great chagrin among Liberty alumni. It came to a a boil after Falwell’s tone-deaf comments about Charlottesville. Several alums symbolically returned their diplomas in protest. For his part, Jerry Jr. dismissed it as “grandstanding.”
But many of the alums didn’t just send back their diplomas. They urged Liberty’s board to fire Falwell unless he came to his senses. Well, if any of those alums are paying attention, it may be time to put the heat on Liberty’s board once again. At virtually any other college or university in this country, a president or chancellor who retweeted such pigweed would be fired in less time that it took to write this sentence.
For instance, had this happened at my alma mater, the University of North Carolina, the chancellor would have been gone by the close of business on the following day at the latest–and possibly sooner than that, given the all-but-certain protests. That would be true even at most Christian colleges and universities that are as conservative as Liberty. After all, there are certain lines that can never be crossed.
If there was any doubt that Falwell is not fit to influence young men and women, his retweets of Trump should have erased it. When a college or university president thinks it’s acceptable to endorse the kind of hate and bigotry espoused by Trump in that Sunday tweetstorm, it’s time for that president to go. If Liberty’s board has any pretense at all of having the university’s interests in mind, it will fire Falwell.
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