Jerry Falwell Jr. Wants to Arrest Journalists Who Covered Liberty University’s Coronavirus Outbreak
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told former Fox News radio host Todd Starnes on April 8 that he is pressing criminal charges against a New York Times freelance photographer and the award-winning news site ProPublica for allegedly trespassing on campus while covering the cornavirus crisis on campus, notes Talking Points Memo:
We actually went to the local magistrate, we’ve sworn out warrants for their misdemeanor arrest.
In reality, Falwell went to the Liberty University Police Department, not the local magistrate, to get the warrants, which Starnes praised on Twitter:
Glad to hear Liberty University is going after @NYTLiz and the @nytimes and @propublica. It's time to make the mainstream media pay a price for their lies. @JerryFalwellJr https://t.co/lrFrsmyDK3 pic.twitter.com/Z6LJ2UhCGH
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) April 8, 2020
Williamson and ProPublica were two of many news organizations that reported on Falwell’s decision to reopen Liberty University campus residence halls to thousands of students during the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica, told Talking Points Memo there were journalists on Liberty University’s campus, but added that he has not seen any arrest warrants:
We’ve heard nothing about this, and we’ve not heard from the University or from the authorities in Virginia on this at all,” he said. “As the story indicates, there was reporting there on obviously the most important news story of many years.
Falwell is also promising “civil action” against New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson and NBC News, along with NBC News journalists, Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins for alleged defamation.
Williamson interviewed the campus doctor Dr. Thomas W. Eppes Jr. who recalled his conversation with Falwell prior to the students return:
“We’ve lost the ability to corral this thing,” Dr. Thomas W. Eppes Jr. said he told Mr. Falwell. But he did not urge him to close the school. “I just am not going to be so presumptuous as to say, ‘This is what you should do and this is what you shouldn’t do,’” Dr. Eppes said in an interview.
So Mr. Falwell — a staunch ally of President Trump and an influential voice in the evangelical world — reopened the university last week, igniting a firestorm. As of Friday, Dr. Eppes said, nearly a dozen Liberty students were sick with symptoms that suggested Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Three were referred to local hospital centers for testing. An additional eight were told to self-isolate.
Falwell defended his legal actions by claiming God supports the legal actions (to bury First Amendment rights):
They forced us into a corner. I don’t think God wants Christians to just sit back and not protect what they believe in and protect the people they have a fiduciary responsibility to protect.