Liberty University alums returning diplomas over president’s support of Trump

Graduates of Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school run by Jerry Falwell Jr., are returning their diplomas over their president’s defense of Trump’s statements defending neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.

“Finally a leader in WH. Jobs returning, N Korea backing down, bold truthful stmt about #charlottesville tragedy.So proud of @realdonaldtrump,” Falwell Jr. tweeted after Trump’s press conference in which he blamed the “alt-left” (which is not a thing) for some of the violence and noted there were “very fine people on both sides” even though one side was full of white supremacists.

Falwell Jr. later clarified that “The truth as stated by @realDonaldTrump is that violent white supemacists, Nazi, KKK and similar hate groups are pure evil and un-American,” but the original comment left a number of Liberty University alumni feeling like Falwell Jr. was a little too satisfied with Trump’s talk of “both sides.”

“I’m sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists,” 2006 graduate Chris Gaumer told NPR. “And in defending the president’s comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit.”

A few former students have prepared a letter for Liberty University administrators explaining why they are sending back their diplomas.

“Instead of condemning racist and white nationalist ideologies, Mr. Trump provided equivocal and contradictory comments,” the letter reads in part. “The Chancellor then characterized Mr. Trump’s remarks, which included the claim that some of the persons marching as white nationalists and white supremacists at the rally were ‘very fine people,’ as ‘bold’ and ‘truthful.’ This is incompatible with Liberty University’s stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness.”

It’s good that these people find Trump’s most recent actions and Falwell Jr.’s defense of them reprehensible, but at the same time, they did attend Liberty University. This is a school founded by a man who vehemently opposed desegregation, proclaimed that “gay folks would just as soon kill you as look at you,” and believed 9/11 was caused in part by “the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians.”

There’s a lot of problematic rhetoric the graduates of Liberty University need to reckon with before we get anywhere near Falwell Jr., but this is a good start.

[NPR | Photo: Getty]