Students at Liberty University in Virginia gathered Friday to protest in the wake of news reports containing allegations that school president Jerry Falwell Jr. improperly benefited from the institution and disparaged students in emails.
Students joined together at the private evangelical university known for being an influential hub in conservative politics and held up signs calling for accountability and an investigation.
Elizabeth Brooks, a junior majoring in politics and policy, told The Associated Press by phone that a recent Politico Magazine story as well as a Reuters report prompted the protest at the school in Lynchburg. She said about 35 students were involved.
“I couldn’t stay silent anymore,” the 20-year-old said. “I would like to see President Falwell address this himself and for there to be an investigation into the allegations to see whether or not they’re true.”
At least one student held a sign that read: “I TRUST JERRY.”
The Politico story contained allegations that Falwell “presides over a culture of self-dealing” at Liberty that has improperly benefited him and his family. The story cited unnamed sources described as current and former officials or Falwell associates.
Falwell told The AP on Tuesday that he wasn’t going to “dignify the lies that were reported” in the Politico piece, calling the reporter for the story a “little boy.”
Falwell said he would ask the FBI to investigate. He also said Liberty has hired “the meanest lawyer in New York,” whom he declined to identify, to pursue civil cases.
Brooks said student protesters were particularly upset about quotes of emails in the Reuters story posted Thursday in which Falwell allegedly referred to one student as “emotionally imbalanced and physically retarded.”