Jerry Falwell Defies Petition to Extend Spring Break; Calls Concerned Parent “Dummy”

By Julie Roys
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Nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition urging Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to extend spring break and move classes online in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But Falwell, who suggests coronavirus is the “next attempt to get Trump,” remains defiant—and yesterday called a parent of three Liberty University students “dummy” for objecting.

While many colleges and universities are closing in response to coronavirus, Falwell announced on Friday that Liberty will continue to hold in-person classes when students return from spring break on March 23. In an interview with “Fox & Friends,” Falwell stated, “It’s just strange to me how so many are overreacting.”

Falwell added that he believes media coverage of coronavirus may be politically motivated. “Impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work,” he said. “And so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.”

“Impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work. And so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.”

Within hours of Falwell’s comments, a group of students created a petition opposing Falwell’s decision. “We should be taking action like the other major schools in Virginia and transition to online classes for a period of time until it is safe to return to campus,” the petition read.  The petition also noted that Liberty is “extremely adept at creating online classes, as 94,000+ are enrolled in their online program.”

As of 8:45 (Central Time) this morning, the petition had 9,900 signatures. However, Falwell appears unmoved.

“I don’t want to become one of these college presidents who are pushing this problem off on someone else by sending 20 year olds with near zero mortality risk to sit at home for the rest of the semester, often with grandparents in the house who truly are at risk,” Falwell tweeted on Sunday.

In response, Jeff Brittain of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, tweeted back, “So in 7 weeks, you’ll send the thousands of students, who now have a HIGHER risk of carrying it, back to their grandparents to get it . . . I think this is crazy, irresponsible and seems like a money grab.”

Falwell replied, “No then they’ll go off to summer jobs or internships dummy.” 

Many on Twitter responded to Falwell’s tweet with surprise and disapproval. 

“What an odd thing to say to a parent who is paying you to educate their children,” tweeted Todd Picht of Lynchburg, Virginia. 

“Odd? It’s downright RUDE!” tweeted someone named Linda D-Smith.

Similarly, an account protesting abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) tweeted: “Your behavior is appalling @JerryFalwellJr. . . . This is unbecoming any company top executive much less a Christian company.”

However, a few—like “Christian, wife, mom, grandma” @Linmarka—tweeted support: “Why do you assume they have a higher risk of the virus in 7 weeks? School can be an isolating arena and no grandparents are exposed. Think this is a bit over reacting. Fear & panic are creating irrational reactions.”

In other tweets, Falwell said the university would take some measures to curb the coronavirus threat, like moving classes to larger rooms, staggering meals to minimize crowding, and moving convocation to “online only.”

Falwell added, “Many other measures are in the works. @LibertyU will become the model for others to follow in the future.”

UPDATE: Due to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s emergency ban on public gatherings of 100 people, Falwell has announced that Liberty will transition most of its classes to an online digital format starting on March 23. “We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods,” Falwell said. “But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students.  We want to provide for the continuity of our students’ education while doing what makes sense to help slow the spread of the coronavirus to our university family and local community.”

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23 thoughts on “Jerry Falwell Defies Petition to Extend Spring Break; Calls Concerned Parent “Dummy””

  1. What an irresponsible, short-sighted, unbecoming response by Mr. Falwell; unfortunately not surprising. Isn’t there a board of directors at Liberty who can override his directive?

    1. It may be insensitive the way he responded. I don’t condone that. But keeping the University open is absolutely the right thing to do. I am an LU graduate, now in my 50’s, and applaud the decision to remain open. His reasons? That may be a little conspiratorial/over the top.

      1. Daniel / Terry Unruh

        Randy, that response is not “insensitive” … it is totally beyond the pale to be coming from the CEO of any business anywhere at any time let alone from a Christian CEO of a “Christian” business. If I were to make a comment like that about one of our clients I would probably be fired on the spot, and rightly so. D.

          1. Falwell’s “dummy” comment might be unnecessarily harsh. But he’s at least willing to push back on the mob hysteria that could make the great recession a fond memory. I’m not a fan of Falwell, however, this time the dummy in the classroom sounds pretty smart.

  2. It’s always inappropriate to express demeaning comments to people with whom one disagrees. However, I sympathize with Falwell’s conclusions. We’re undergoing unprecedented mass hysteria compared to all other pandemics we have faced. Most of my friends believe this is a media induced hysteria, and I think there’s reason to question the media’s intentions.

  3. As an American missionary serving in France & waiting for the French president to give a national speech tonight regarding the possible total lockdown of the nation, as well as, being a parent of a daughter serving as a missionary teacher in Madrid where she is currently under martial law in regards to the Coronavirus, and then hearing Mr. Falwell’s statements … it really does cause high frustration. Europe is currently the epicenter of this first moving virus and it has nothing to do with American politics. To have people claim that there are conspiracies happening while people around the world are dying is truly uncalled for. The early protection of those under his care is essential. And it is under the parents’ prerogative and duty to question the care of their children and not to be mocked for doing so. (Please excuse the emotion that is evoked by this story. We are currently in the midst of a national crisis here in France and as my husband being a pastor of a church, the protection of those under our care is in the forefront of our minds.)

    1. I was a missionary overseas for a number of years, and I was appalled by how every crisis in the U.S. was considered a conspiracy by one of the political parties, the cabal, the coven or whatever. We have good scientific evidence, not to mention the experiences in Asia and Europe, that this virus is not to be treated lightly. I live in a California hot spot where all schools are closed, most people are working remotely, and very few are out and about. I am currently teaching my 250 students from home. I’d rather be in school, but I also appreciate being safe (always in God’s care, may I add). Falwell is being irresponsible–even the president he supports so fervently has approved the measure rolled out by the CDC. (For the record, I am not a Trumpeteer),

  4. This has nothing to do with politics. This has everything to do about healthcare. Take a look at the healthcare systems in Italy and Spain RIGHT NOW. Overrun. Why. Because they did not take the precautions as many states, both Republican and Democrat, are doing RIGHT NOW. Look at the data. We in the United States have the luxury of all this data that is being generated daily. And I for one in the healthcare field are grateful for all these drastic measures that are being taken. I also am grateful because I am one of those that has a higher risk of becoming a statistic, due to my underlying conditions. We also as believers are called to protect the most vulnerable in our society. That is what Christ has called us all to be and do. And that is what I am doing. I believe the words He spoke in Matthew, would be the same words He would speak to the “Pharisees” of today, those religious elite of our society, which I believe Jerry Fallwell Jr is a part of. Matthew 23:25-27 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

    Strong words.

    1. Quite true. Italy was overwhelmed –in part– because they didn’t put a temporary ban on travel from China. When enough people are infected, the spread is exponential. Moreover, one of the reasons the health professionals are taking this so seriously is because of the weird origins of this virus. I believe the reason many of our fellow Americans are dubious and dismissive of government recommendations is that the mainstream media (the good ol’ MSM!) has hyped so many stories and outright lied that millions of citizens don’t trust them. They don’t know who to believe. We’re paying a price for dishonest journalists.

  5. Of course we know that everyone is going to blame President Trump for whatever they so desire to blame him
    for. I expect it because they want him gone! But to somehow twist and use that for rationalizing keeping students at school in the midst of a spreading pandemic is simply ignorant. Ignorant of medical facts of how a pandemic progresses , ignorant of how the virus spreads through host humans without making them very sick, ignorant of not wanting to protect the population in and around the school who are at risk due to age or underlying medical conditions that many of us learn to live with and manage on a day to day basis. This is an extremely self serving
    thought process and a very wrong decision for the welfare of everyone. We have no idea what is coming down the road but we it will get a lot worse before it gets better. Let’s all do the proactive processes we can do to try and prevent the tsunami that will happen if people resist doing the actions needed.
    Our God is on the throne . Do not fear but take the responsible actions and look out for those around you have need , especially the elder population and those with medical situations.
    Trusting God for ALL things for He is in control of ALL things. May we shine His light brightly to those around us.

  6. This morning my husband and I wrote an email to LU, withdrawing our daughter’s application for next year. We cannot in good conscience place her under the sneering, immature leadership of a fully grown adult willing to call someone a dummy.

    1. Daniel / Terry Unruh

      Our daughter is a graduate of LU and she would assure you that this attitude is most definitely *not* representative of the overwhelming majority of the staff and faculty. Unfortunately, Mr. Falwell is the public face of the university and he seems to be incapable of restraining himself from lashing out in the most ridiculous and immature manner. Also unfortunately there seems to be no indication that the LU board considers this conduct unacceptable.

    2. I encourage you to look at the many other small, Christian universities across the country that could be an excellent fit for your daughter. There are so many small schools doing incredible work and they would welcome her interest.

    3. Good decision… i applaud people who take action instead of just talking about how awful Jerry Jr.’s leadership is. Unfortunately, i believe until the university suffers financially because people do as you have, nothing will change. Good luck to your child finding a better fit.

  7. My daughter has had a wonderful experience in The John Wesley Honors College at Indiana Wesleyan University. Just down the road from IWU is Taylor University, which I have visited with another child. I highly recommend that parents look into these colleges for their kids.

  8. On an ironic note, Mr. Falwell is unbelievably dumb to treat a parent like that. He needs to be shaken into reality and made to understand that he is overhead. The institution could carry on without him. But without the parents who provide the millons, LU will cease to be a going concern. As an added bonus, he seems to be a small child old emotionally–his language is like my 7 and 8-year-old sons, and his stubbornness is in line with a 2-year-old offered a sprig of broccoli. Not exactly Christian leader material. For that matter, not shift supervisor in fast food material.

    There is really no backing this down. I can’t imagine any apology that would suffice. This man obviously places his ego and desire to get in that exquisite last word above parents, faculty and students. He should step down immediately and seek Jesus.

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