Jerry Falwell Jr. Apologizes for Tweeting Racist Image

By Julie Roys

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is apologizing for tweeting a racist image last week, following protests by black alumni and staff.

Falwell had tweeted a picture of a mask featuring someone in a KKK costume and someone in blackface. The picture had originally appeared in Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook. And Falwell’s tweet was meant to mock Northam’s order requiring people to wear masks in public.

The tweet had prompted a letter from black alumni, who called Falwell’s tweet a “microcosm” of the controversial president’s divisive rhetoric over the past several years.  The tweet also prompted a petition with more than 37,000 signatures calling on Falwell to resign.

“After listening to African LU leaders and alumni over the past week and hearing their concerns, I understand that by tweeting an image to remind all of the governor’s racist past, I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point,” Falwell tweeted. 

Falwell added that he did not intend to offend, but “because it was the result,” he has deleted the tweet. He also apologized for any hurt it caused, “especially in the African American community.”

In addition to the petition, Falwell’s original tweet also prompted both a professor, Dr. Christopher House, and an administrator, LeeQuan McLaurin, to resign.

Without mentioning Falwell’s name, LeeQuan McLaurin, director of diversity retention, wrote in a resignation letter that he felt he could not remain in his position because he does not support “what is being produced by his alma mater.” Specifically, Dowell said, “It is morally unconscionable for me, as the Director of Diversity Retention, to ask students of color to stay at a university . . . that not only does not value their well-being and lives, but actually perpetrates very real and damaging racial trauma against them . . .”

Similarly, House posted on Facebook, could not stay at an institution whose senior leader “would engage in such actions at any time,” let alone “when black communities are once again grieving over recent incidents of racial violence.”

In an online statement, Jerry Prevo, chairman of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, said that the members of the board’s Executive Committee “are satisfied with the President’s explanation of his purpose and intentions.”

Prevo added, “We understand these images have been hurtful for a number of our friends to see. We also know (Falwell) and know him not to be a racist.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly stated that Greg Dowell, chief diversity officer, had resigned instead of LeeQuan McLaurin. 

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13 thoughts on “Jerry Falwell Jr. Apologizes for Tweeting Racist Image”

  1. Hi Julie,
    Several times in comments sections you are challenged about why you report what you report. And you have always provided a robust biblical response on the importance of truth and justice within the Christian community and the role that journalism plays.
    I was also wondering if you could address why you host a comments section on your site. In other words, you’ve explained why you report news, but the comments section is something else entirely. It’s a space you’ve made on your site. I wonder what your motivation is to host it and what your hopes are for it and whether you think it’s meeting those goals. And what you think the dangers are and whether it falls into some of those dangers. I’m asking partially because I’m guessing you have an answer and partially because I cringe at some of the comments, and am guessing you might cringe, too. With delivering the news you have some control over the message and how it fits into a biblical worldview. By hosting this space do you feel a responsibility that it does the same and how would you assess whether it does. Thanks much ~ A

  2. The common section in my opinion is the most important part of the entire Internet presence. The public response to what is reported is like the lab results s of a blood draw! Let’s find out what’s going in under the skin.

    Why on earth would you want to be thoughts and opinions of readers obscured?

    1. Deba, I’m not advocating for the comments section to be removed, per se. I’m asking her to provide her thoughts on the purpose and hopes for having a comments section is and whether she thinks those purposes are being fulfilled. She is clearly interested in a robust biblical worldview to shape all that she does. The Bible has much to say about how the church speaks to each other and about one another. She also clearly wants leaders to be responsible in their governance of what they oversee. So, since she is the leader that oversees this space, and cares a lot about how Christians speak to and about one another, I’m wondering about her assessment of how it is going and what her hopes are for this space and if it’s in alignment with a biblical worldview.

  3. Craig Richmond

    Thank you VERY MUCH, Sister Roys, for including a comments section on your journalism articles. It’s informative, interesting, valuable and fair, to know what the Body-of-Christ is saying and thinking.

    1. Mr. Falwell’s tweet does not look like repenting, more like asking people to understand him and excuse making. Which is not the same as repentance. The fact that he “did not intend to offend” is the actually the problem here. Mr. Falwell’s use of KKK and blackface images to make a point turn the pain of fellow citizen into a prop for his political agenda. The fact he didn’t see that before tweeting reveals what so many African Americans are saying right now- that covert racism is still racism. His board members might not think so but it’s clear African Americans do.

      BTW, I am grateful Julie provides a comments section. I have learned to think more critically by reading such comments on this site and others- both foolish and wise ones. To my African American brothers and sisters- I am listening and learning from you now. Keep speaking gracefully, clearly, and loudly, your voices are being heard.

  4. Virginia L Bentley

    Anyone notice there’s no comments section on CT articles? I appreciate Julie’s research and articles, as well as her strength to read and respond respectfully to negativity when necessary.

  5. TERRY L GENTRY

    Hi Julie…Please comment on CT’s apparent bias in the George Floyd case. They make him to be a hero when he had a very flawed past. Not to minimize his apparent horrible murder, but CT is not telling the whole truth of the matter. He was on drugs when he was being arrested for a start.

    1. Terry – what is the point? So him being on drugs means what? What do you hope to gain from a “see, he was on drugs!” narrative?
      The focus of this moment in time is on how George Floyd was murdered by the very people paid and who take oaths to protect him as a citizen. You say, “Not to minimize his apparent horrible murder, but”….there is no “but”. By definition, the word “but” negates the entire first part of your sentence. You DO want to minimize his murder, under the guise of “truth” (to sound Christian) and change the narrative away from the fact he was murdered (after being held for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in a position that cut off his air – which is torture).
      Having a flawed past does not justify being murdered by police – as sinners, we should ALL be grateful for that. Being on drugs – even if illegal or if you disagree with the lifestyle – does not justify being murdered by police (we have a judicial system for that). Stealing a bag of skittles does not justify being murdered by “neighborhood watch” (again, judicial system). Stealing cigarettes does not justify being murdered by police (same).
      I cannot believe I need to say that – and on a Christian site – but yet here we are.
      Tell me, Terry, who do you know that DOESN’T have a flawed past? (Besides Jesus?) Using your own logic, ANYONE with a flawed past needs to have that fully touted out for the world to see “the truth” in case they DARE be cast as a hero. (I take it you have a problem with how frequently Martin Luther King Jr has been quoted as of late….I mean, after all, he had flaws too!).
      Whew, I’m glad I serve a God who is more merciful, forgiving, and cast my sins as far away as east from west than other “Christians”.

      1. Well said, WH. Summary executions are illegal in America, for good reason. It doesn’t matter what George Floyd is accused of doing, he did not deserve to be killed by a cop while completely under their control. It should be noted that the cop who killed him has a poor disciplinary record, but at least he get to have his day in court.

        The other mistake some people are making is to believe this is about one man. George Floyd was the final straw after decades of injustice for black people at the hands of the police. Should people have waited for a more sympathetic victim to come along? Actually, scratch that, there have been way too many of those already.

    2. Terry,

      I highly suggest you (and everyone) read this article:

      https://gentlereformation.com/2020/06/03/race-riots-the-bible/

      What does God’s Word (OT or NT) say about stealing (attempted theft by counterfeit bill is theft by deception)?

      First, if you went to God’s Word (OT or NT), could one find a requirement to kill a thief?

      You would be hard pressed to find it. The old testament laws require reparation for stealing.

      If you look hard enough you can find one instance though. There was one type of stealing that called for capital punishment, kidnapping (man stealing).

      Exodus 21:16, “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.” (NKJV)

      What does the Christian find in these passages?

      Slavery. Kidnapping and selling into slavery is a capital offense.

      So under OT Law, all slave traders (doesn’t matter if they are in Africa, UK, or the US) would be executed.

  6. Jennifer Eason

    Sigh, Jerry Falwell is the reason I chose not to enroll in the highly regarded paralegal program with Liberty University online. Where I live, his reputation would close so many doors (and I don’t blame those closing the doors at all) that I can’t justice the investment of time and money.

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