Despite the strong possibility of spreading the virus that's caused a national health crisis in the United States, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. came under fire last week for ordering university faculty back to campus and for giving students the option to return as well.
Falwell is a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, and has previously echoed Trump's initial dismissals of the threat posed by the highly contagious virus. He even previously claimed that the virus was a biological weapon engineered by enemies of the United States.
Falwell expected up to thousands of students back on its Lynchburg, Virginia campus—a recipe for disaster in a time when social distancing measures are vital in curbing the pandemic.
Nevertheless, around 1900 students returned to the Liberty campus.
It didn't take long for Falwell's recklessness to come home to roost.
According to a New York Times report, at least one off-campus Liberty student has tested positive, with another test pending and around a dozen others experiencing symptoms.
The head of Liberty's student health service, Dr. Thomas Eppes Jr. said that nearly a dozen students had been suffering with symptoms.
Eppes discussed the potential for infection and the discussion he had with Falwell on whether or not to close the school.
"We've lost the ability to corral this thing. 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.'"
At least one Liberty University parent spoke out against Falwell's decision on Twitter at the time.
@JerryFalwellJr So in 7 weeks, you'll send the thousands of students, who now have a HIGHER risk of carrying it, ba… https://t.co/u9weO0RCQ0— Jeff Brittain (@Jeff Brittain)1584290862.0
Some students don't have the means to return to their hometowns, with one telling the times:
"I'm not allowed to talk to you because I'm an employee here. We need help to go home."
Falwell railed against the report on Twitter.
It’s sad that the @nytimes would bend the facts about COVID-19 and @LibertyU to fit a pre-determined narrative. Her… https://t.co/LiyBVK4isJ— Jerry Falwell (@Jerry Falwell)1585609059.0
Hey @nytimes @libertyu has ZERO cases of COVID in residence but this is not news? Your failing paper has less cred… https://t.co/Namfi1tz8O— Jerry Falwell (@Jerry Falwell)1585617397.0
People weren't convinced.
According to Falwell, 800 students left the campus after returning. It's possible they carried the virus with them.
Now, as the consequences of Falwell's actions continue to develop, people are furious at the recklessness of his decision, which very possibly resulted in the infection of numerous students.
It’s rare you see policy outcomes so directly attributable to a decision by one person. But Falwell will be persona… https://t.co/XcWOqIHc3c— Seth Masket (@Seth Masket)1585518539.0
#BREAKING: Jerry Falwell Jr. tests negative for Christianity.— Travis Akers (@Travis Akers)1585360533.0
Needs to get attention: Fake Religious Lunatic Jerry Falwell Jr invited almost 2,000 students back to Liberty Univ… https://t.co/NqF8LQXKA1— Ricky Davila (@Ricky Davila)1585534768.0
What happened at Liberty University is what will happen if you "open the economy up" prematurely. People go out in… https://t.co/J7U87R2pv4— Andrew Lebovich (@Andrew Lebovich)1585515146.0
This is criminal negligence from @JerryFalwellJr. https://t.co/tmHWNWSk0O— Tommy Vietor (@Tommy Vietor)1585515075.0
@JerryFalwellJr @nytimes @LibertyU Know what’s even more sad than that? A man who professes to preach the Word of… https://t.co/KJy18eA0Gt— Lanie (@Lanie)1585633890.0
They have a feeling who Falwell is doing it for.
@JerryFalwellJr @nytimes @LibertyU I’ll be glad to pay for a full page ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch staying Je… https://t.co/1LfMR2FGza— mblackwell (@mblackwell)1585616283.0
@JerryFalwellJr @nytimes @LibertyU As an Administrator at a public college, I can confidently say @JerryFalwellJr y… https://t.co/g9FjTvKAZH— Gary Westerland (@Gary Westerland)1585616104.0
@JerryFalwellJr @nytimes @LibertyU It’s sad that you think Covid-19 is devised by Democrats to get back at Trump. #delusional— Selene Simonson (@Selene Simonson)1585615938.0
Astonishingly, Liberty University is one of the most equipped institutions for online classes. The school boasts 130 online bachelor programs.
To learn more about the white Evangelical community's widespread support for far-right politicians, check out The Immoral Majority, available here.