Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. apologized Monday for his tweet that featured the blackface photo from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) medical school yearbook page fashioned into a mask.
“After listening to African American 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 said on Twitter.
The evangelical leader said that was not his “intent,” so he deleted the post and apologized “for any hurt my effort caused, especially within the African American community.”
I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point. Based on our long relationships, they uniformly understood this was not my intent, but because it was the result (Part 2/3)— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) June 8, 2020
In late May, Falwell, a Trump supporter and the son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, tweeted in opposition to Northam’s mask mandate over the coronavirus. The post said he was "adamantly opposed" to the rule "until I decided to design my own."
The tweet was accompanied with a photo of a mask showing the picture from Northam’s medical yearbook page that surfaced last year and led to calls for the governor’s resignation. The photo shows a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume, although it’s unclear if the governor is one of the two.
In response to his post, three dozen black Liberty alumni slammed Falwell in a letter, saying he has “repeatedly violated and misrepresented” Christian principles and calling for the tweet’s removal and a public apology.
The alumni said they would stop encouraging students to attend the Lynchburg, Va., school, end their donations and urge people of faith to avoid speaking at Liberty until Falwell changes his rhetoric or resigns.
One online teacher also announced his resignation in response to Falwell’s tweet.
The letter’s organizers responded to Falwell’s apology by saying they “are hopeful that healing and reconciliation can” can come out of it, The Associated Press reported. They added they are meeting to promote the inclusion of “ethnically diverse pastors and advisors” on Falwell’s team and the school’s board of trustees.
After his initial post, the university president told the AP that he had been trying to defend Liberty students, including minority students, who he said will experience tuition assistance cuts in a budget signed by Northam.