Liberty University's former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., spent millions of dollars in school funds to promote President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE and other Republicans, according to a new report.
A university-funded think tank called the Falkirk Center, for example, purchased at least $50,000 worth of Facebook ads benefiting Trump and other GOP candidates, Politico reported on Monday.
The news outlet noted the think tank also hired Trump allies to serve as fellows and pushed the president's unfounded claims of election fraud in the past few weeks, adding that Falkirk, a think tank Falwell co-founded, promoted Trump as a pro-Christian candidate on its podcast and on social media.
“The apparatus of the university has turned more and more towards political ends and concerns,” Marybeth Baggett, a graduate of the school who also taught there, told Politico. “Obviously the school is conservative, yes. But I don’t feel like it was ever so agenda-driven as it was in the last four or five years.”
Politico also reported that Liberty gave $2.2 million to Republican consultant Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2018, adding that it donated to The Heritage Foundation’s lobbying arm and the conservative nonprofit Citizens United, which is run by Trump ally David Bossie, as well.
Three people familiar with the situation told Politico the university's board of trustees are divided on whether to continue to school's active role in conservative politics. The law prevents tax-exempt institutions like Liberty from supporting a political candidate or party or being politically involved in elections.
Falwell, who resigned in August amid controversy regarding his personal life and that of his wife, has been one of Trump's most vocal supporters since he announced his campaign for president in 2015. In October, Falwell sued Liberty and accused the school of damaging his reputation.
“When Mr. Falwell and his family became the targets of a malicious smear campaign incited by anti-evangelical forces, Liberty University not only accepted the salacious and baseless accusations against the Falwells at face value, but directly participated in the defamation. This action seeks redress for the damage Liberty has caused to the reputation of Mr. Falwell and his family,” his lawsuit stated.
Late last week, Falwell dropped the lawsuit.
The Falkirk Center was launched in November 2019 by Falwell with the help of conservative activist Charlie Kirk.
“This is not your dad’s or granddad’s think tank,” Executive Director Ryan Helfenbein told the Liberty Champion in January. “We’re trying to have massive cultural influence, and Gospel driven and Christ-centered cultural influence that also speaks to issues that culminate in public policy.”
A Liberty University spokesperson on Monday did not immediately respond to a request for comment.