Liberty University files $10M defamation suit against NY Times: ‘Bigoted bunch of liars’

Liberty University announced that it has sued The New York Times for defamation, accusing the newspaper of being factually incorrect in reporting regarding students on campus testing positive for COVID-19 in late March during the early stages of the pandemic.

The March 29 story in question from the Times, “Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too,” reported that about 12 students “were sick with symptoms that suggested Covid-19,” which the university vehemently calls false.

“There was never an on-campus student diagnosed with COVID-19,” Liberty, a private evangelical Christian school, said in the $10 million suit while filed Wednesday, accusing the Times of “clickbait.”

“Not only are they a bigoted bunch of liars, and also [a] BuzzFeed-type clickbait publication now,” Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. joined Fox News host Sean Hannity while mocking the paper for photographing and publishing “No Trespassing” signs on campus.

“But they’re also stupid, because they came on campus. We had 25, at least, ‘No Trespassing’ signs everywhere, and they were dumb enough to take pictures of the signs and publish them,” Falwell said.

“So we got warrants out for their arrest and they had to cut a deal with a local prosecutor to keep from going to jail,” he added. “That’s how dumb they are.”

The lawsuit also alleges the paper misrepresented a doctor quoted in its report and did not speak to Liberty University’s physician.

“I think they got their information from a doctor who has a practice 10 miles away from Liberty, who had seen a few Liberty kids who had a cold and upper respiratory problem. And none of it was anything like COVID symptoms,” Falwell explained. “He told the reporters to go and talk to our on-campus doctor at our clinic on campus, and they wouldn’t do it. They didn’t talk to us.”

“We tried to get them to correct all the false headlines,” he added. “They wouldn’t do it. They actually doubled down and lied some more. And so we had no choice. They left us with no choice but to defend our reputation because it scared parents.”

In its lawsuit, Liberty also says there are still no students who have tested positive for coronavirus.

“We are confident that our story accurately portrayed the reopening of Liberty University and the public health concerns that the reopening raised,” New York Times spokesman Ari Isaacman Bevacqua told The Hill in a Thursday morning email. “We look forward to defending our work in court.“

–Updated at 10:23 a.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Defamation Journalism Liberty University Pandemic Sean Hannity The New York Times

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