Real estate mogul and "The Apprentice" star Donald Trump addressed thousands of Christian university students during a convocation ceremony on Monday and told them to "get even" with those who try to take advantage of them. Now, Trump's spokesperson is trying to defend that statement, which some believe is in opposition to Christian values.
"The biased liberal media continues to distort the success of Mr. Trump's speech at Liberty University to more than 10,000 students. Most recently they question his advice to the student body 'to get even' and call the statement anti-Christian. Wrong!" Trump spokesperson Michael Cohen told ABC News.
"I conferred with Johnnie Moore at Liberty University and questioned whether Jesus would 'get even.' The answer is 'he would & he did.' Johnny explained that the Bible is filled with stories of God getting even with his enemies, Jesus got even with the Pharisees and Christians believe that Jesus even got even with Satan by rising from the dead. God is portrayed as giving grace, but he is also portrayed as one tough character – just as Trump stated."
But despite Cohen's conversation with Moore, who serves as Liberty's vice president for executive projects, even some outside the "liberal media" have made it clear that they believe his message was antithetical to the Christian message.
"Donald Trump is teaching us to get even and seek revenge," said Shayla Brown, a Liberty University student who attended the ceremony, via Twitter. "I'm confused...I thought we were Christians here."
Trump's controversial comments came at his speech's end, though he pretended to disguise them as advice he would give to other people, not Baptist university students.
"Don't let people take advantage. Get even. And you know, if nothing else, others will see that and they're going to say, 'You know, I'm going to let Jim Smith or Sarah Malone, I'm going to let them alone because they're tough customers," he said.
He also said, "The other thing I tell people...I always say, always have a prenuptial agreement. But I won't say it here, because you people don't get divorced, right?"
Jerry Falwell, Jr., chancellor of the Lynchburg, Va. university, introduced Trump as one of the "greatest visionaries of our time," and awarded him with an honorary doctorate in business. He also revealed that Trump agreed to speak at the university for free, and that last fall he was compensated $5 million for a speech he gave in Australia.
In the main portion of his speech, Trump shared that he was confirmed at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, New York, and said he was a "very proud Christian" and "a real Christian." He discussed the many political issues facing America today, such as the nation's $17 trillion debt, high unemployment rates and dependence on foreign goods. He also questioned the leadership ability of President Barack Obama.
"We just seem to have lost our edge," said Trump. "And now we're in a position that unless things take place and take place fast, we are going to be, for many many years to come, in serious trouble to the point that I don't know that you can really come back."
He also gave students advice like "follow your instincts," "love what you do" and "never, ever quit," but his final comments are what have gained the most media attention. On Thursday, Trump criticized The Associated Press for its coverage of his speech.
He said via Twitter, "If only the morons @AP were as concerned with Obama's inconsistent statements on the Embassy attacks as they are with my standing ovation @LibertyU speech then the American people could actually be informed."