On the heels of allegations that Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. disparaged students and staff in emails leaked to the press, the embattled Christian leader says, in defense of the university, he won’t “turn the other cheek” to leakers and is taking legal action against them.
Reuters released on Thursday two of the several dozen emails it received from as far back as 2008, when Falwell became president of the university. In one of the emails, he disparages a student, referring to him as “emotionally imbalanced and physically retarded.”
“If it was me, I’d turn the other cheek but this is not me,” Falwell told the Lynchburg News and Advance. “This is Liberty University and I have no choice but to do what is in the best interest of the university and that means unfortunately taking action against these people.”
Reuters reports that the emails show that Falwell has been disparaging Liberty students, staff, and parents in emails to administrators since 2008.
Falwell also reportedly insulted some Liberty students he called “social misfits.”
In other emails, he reportedly blasts faculty members and senior Liberty staff, such as Ronald Sones, former dean of the engineering school, who he described as “a bag of hot air” who “couldn’t spell the word ‘profit,’” in 2011.
He described Richard Hinkley, the campus police chief, as “a half-wit and easy to manipulate,” and dismissed Kevin Keys, then Liberty’s associate athletics director, as essentially incompetent in 2012.
“Only get Kevin involved in something if you want it not to work,” Falwell reportedly wrote.
Falwell confirmed that the recent email disclosures were authentic and noted that he has already discussed his comments with the police chief which were shared without context.
“The chief of police spoke out against my idea to allow concealed carry on campus and that was the reason I was saying things that weren’t so nice about him,” Falwell said regarding a 2011 policy allowing visitors, students and staff who have concealed-weapons permits to carry guns on campus.
“I told him today, ‘you and I disagree; I bad mouthed you a little bit, that’s called business.’
“I’m going to be me no matter what,” he admitted. “That never will change and I will say whatever I think whenever I want to say it. My comments are always appropriate for whatever happened and sometimes it might not be the most pleasant thing in the world but you know what, that’s a part of running a business.”
The new report comes in the wake of recent stories alleging that Falwell runs the popular Christian university under a "culture of fear and self-dealing.”
Falwell disputed those allegations Thursday, noting that the university’s board of trustees instructed him to pursue civil litigation against the leakers.
The university has hired “one of the largest law firms in the United States” and a formal complaint has already been drafted, he said.
“It’s like they’re just asking to be put in jail,” he said of the leakers. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Liberty University also released a 19-page response called “Omitted Statements of Liberty University Regarding Business Transaction Recently Questioned in Media” in an effort to set the record straight about the university's business dealings.
Brandon Ambrosino, a Liberty University graduate and author of a report in Politico that triggered the recent public scrutiny of Falwell’s dealings at the Christian university, called the document “wildly misleading” on Twitter.
Dustin Wahl, another Liberty University alumnus, also noted on Twitter that Liberty students will be protesting Falwell at 11:45 a.m. Friday after convocation.
“…If you care about a place, you oppose people who hurt it. For the past four years, Falwell has repeatedly, publicly harmed the reputation of Liberty University and the good people there,” Wahl wrote in one tweet Friday.
Falwell told Hill.TV on Tuesday that he is now sharing information with the FBI to investigate what he calls a criminal conspiracy against him by former board members at the university who leaked internal Liberty University emails cited in the initial report by Politico.
“Our attorneys have determined that this small group of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provided them to reporters," Falwell said.