Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, said Wednesday that he went to a local magistrate in Lynchburg, Virginia, and got arrest warrants for two journalists who reported on the school’s controversial reopening in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic which has shut down most of the country.
According to HuffPost, Falwell made his claim on the radio show of Todd Starnes, a conservative host who posted documents related to the warrants on Twitter:
Glad to hear Liberty University is going after @NYTLiz and the @nytimes and @propublica. It’s time to make the mainstream media pay a price for their lies. @JerryFalwellJr https://t.co/lrFrsmyDK3 pic.twitter.com/Z6LJ2UhCGH
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) April 8, 2020
Falwell also told Starnes that the warrants had been issued against Julia Rendleman, a freelance photographer for the Times, and Alec MacGillis, a ProPublica reporter. According to those warrants, Rendelman and MacGillis are charged with trespassing on the Liberty University campus, which is a misdemeanor.
In his conversation with Starnes, Falwell alleged that his reopening of the Liberty campus was “the Christian thing to do” because it gave international students and those with relatives at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 a place to go:
“He claimed that there were no students on campus with symptoms of the coronavirus, and that the university had put several measures in place to protect the well being of students and staff, including strict social distancing restrictions ― assertions that defied the facts presented in the two news articles.”
David McCraw, an attorney for the Times, defended the photographer charged in the warrant, noting:
“Julia was engaged in the most routine form of news gathering: taking an outdoors picture of a person who was interviewed for a news story. We are disappointed that Liberty University would decide to make that into a criminal case and go after a freelance journalist because its officials were unhappy with press coverage of the university’s decision to convene classes in the midst of the pandemic.”
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