The fixer, John Gauger, also was hired by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, to rig online polls in Trump’s favor prior to his candidacy. Trey Falwell may have been involved, Ambrosino writes.
IRS regulations prohibit non-profit organizations from participating in “political campaign activity.” When asked about a university tweet that linked to a rigged poll, Falwell said, “I considered Donald Trump to be a friend of Liberty University and was happy to publicize the poll in hopes that Liberty followers would be willing to vote for him on the heels of his very positive recent campus appearance.” Falwell staunchly defends the president.
During the 2016 campaign, some Liberty students urged Falwell to stop endorsing Trump. After the president spoke at Liberty’s 2017 commencement, the university sold T-shirts with its name and Trump’s—a move experts say may have crossed the line into candidate advertising. Ambrosino also details how Falwell changed Liberty’s academic calendar to increase student participation in local elections.
Another controversy involves photos from 2014 that allegedly show Falwell and Trey at a Miami nightclub. Falwell initially told Ambrosino the images must have been digitally manipulated, but today he tweeted: “Just for the record, I never denied going into a club with my family to listen to music for about 30 minutes years ago. I only denied I asked anyone to scrub pics of me.” For Liberty students, co-ed dancing and alcohol consumption are prohibited.
Are Critics Targeting Falwell or Trying to Save Liberty?
Falwell says a “small group of former board members and employees” are “involved in a criminal conspiracy,” stealing school property to try to depose him, largely because he supports Trump. Today Falwell tweeted a 2017 article titled “POLITICO’s new CEO is a big Democratic donor.”
Evangelical author Jonathan Merritt calls Ambrosino’s piece “a blistering investigative report,” while Bobby Ross, Jr., who says he’s “no fan” of Falwell’s, insists the exposé “lacks adequate named sources to be taken seriously.”
The sources say they’re concerned about Liberty, its mission, and its future—and believe Falwell isn’t the right person to lead the university. “It’s a cold place now,” one says, comparing the atmosphere to when Falwell, Sr. was alive. Ambrosino concludes his article by quoting a Liberty board member who calls the university “totally dysfunctional—very similar to Trump’s White House.”