Jerry Falwell Jr. and Virginia’s conservative Liberty University just sued the New York Times for $10 million.
“They target us because the university is a conservative and Christian institution. While this fulfilled their ‘clickbait’ business model, it also violated the law in many ways,” he said in a statement.
“Therefore, we are holding the New York Times accountable for their malicious and false reporting and their violation of the measures we took to protect our students. Politically-motivated attacks by the mainstream news media that defame and libel conservatives and Christians should not be allowed in the United States of America and will not be tolerated by Liberty University,” he added.
In a 100-page suit, with exhibits, filed in Virginia’s Lynchburg Circuit Court, the 49-year-old school also charged that New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson and photographer Julia Rendleman ignored “No Trespassing” signs to tour the campus at a time when the school was trying to keep outsiders, who could potentially be infected with COVID-19, away.
The long-threatened suit stems from a March 29 viral story that suggested several students were infected after returning from spring break. In fact, no student, staffer, or faculty member on campus was, or became, infected.
The story was never retracted despite pleas from Liberty. “None of this was true. There was never an on-campus student diagnosed with COVID-19. The only actual ‘viral’ element of this narrative that existed was the intense ‘viral’ internet attention it generated for the New York Times’ website and for those paying to advertise on that website,” said the suit, provided in advance to Secrets.
In a statement Wednesday evening, Eileen Murphy, the Times’ senior vice president of corporate communications, shrugged off the suit. She told Secrets, “We are confident that our story accurately portrayed the reopening of Liberty University and the public health concerns that the reopening raised. We look forward to defending our work in court. “
The suit said that Liberty, which was started by the late Jerry Falwell and is now run by his son Jerry Falwell Jr., has been a frequent target of the media, especially the New York Times, because it is “clickbait” for liberal readers.
But, Falwell told Secrets today, “they picked on the wrong conservative.”
It is the second embarrassment for the New York Times in two days. On Tuesday, prominent opinion writer Bari Weiss quit and ripped the paper in a public letter saying that the paper’s coverage is driven by “clicks” and Twitter.
“It’s just not right for the mainstream media to lie about and target conservative Christian organizations just because of their faith and because of their political beliefs, and we’re going to make an example out of them,” said Falwell.