Beliefs Opinion

Gloves are off: Jerry Falwell Jr.’s wife fights off his critics (COMMENTARY)

Mark DeMoss, chairman of Liberty University’s board of trustee’s executive committee. Photo courtesy of DeMoss

(RNS) Donald Trump has turned the Republican primary into a WWE-style wrestling match, and when Liberty University’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., endorsed the candidate, he unknowingly stepped into the ring himself.

Some of Liberty’s well-known alumni responded to the announcement with fierce criticism. Falwell defended himself by arguing that his was a personal endorsement and not intended to represent the college.

But the fight grew fiercer this week when Jerry Falwell Jr.’s wife, Becki, posted a pointed response to her husband’s critics on her Facebook page. The post sought to counter the “many self-righteous posts from LU alumni who are trying to rewrite history in an attempt to claim that somehow LU has ‘changed’ for the worse.”

She argued that recent events are consistent with Liberty’s history, adding that the school’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., “was outspoken with his politically incorrect statements” and “supported a divorced and remarried Hollywood actor over a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher for president.”

Mark DeMoss, chairman of Liberty University’s board of trustee’s executive committee. Photo courtesy of DeMoss

Mark DeMoss, chairman of Liberty University’s board of trustees executive committee. Photo courtesy of DeMoss

Her comments came one day after a prominent member of Liberty’s board of trustees, Mark DeMoss, upped the ante by publicly critiquing Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Trump.

DeMoss said he had “been concerned for Liberty University for a couple of months now, and I’ve held my tongue.” DeMoss also challenged Falwell Jr.’s claim that Trump is similar to the late Falwell Sr., whom DeMoss served as chief of staff for many years. The largest building on Liberty’s campus is named after DeMoss’ father.

READ: Falwell Jr.’s Trump endorsement criticized by prominent Liberty University board member

Falwell Jr. shot back, saying DeMoss’ criticisms were “puzzling” and that he “was disappointed in him.” But Becki Falwell had even harsher words for the board member: “Sorry, Mark DeMoss, I remember that you resigned in protest after working for Jerry Sr. for 5 years after graduating from LU in the 1980s because you didn’t agree with Dr. Falwell’s actions. Now you suddenly are trying to speak for Dr. Falwell as his ‘confidant’! It’s easy for alumni to sit back now and talk about the ‘good ole days’ at LU when there was no political controversy or bad press but the facts tell a different story.”

DeMoss said via email that he does not wish to respond to Becki Falwell’s comments, except to add the following clarification: “I worked closely with Jerry Falwell Sr. from January 1984 – Labor Day 1991 (8 years). For most of that time, I was his chief of staff. The final year of my time there, I gave up my salary because the ministry was going through a difficult financial time and was laying off employees. I left in September 1991 to start a PR firm in Atlanta, which I still lead today.”

DeMoss added that he plans to remain on Liberty University’s board of trustees.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for RNS. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Merritt

Becki Falwell concluded her post by saying, “Jesus was called a friend of publicans and sinners and called the religious elite of his time hypocrites and a generation of vipers. We all need to remember what Jesus said – that he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” And then she signed off with a Christian mic drop: “God bless you all and much love, Becki.”

After Super Tuesday, Trump has become the likely Republican nominee for president. Because he remains such a divisive figure among conservative Christians, we can surmise that the brawl between Liberty’s leader and some of the school’s supporters will drag on indefinitely. If you throw your lot in with a fighter, don’t be surprised when you wind up in a fight.

(Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for RNS)

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


Click here to post a comment

  • Love to see these intellectually challenged people arguing among each other. They probably think Trump has “class.”

  • Becki will probably be screaming at her feckless husband for picking the wrong horse when President Cruz or President Clinton take the oath of office next January, even though it was probably her own hairbrained idea for him to endorse Trump.

    Silly ditz.

  • The Falwells going after anyone in the DeMoss family is like a couple of drunken field mice challenging a mountain lion.

  • The argument in the Falwell home are probably a cross between the old Jerry Springer Show and a tug-of-war for a final bag of beef jerky at the local truck stop.

  • Jerry and Becki’s Most Excellent Adventure in Manhattan:

    Jerry: “Well, shazzam, Becki, yee hah, we’re in the big leagues. Look at all of them there tall buildings!”

    Becki: “Well, hot diggity, there’s Donald, comin’ to escort us to Trumptown!”

    Jerry: “Uh you mean Trump Tower….”

    Becki: “Well, whatever. And great, there’s a doorman! We can just say we’re with Donald and order him around, just lock our own personal servant! Praise the Lord!”

    Jerry: “Where’s mah disposable camera? We gotta take some pic-chures!”

    Becki: “Then after that, we get to rod the horses at 59th and 5th, just lock some rodeo!”

    Jerry: “Uh, no sweetie, we rod in the carriage, and the horses pull it.”

    Becki (scratching her head and looking quizzically): “Oh. Never heard of THAT before.”

  • The public is outraged with government saying one thing & doing another. Jesus commands believers to speak plainly (let your yes be yes and your no be no). Jesus Commands disciples to Judge Righteously when you make decisions about right and wrong according to what God says is Wise (good for us) or Foolish (harmful to us & others). Paul said Christ’s disciples should watch a man’s words & deeds before endorsing his character. Mr. Trump says a “good” businessman manipulates the system of campaign contributions to gain unfair advantage over his competitors. God says He is angered by those who have one standard for themselves and another for their customers or competitors – “unequal weights and measures”.

  • (Continued) This is “Crony Capitalism” – we teach our kids it is cheating. Trump claims it’s reasonable to intentionally kill innocent women & children to stop jihadists. When the Japanese and Germans did things like that in World War II, we hanged their leaders for war Crimes. Mr. Trump made $Millions promoting New Jersey’s Largest Strip Club & “Adult Entertainment” establishment in 2013; Profiting from the debasing young girls and encouraging what God says is lust and breaking your vows (promises) to your spouse to love, cherish, and respect them. Making a profit from your customers purchasing prostitutes or looking at naked women harms families where men spend $$$ on their selfish desires rather than care for their wives and children. According to Jesus, disciples should encourage “do unto others as you want others to do to you”. Mr. Trump doesn’t inspire Republicans &Christians to become honest businessmen, self-less fathers and husbands. Falwell is confusing his students…