Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. is endorsing Donald Trump – a rousing boost from a Christian evangelical leader with a legendary name just six days before key early-state voting in Iowa.
In a statement from the son of the late founder of the university – and powerful leader of the "Moral Majority" movement – Falwell hailed Trump as "a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again," the Washington Post reports.
Trump, directing his Twitter followers to the news, called the nod a "great honor."
The endorsement comes in the wake of Trump's speech at the university – and Falwell's glowing introduction
In his own statement,
Trump said "It is truly an honor to receive Jerry's endorsement."
"Not only is he a high-quality person, with a wonderful family, whom I have great respect for – I also consider him a very good friend and his support means so much to me," the GOP presidential primary front-runner said.
Since Liberty University cannot take positions on candidates for public office, Falwell's endorsement is "personal," the Trump campaign said.
Falwell's support to Trump comes just a week after an endorsement from Sarah Palin,
another influential figure in the evangelical community.
But at least one evangelical leader derided the endorsement, and railed it would have the late Jerry Falwell "rolling over in his grave."
"It is one thing to allow the free exchange of ideas, even bad ideas, among college students on a Christian campus," Orlando lawyer John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council,
said in a statement.
"It is quite another to give a glowing endorsement-like introduction calling Donald Trump, 'one of the greatest visionaries of our time' and saying he 'lives a life of helping others ... as Jesus taught in the New Testament' and that he is a 'servant leader' who 'has borne fruit' during the most critical part of a heated Presidential campaign."
Stemberger called out Trump's multiple marriages and ownership of casinos "with strip clubs" – slamming his wife Melania for "proudly" posing in the nude – and for his past support of "gay marriage and funding Planned Parenthood with taxpayer money."
"This in no way represents the legacy of Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr.," Stemberger said.
According to the Post, the Falwell endorsement came together over the course of several months through private phone calls.
By late last year, Falwell was openly encouraging Trump, the Post reports, telling Fox News in an interview late last year that "Trump reminds me so much of my father," the Post report.
The endorsement drew jeers, however, from an evangelical leader and president of the Florida Family Policy Council.
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