Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said he would not renounce his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, despite a call to do so from students at the university.
The Washington Post reported that a group of students called Liberty United Against Trump slammed the candidate in an Oct. 12 statement that said Falwell does not speak for them: "Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support."
Falwell responded in a post on the university's website with praise for the students, saying, "I am proud of these students for speaking their minds. It is a testament to the fact that Liberty University promotes the free expression of ideas unlike many major universities where political correctness prevents conservative students from speaking out."
When Trump's running mate Mike Pence appeared at the university, he received five standing ovations, which rejects the group's claim that a "majority" of Liberty University staff and students do not support Trump.
The group represents a "very small percentage" of the student body, Falwell said, pointing out that Liberty has 15,000 residents and 90,000 online students, while the petition "claims to have between 200 and 1,200 signatures on a petition but admits that many of these signatories are not Liberty students."
Falwell criticized the leadership of the group, saying the group is "led by a never Trump activist, I am told."
The university president said he was speaking for himself, not for the university. "I am only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to 'render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation at a time of crisis."
Falwell has expressed his support for Trump before. He accused the "GOP establishment" of leaking the videotape of Trump's lewd comments from 2005.
In August, he said, "We need a leader with qualities that resemble those of Winston Churchill, and I believe that leader is Donald Trump. As Churchill did, Trump possesses the resolve to put his country first and to never give up in a world that is increasingly hostile to our values."
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