Liberals at the nation's colleges and universities "used to defend free speech," but now "they seem to be fascists" when it comes to allowing people with opposing points of view to speak at their institutions, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said Saturday, in an interview airing after President Donald Trump's commencement speech.
"They used to be about academic freedom and free exchange of ideas," Falwell told Fox News. "Now they seem to be fascists. They want to shut down any viewpoint they don't agree with and disinvite speakers."
But, he continued, "we're just so honored as a university to have a sitting U.S. president do his first commencement speech at Liberty. For generations, the tradition was of the president to do his first speech at Notre Dame, but there were protests this year."
Liberty and its president, however, have already proved to be supportive of Trump, and on Saturday, he spoke before a cheering capacity crowd at the school's commencement. Falwell, the son of late evangelist and conservative activist Jerry Falwell, was one of Trump's first endorsers, and evangelicals were one of the largest groups to endorse Trump's presidential race.
Falwell said he first invited Trump in December to speak at Liberty's commencement, and got his acceptance in March. He said he was not worried that Trump would get a negative reception, because his students treat speakers with respect.
"It is so disrespectful, these universities, many elitist universities," said Falwell. "We have a high regard for Notre Dame. We aspired to be for evangelicals what Notre Dame is for Catholics."
But places like Berkeley, where violent protests caused speeches from conservative voices like Ann Coulter's to be canceled, and many Ivy League schools are different, said Falwell.
Falwell said he would "absolutely not" do anything to students at Liberty if they booed Trump or turned their backs on him, like graduates did to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during her commencement speech this week at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college.
"I'm so proud of our students," said Falwell. "They treated Bernie Sanders with utmost respect even though most of them didn't agree with a thing he said. There might be a few there that don't agree with Donald Trump's policies but, I really expect them to show the same respect they showed to Bernie Sanders, and I wish other universities had that same decorum."
Falwell said when he used to travel with his father in the 1980s, the evangelist would speak at many Ivy League schools and was welcomed.
"Back then they would welcome conservative speakers," Falwell said. "They would pack the auditorium out and they would boo and hiss some, but at least then, they didn't try to disinvite them or kick them off campus. So it has really gotten worse since the '80s, I've noticed. It is sad."
Falwell on Saturday also said he supports Trump's plan to meet with Pope Francis during the upcoming G7 summit, even though the pontiff and former President Barack Obama share more similar political views.
"I think they can maybe work past some of those differences," said Falwell. "It seems to me like the Pope is more of a socialist than any Pope we've had recently but, I think, I think President Trump will make some inroads there. I hope he does."
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