Liberty student claims Jerry Falwell Jr. banned article from university paper
LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, allegedly banned a story about "locker-room talk" from running this week in the student newspaper.
The article was written for the sports column and addressed the issue of "locker-room talk."
"I don't endorse Donald Trump. I think he is a terrible name for evangelical Christians ... I've never heard premeditated sexual assault in the locker room - ever," writer Joel Schmieg said. "If other guys talked like that, other guys would shut them up real quick, that's how it would work."
Schmieg says he writes a different article for the column every week for the university's paper, The Liberty Champion.
But this week, he says President Falwell emailed the editor saying to take out his article before printing - a move Schmieg calls censorship.
The Daily Beast first published the article Tuesday night and now it's all over the internet.
President Falwell called The Daily Beast "sleazy" for running the story and pointed to other publications that "understands editorial" decisions on his Twitter page Tuesday night.
Schmieg says it all started Monday, when the paper editors received an email from President Falwell advising to "get rid of the one by the male athlete about the videotape," a decision Falwell attributed on Twitter to the limited space in the paper.
But Schmieg says that's just not the case.
"Actually, by cutting the article I had to fill space," said Schmieg. "It didn't help us in any way, it actually hurt us."
Schmieg says his column has guaranteed space each week.
"I just had to scramble," he said. "It's a print newspaper, so I had to fill space, make pictures bigger, make headlines bigger, just to make our deadline."
Liberty University sent a statement to ABC13 saying, in part: "Space allocation always requires editorial judgment and that judgment simply does not allow for repetition."
But now, Schmieg says missing out on that space gave him an even greater platform to tell his story.
"Let's say Jerry lets the article run, I don't know, maybe 50 people would have seen it yesterday," explained Schmieg. "But by cutting it, it kind of went viral."
Schmieg says he's glad the world can read the words he's written.
Below are the full statements from Falwell and the university.
President Jerry Falwell Jr.:
"Liberty University is the publisher and owner of The Liberty Champion. It must make editorial decisions about content on a weekly basis. The paper already had a letter that was very similar in content supporting Hillary Clinton and condemning Donald Trump for the 2005 video. The two letters were redundant, so an editorial decision was made to go with the other letter, which (was) written by a medical student, because it did not come from a staff member, but an independent reader."
Liberty University spokesperson:
"The sports column submitted by Joel Schmieg was more in the form of an editorial or letter to the editor. The student editors had already decided to run a letter to the editor from a Liberty University medical student that made most all the same points as the sports editor made in his submitted column. The final editorial conclusion was that it was better to go with a student-submitted letter in the editorial section than by including a very similar and somewhat redundant column from the sports editor, whether in the sports section or in the editorial pages. Editorial decisions are made by the student editorial staff in consultation with the staff advisor and the publisher representatives routinely on every edition. President Jerry Falwell is consulted occasionally by editors when he is quoted and when use of his name has the potential for confusion between institutional and personal viewpoints. There was no student viewpoint about Donald Trump that was not fairly represented in this week’s Champion, including in a news story about students who started an online petition opposing Jerry Falwell’s personal endorsement of Donald Trump. Space allocation always requires editorial judgment and that judgment simply does not allow for repetition. This was discussed with Mr. Schmieg and the University is at a loss for why he seems to have not recalled or understood these facts and circumstances. - David M. Corry, General Counsel"