Jerry Falwell Jr. Cuts Anti-Trump Column From Liberty Student Paper

By Sandi Villarreal 10-19-2016
Jerry Falwell Jr. introduces Donald Trump at Liberty University's convocation.

A student editor at the Liberty Champion, Liberty University's student newspaper, is crying foul after his column was axed from the latest issue by university president Jerry Falwell Jr. The piece — part of a weekly column by sports editor Joel Schmieg — took aim at Donald Trump's so-called "locker room talk" in which the Republican presidential candidate bragged about being able to get away with sexual assault.

The comments have cost Trump the votes of many prominent white evangelicals, but Falwell has maintained his support, even suggesting that the leaked video was part of "a conspiracy among establishment Republicans."

Falwell said he only weighs in when editors ask for his thoughts, but according to an email published in Refined Right, editors were told to forward all the week's political stories to Falwell's office for review. 

"We tend not to write things that we don't think will make it through," Schmieg told Sojourners, adding that he was surprised at the cut.

"It was sports. I talked about locker room talk. I talk about what it’s like to be in a locker room," Schmieg said. "I didn’t think anything would happen to it because it got through all of the editors. If there was something there, I figure I would have heard about it long before."

Falwell maintains the column was cut because another discussed the same topic. 

According to Schmieg, editors were so far into the production schedule when the cut was made that there was nothing to replace it with.

"I had to make pictures bigger to literally fill the space," Schmieg said. "... In cutting the article, there was actually less content on the page." 

The other piece on the topic is actually a letter to the editor from a medical student supporting Hillary Clinton. It also discusses Trump's comments in the Access Hollywood footage.  

"Accepting and normalizing language like Trump’s has led to a culture on campuses and in communities across the country where men don’t wait for consent," the letter reads. " ... We need calm, collected leadership that will bring us all together. That’s why I wholeheartedly support Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine as the only candidates in this election who have the experience, temperament and inclusive vision for this country."

When asked whether student editors are required to run content by him, Falwell said editors seek guidance "on pieces that quote me or pieces that they believe might confuse personal views with institutional view." When pushed on whether the piece in question (which does not quote, or even mention, the university president) qualified under that criteria, he said "yes, there was an issue that fell into one of those 2 categories."

[The statement was followed by, "You still lose. Sorry."]

Schmieg's column, which he posted to Facebook after it was pulled and later ran at the The Daily Beast, is below. 

As a former male athlete, I know exactly what high school guys talk about when they think they are alone. It absolutely can be vulgar and objectifying to women. But here’s the thing — I have never in my life heard guys casually talk about preying on women in a sexual manner.

Trust me, I hated the way the guys talked on the field during practice or in the halls at school. It was downright dirty. Some would call it “locker room talk.” In other words, guys talking about the things they supposedly did with their girls. The conversation never turned to the things they were going to do to a girl.

While I do not condone premarital sexual activity, guys talking about the things they do with their girlfriends is part of today’s culture. On the other hand, when a guy talks about what they are going to do to a girl, that is when it is no longer locker room talk, but pre-meditated sexual assault.

Some examples of this kind of talk are “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” This is not a joke. Men do not casually say things like this. This is not locker room talk. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to excuse the terrible things they or others have said.

If a high school male was heard talking like this, I would hope appropriate action would be taken. This might involve counseling and some sort of punishment. Not because punishment would magically fix what he said, but to ensure he understands the severity of what he said. So he understands that sexual assault is not a joke. So he understands that women are to be cherished, not spoken of as property.

But when an adult in his late ‘50s says things like “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” that should be a major red flag. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Luke 6:45.

The things that come out of a man’s mouth when his guard is down is probably what is in his heart.

With that said, everyone deserves forgiveness for things that seem to be in the past. But in this instance, the words said do not seem to truly be in the past. He was never accosted for his atrocious words. And most importantly, it seems the words spoken are par for the course.

Donald Trump may have issued an apology for the words he said, but the fact that he can brush them off with a description of “locker room talk,” tells me that he does not believe what he said is truly bad. It tells me that this man says things like this all the time, because it is casual talk to him.

Ladies, please hear me when I say the words spoken by Trump are not normal. That is not what decent men talk about. Not even in high school. You mean so much more than that, and you deserve so much better than that.

Sandi Villarreal is Web Editor and Chief Digital Officer for Sojourners. You can find her on Twitter @Sandi.

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