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Media reports recount Liberty’s successful efforts to ensure students’ safety during COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this spring, a flurry of media reports suggested that Liberty University would become a hotbed for the spread of the virus, due in large part to President Jerry Falwell’s decision to keep the university open for students to remain on campus.

On May 18, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece, “The Education of Jerry Falwell Jr.: Attacked for keeping Liberty University open, he now seems to have made a good call,” in which William McGurn writes that despite attacks and accusations from numerous national media outlets and their false reports of coronavirus on campus, Liberty’s approach has proven successful.

“How it must hurt to have to admit: Jerry Falwell Jr. was right,” he writes. “No doubt this explains why we’re not reading stories about how the president of Liberty University kept his Lynchburg, Va., campus open while keeping his community safe from Covid-19. The doomsday predicted when Mr. Falwell announced Liberty students would return after spring break never came to pass.”

He writes that the exaggerated and inaccurate predictions that appeared in publications, including the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Daily Beast, never came to pass.

But, as McGurn puts it, “(from) the reaction, you would have thought returning to Liberty was a death sentence.”

In a recent Liberty news release on the day campus closed for summer break, Falwell celebrated the end of a successful school year, “with an impressive health record amid the Coronavirus threats.” He stated that Liberty’s actions should be an example for higher education.

“Liberty University created the model that other universities should follow for pandemics by protecting its students, faculty, and staff from COVID cases in the local community. We are thankful to God that nobody who lived in a campus residence hall or who worked in a campus office tested positive for the virus.”

McGurn closes with a thoughtful summary of the way Falwell and Liberty handled the virus as well as a challenge to those who may have unfairly and intentionally leveled criticism at them.

“In a part of his early statements on Liberty’s reopening that received almost no attention, Mr. Falwell said in its handling of coronavirus Liberty would prove a ‘model’ for others. Would it kill the critics so quick to paint Mr. Falwell as the Grim Reaper to acknowledge, if only in the name of science, Liberty’s experience might have something to teach them?”

McGurn is not the first to cover Liberty’s success and the media’s false reporting. In a May 11 piece in the Washington Examiner, writer Paul Bedard notes: “Despite some 750 media reports that Liberty University was writing COVID-19 death sentences for some 1,100 students returning after spring break, the Virginia Christian college recorded no cases with students on campus and is now holding itself up as the ‘model’ to follow in the fall.”