In April, Liberty University – a frequent target of the mainstream media due to both its Christian teachings and its president’s undying support for Donald Trump – made the decision to cautiously open their campus to returning students. While Liberty’s reopening was controversial and worthy of discussion, The New York Times went way beyond responsible coverage in their intense, sustained attack on the college.
In “The Religious Right’s Hostility to Science is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response,” an opinion editor slammed President Jerry Falwell, Jr. as a “science denier” and a “religious ultraconservative.”
In an editorial titled “This Land of Denial and Death,” the New York Times told readers that Falwell’s deliberate refusal to accept the science of COVID-19 had led Liberty University to become “his own personal viral hot spot.”
And then there was the lead story by Elizabeth Williamson, headlined: “Liberty University Brings Back its Students, and Coronavirus, Too.”
Now Liberty University is filing a $10 million defamation lawsuit against the newspaper, claiming the New York Times smeared the university with lies and misleading headlines in an effort to sell papers and destroy Falwell.
“The day after defendants published the story and made it go ‘viral’ with the sensational headline, ‘Liberty Brings Back its Students, and Coronavirus, Too,’ they changed the online headline to ‘Liberty Brings Back its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too,’” wrote the university’s lawyers. “The suit argues that this alteration shows the “defendants’ understanding that their central claim was false.
“Simply put, defendants’ claim that ‘Liberty Brings Back its Students, and Coronavirus, Too’ was made up,” the suit continued. “Their claim that Liberty ‘Reopened, and Students Got Sick’ was made up. Their claim that after purportedly reopening, ‘students started getting sick’ with ‘nearly a dozen Liberty students . . . sick with symptoms that suggest Covid-19’ was made up. And their claim that the ‘consequences’ of reopening had come home to roost’ in the form of a COVID-19 outbreak was made up.”
The suit claims that The New York Times edited interviews, took quotes out of context, and engaged in several forms of deception in order to preserve a wholly fictitious narrative about Liberty’s reopening.
“There was never an on-campus student diagnosed with COVID-19. The only actual ‘viral’ element of this narrative that existed was the intense ‘viral’ Internet attention it generated for the New York Times’ website and for those paying to advertise on that website,” the suit states.
In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Falwell said that he gave the Times every opportunity to retract their false stories.
“They have left us with no choice but to defend our reputation,” Falwell said.
Another black mark for the reigning queen of fake news, the old Gray Lady herself.