In an in depth look at now-sidelined Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., the Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein and Susan Svrluga write that after the death of his famed evangelist father, Falwell transformed from a "shy, reclusive real estate developer and lawyer nervous in public settings to a highflying national figure."
Earlier this month, Falwell created controversy for himself after he posted a racy photo to social media, which led to him being put on an indefinite leave of absence. Now, school officials are facing pressure to take more decisive action against him. But according to the Post, Falwell wasn't always prone to controversy, and only started going down the path of questionable behavior after he joined ranks with Donald Trump.
"Multiple close watchers of Falwell Jr. say there was a significant change in his public persona in 2016, when he endorsed then-outlier candidate Donald Trump,"Boorstein and Svrluga write. "Much of mainstream conservative evangelicalism at the time was still focused on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who had announced his candidacy at Liberty University."
While officials wanted Liberty to be a Christian school first and conservative second, Falwell increasingly dragged it into the political sphere.
"With Trump, Falwell Jr. made an intentional veer into political player. In his January 2016 endorsement, which made front-page news, Falwell Jr. suddenly presented himself as an arbiter of the faith," they write.
"In the ensuing months after his endorsement of then-candidate Trump, Falwell Jr.'s public brand "shifted."
"He became much more opinionated and aggressive on social media, usually in defense of what he viewed as conservative positions and of Trump," the Post reports. "In the Rolling Stone piece, he made a case he has made often since: All is fair in love and war, and war is what politics is. 'You’re not supposed to turn the other cheek.'"
Read the full piece over at The Washington Post.