Accreditor asks for info after Falwell reports

Published: Sep. 25, 2019 at 6:03 PM EDT
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In a story Sept. 25 about Liberty University, The Associated Press, relying on information from the school's accreditor, reported erroneously that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges sent a letter asking for more information about recent news reports about Jerry Falwell Jr. A spokeswoman for the commission says that no letter has been sent but that the news reports are under review. A corrected version of the story is below:

The accrediting body that oversees Liberty University is reviewing

that have questioned President Jerry Falwell Jr.'s leadership style and personal business interests, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

"We are monitoring the situation based on our standards to see if there are any potential violations," said Janea Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Johnson previously told The Associated Press on two occasions that the commission sent a letter to the Lynchburg, Virginia, school asking for more information about the news reports. The reports, some based on anonymous sources, have described Falwell as a temperamental leader who brokers no dissent and has blurred the lines between the school and his personal business.

Johnson later said she had misspoken and that no letter has been sent.

Liberty is the nation's highest-profile evangelical college. Falwell previously told AP that the news reports stemmed from an "attempted coup" orchestrated by several disgruntled former board members and employees who are leaking internal university communications to discredit him. He said he has asked the FBI to investigate what he considers a criminal conspiracy.

Falwell is the son of the late evangelist the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty and led the Moral Majority, a conservative, religious political action group.

The younger Falwell was among the earliest Christian conservatives to endorse President Donald Trump's campaign and has enjoyed close access to the president. He says that support has likely prompted some of the criticism of his leadership style, personal life and business investments that has surfaced in news reports recently.

Falwell has helped transform Liberty from a tiny Baptist college into a touchstone institution for evangelicals. Its campus is dotted with sparkling new buildings and the university is flush with cash and real estate holdings in and around Lynchburg.

The most recently available tax records show Falwell makes about $1 million a year running the school.

Liberty is currently fully accredited without any sanctions, Johnson said.