LYNCHBURG, Va. – Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. announced that his school has filed a lawsuit against The New York Times.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning, is for $10 million, as well as $350,000 in punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and other costs.
The net proceeds awarded through this lawsuit will be contributed by Liberty University to nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting people and businesses recovering from the coronavirus pandemic and related economic lockdowns, according to Liberty.
Today @LibertyU sued @nytimes because they came to our campus from actual virus hotspots and made up completely false claims about COVID-19 cases at Liberty.— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) July 15, 2020
In fact we finished the school year without a single reported case of COVID-19 on campus.
The lawsuit is against The New York Times Company, Elizabeth Williamson and Julia Rendleman. Williamson is a write for the paper, while Rendleman is a photographer.
The 55-page lawsuit brings four counts against the Times.
The first, is a count of defamation against The Times and Williamson in connection with the March 29 article, “Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too.” The story’s original headline was “Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too.”
Second, is a count of defamation against The Times for it’s opinion piece, “This Land and Denial and Death,” which states:
What lies behind Republican science denial? The answer seems to be a combination of fealty to special interests and fealty to evangelical Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., who dismissed the coronavirus as a plot against Trump, then reopened his university despite health officials’ warnings, and seems to have created his own personal viral hot spot.Paul Krugman - The New York Times
Third, is a count of defamation, again, against The Times and Williamson. This isn’t in connection with any specific article, but the lawsuit states that overall, “The New York Times and Williamson made these statements with actual malice, with knowledge of their falsity and defamatory implications and/or with a reckless disregard for the truth.”
Lastly, a count of civil trespass was filed against The Times, Williamson and Rendleman. The lawsuit states that between March 23 and March 29, Williamson and Rendleman entered campus in defiance of the university’s March 23 trespassing mandate.
The university previously sought charges against Stefan “Alec” MacGillis, a politics reporter for ProPublica, and Rendleman regarding this, but later came to an agreement with the Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney to not press charges.
Here’s more of what Falwell said when annoucning the lawsuit:
When there were no reported cases of COVID19 in the Lynchburg area yet, the New York Times sent a reporter and photographer from actual virus hotspots to violate our campus containment zone and make up a completely false claim that we had created a hotspot on campus. They target us because the University is a conservative and Christian institution.
While this fulfilled their ‘clickbait’ business model, it also violated the law in many ways.
Therefore, we are holding the New York Times accountable for their malicious and false reporting and their violation of the measures we took to protect our students.
Politically-motivated attacks by the mainstream news media that defame and libel conservatives and Christians should not be allowed in the United States of America and will not be tolerated by Liberty University.
On Wednesday evening, Ari Isaacman Bevacqua, a New York Times spokeswoman sent 10 News this statement: