Jerry Falwell Jr. says President-elect Donald Trump offered him a cabinet position as secretary of education, according to an Associated Press article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Falwell is the current president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the eldest son of the late televangelist and conservative activist Jerry Falwell Sr., who passed in 2007. The younger Falwell became president of the university upon his father’s passing.
Falwell told the Associated Press that he met with Trump in New York City last week and was offered the job at that meeting.
According to the article, Falwell ultimately declined the offer because Trump wanted him to commit to four to six years of service but he could not leave Liberty University for more than two years.
— The Hill (@thehill) November 27, 2016
“Falwell says he couldn’t afford to work at a Cabinet-level job for longer than that and didn’t want to move his family, especially his 16-year-old daughter,” the Associated Press article states.
Trump spoke at the conservative Christian Liberty University in January, and Falwell endorsed him for president soon after. He then gave a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. In the speech he referred to Trump as an “American patriot.”
As Time’s Will Drabold wrote back in July, Trump’s political courtship of Falwell has been complicated from the start.
“It was not always clear Trump would earn Falwell’s support,” Drabold said. “Trump has had three wives, has espoused contradictory positions on abortion and uses rhetoric that turns off some religious conservatives. But since the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses this winter, Falwell has urged evangelicals to back Trump.”
However, it appears that Trump’s image as a political “outsider” eventually won Falwell over.
“We need someone other than a career politician,” Drabold quotes Falwell as saying at a Trump rally in January.
The younger Falwell has not obtained as high a public profile as his late father, but he is known for speaking out on conservative issues and has made some controversial statements, most notably on issues of gun control and domestic terrorism.
At a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in December of 2015, just days after Muslim American terrorists in San Bernardino murdered 14 people at a Christmas party, Falwell made some questionable comments.
“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in killing,” Falwell said.
When NBC affiliate WSLS 10 asked Falwell why he chose the word “Muslim” instead of “terrorist” and urged him to “clarify” what he meant, Falwell gave little ground.
“Terrorist would have been a good word to use too. I just was referring to those particular people, and they were motivated by their religion, so it was a relevant term for that event,” Falwell said.
After Falwell apparently passed on the position, Trump announced Wednesday that Betsy DeVos would be his secretary of education. The choice immediately drew harsh criticism from several quarters.
DeVos is a billionaire charter school and voucher advocate who has no experience in public education.
“[T]he Michigan billionaire and conservative activist has quietly helped change the education landscape in many states, spending millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools,” Emma Brown wrote in a Washington Post piece responding to the DeVos pick. “Now DeVos is poised to spread her preference for vouchers nationwide.”
Two, three, many Trump Universities https://t.co/9tD5XUWi4F
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) November 26, 2016
The possibility has teachers and public-education advocates up in arms.
“Trump’s pick has intensified what already was a polarized debate about school choice,” Brown continues. “Advocates for such choice see in the Trump administration an extraordinary opportunity to advance their cause on a national scale, whereas teachers unions and many Democrats fear an unprecedented and catastrophic attack on public schools, which they see as one of the nation’s bedrock civic institutions.”
Jerry Falwell Jr. told the Inquirer he thinks Donald Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education is an “excellent choice.”
[Featured Image by John Moore/Getty Images]