Liberty University hosted Donald Trump at its campus-wide convocation last week, marking the second time this year the school made national headlines for hosting a prominent conservative who falls outside the institution's evangelical Christian identity. Following a nationally-covered commencement speech by presidential nominee Mitt Romney in May, the school's invitation to Donald Trump might have seemed mere fodder for a slow news day. However, when Trump hedgingly suggested to over 10,000 students in attendance to "get even" in order to succeed, a controversy was born, and the outcries came from both ends of the religious spectrum, from People for the American Way to ultraconservative Christian bloggers.
The furor began with the Associated Press coverage of the event by a journalist who did not attend the convocation but reported from live-streaming video of the speech. The AP story was picked up by numerous news outlets, including The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. By asserting at the start of its story that Trump's comment is at odds with Christian teaching, AP—not generally known for teaching Sunday school lessons—was seemingly picking a fight: "It may not be what Jesus would do but billionaire developer and reality TV star Donald Trump counseled students Monday at the Falwell family's Liberty University not to turn the other cheek but to 'get even' with adversaries."
If the story was spun so as to insert a wedge between two strong advocates of the free enterprise system—the issue that unites Liberty University and Trump—neither party took the bait. But when Liberty University spokesman Johnnie Moore, Vice President of Executive ...1