Elections

Donald Trump to speak at Liberty University

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a gathering during a campaign stop at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a gathering during a campaign stop at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. AP

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump will speak at Liberty University on Jan. 18, the latest presidential hopeful to address the conservative school founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

Trump – who spoke in 2012 at the Virginia school – is scheduled to address the school’s students on the first day of classes for the spring semester, the News & Advance in Lynchburg reported.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told the newspaper that he and his wife, Becki, have stayed in “close contact” with Trump since his 2012 appearance on campus. Falwell and Trump also spoke after Falwell’s December appearance on “The Sean Hannity Show,” in which the school president defended his decision in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting to end a rule prohibiting students from bringing guns into dorms. Becki Falwell told the newspaper that Trump had called Falwell, telling him he was proud of him and that he liked that Falwell had compared Trump favorably to the late Jerry Falwell.

During the Fox News segment, Falwell offered his thoughts on his three favorite presidential contenders: Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.

“I think Trump reminds me so much of my father,” Falwell told Fox. “He says exactly what he thinks no matter what anybody cares.”

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump posted his first television commercial for his campaign to his website on Jan. 4. It was titled "GREAT AGAIN TV SPOT."

Falwell introduced Trump at the 2012 address as “one of the greatest visionaries of our time” and said he had “single-handedly forced” President Barack Obama to release his birth certificate. (The White House in 2011 sought to quash the so-called “birther” issue by releasing Obama’s long-form birth certificate, a move that Trump took credit for at a news conference.)

The school is an important venue for Republican candidates looking to boost their profiles with key evangelical Christian voters: Cruz used the convocation that Trump will appear at to launch his own presidential bid last March. Jeb Bush delivered the commencement address in May and Carson spoke there in November.

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, made a pitch at the school in September, arguing that tackling economic inequality could unite even parties that disagree on many other issues, including abortion and gay marriage.

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

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