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Liberty University Executive Board Member Resigns Over Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Controversial Trump Endorsement

Image source: Liberty University

Nearly two months after publicly voicing his disapproval for Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s endorsement of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, Board of Trustees member Mark DeMoss was asked to resign.

Members of the board's executive committee decided to ask for DeMoss, who served on the same committee, to resign his post last month and, on April 26, only four days after the most recent meeting, he emailed his letter of resignation to the board, the university said in a statement to Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. (R) presents Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with a sports jersey after he delivered the convocation in the Vines Center at the university January 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

DeMoss has been around Liberty University for quite some time. In fact, he served as Jerry Falwell, Sr.'s chief of staff from 1984 until 1991 and for many years chaired the board's executive committee. Now, he heads one of the leading public relations firms in the United States.

According to the university, DeMoss "was not removed from the Board of Trustees nor did the Board of Trustees ask for his resignation." But DeMoss decided to leave all together.

"Jerry and a number of fellow Liberty University trustees expressed to me and to the other trustees their disapproval of my speaking publicly about the subject," he said.

Though the Board of Trustees as a whole may not have voted on his resignation, DeMoss did say the executive committee held a meeting and subsequently voted to ask him to resign.

"I agreed, and did so in remarks to the full board the following morning," DeMoss said. "Subsequently, on Monday, April 25, I sent a letter to Jerry and the chairman of the board and the new chairman of the executive committee, tendering my resignation from the board I had served for 25 years."

When he first made his endorsement, Falwell, Jr. made clear that his public support of Trump was not on behalf of Liberty University and that he did not desire to influence the students, faculty or staff with his decision. But it appears to have had an impact, regardless.

In a separate statement to the Religion News Service, DeMoss said both Falwell, Jr. and the new chair of the executive committee "were suggesting my motive for speaking to the [Washington] Post was entirely political, that I was a political pawn of rival campaigns."

Instead, DeMoss said he was expressing "genuine concern for the reputation of the university we trustees have [had] a fiduciary responsibility to protect."

"I concluded if they could not accept the reasons I gave them, there was not sufficient trust to continue serving together," he said.

Ultimately, the executive committee did vote to have DeMoss removed because of his comments, even though he chaired that very committee and served on it for eight years.

However, the university challenged DeMoss's recalling of the events that transpired last month. "Mark DeMoss has contradicted the University’s response and offered a different version," a statement from Liberty University read.

According to the college, members of the executive committee "individually asked" DeMoss to resign, but "no vote was ever taken" by the committee.

The university, according to Throckmorton, went on to say:

On Thursday, April 21, [DeMoss] was encouraged by members of the Executive Committee to remain on the Board and apologize to the Board.  At the Board of Trustees meeting the following day, Mark DeMoss offered an apology to the Board and tendered his resignation from the Executive Committee.  The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the apology of Mark DeMoss in the Christian spirit of love and grace.   Mark DeMoss sent an email with his resignation on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, four days after the Board of Trustees meeting.  He was not removed from the Board of Trustees nor did the Board of Trustees ask for his resignation.

But still DeMoss challenged Liberty University's record, saying he "was not encouraged" to remain on the board and that Falwell, Jr. "was the only committee member who spoke to me" on April 21. DeMoss said their conversation took place after the university's general counsel called and asked for his resignation.

"The committee said nothing to me about apologizing to the board the next morning," DeMoss added. "Jerry had suggested that two months earlier, and I told him I would do so in person at the April 22 meeting."

As a point of clarification, DeMoss said he did not "tender" his resignation to the board, rather he "informed" them of it.

"I tendered my resignation the night before to the attorney who called me on behalf of the committee," he said. "He told me if I chose not to resign they would vote to remove me [from the committee]."

In 2008 and 2012, DeMoss served as a senior advisor to Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Republican presidential campaigns. He also lead evangelical get out the vote efforts for the governor.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to provide clarity.

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