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Jerry Falwell, Jr., Responds to Controversy Surrounding Playboy Cover Appearing in Photo of Him and Trump
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. introduces Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with a sports jersey after he delivered the convocation in the Vines Center, Jan. 18, 2016. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

Jerry Falwell, Jr., Responds to Controversy Surrounding Playboy Cover Appearing in Photo of Him and Trump

"Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., became the subject of some controversy Tuesday afternoon, when he tweeted a photo of him and his wife with Donald Trump.

The seemingly harmless photo, taken in Trump's lavish New York office, garnered the attention of several Twitter users because, upon closer examination, there is a years-old framed Playboy magazine peeking around the shoulder of Falwell's wife, Becki.

It is likely much of the criticism aimed at Falwell was about more than just the photo. Many have slammed the university president for his decision to back Trump, who is known for his brash — and often offensive — language, from his disparaging comments about women to his criticism of the Mexican-American judge presiding over the Trump University cases.

Regardless, it didn't take long for observers to call attention to the cover.

But several hours later, Falwell, who participated Tuesday in a forum between Trump and hundreds of other evangelical leaders,  finally took to Twitter to respond to his detractors, saying he was "honored" because the "same hypocrites who accused Jesus of being a friend of publicans and sinners" were "targeting" him over the Playboy cover.

That comment alone set of a torrent of responses, many of which were digs at the high-profile Trump endorser. Much of the social media back-and-forth late Tuesday night was between Falwell and conservative writer Ben Howe, who is obstinately opposed to Trump.

The two men exchanged barbs about Falwell's father, Jerry Falwell, Sr., who famously lead the Moral Majority in the 1970s. It is important to note that, ironically, the elder Falwell was close personal friends with Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who the televangelist iconically took to court over a satirical article published in the pornographic magazine that outlined a fake incestuous relationship between him and his mother.

Falwell invoked a line he has often used in defense of his endorsement, telling his critics: "Judge not, lest ye be judged," adding that Jesus chose the "sinners over the Pharisees."

Howe and Falwell, who clarified that he's an attorney and not a preacher, exchanged several more tweets, but both remained firm in their positions. Ultimately, Howe encouraged Falwell to ask Trump "tough questions" because he "has his ear."

"Trust me, I am," Falwell replied.

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