Following a gathering of faith leaders on Tuesday in New York, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife, Becki, appeared in a photo with GOP candidate Donald Trump that included a framed Playboy magazine cover hanging behind them on the wall. Critics of Trump, and Falwell's endorsement of him, were quick to point out the irony of the conservative Christian college leader posing in front of a men's pornographic magazine. Falwell called critics "hypocrites" in a response tweet.
Fallwell first tweeted he was honored to introduce the "real Donald Trump" at the religious summit. It took seconds for social media comments to rise regarding the photo in the backdrop of the new moment.
On Twitter, Falwell compared the criticism to the kind Jesus received: "Honored for same hypocrites who accused Jesus of being a friend of publicans and sinners to be targeting me over a decades old mag cover! TY"
The framed magazine cover featured Trump on the cover. It was the March 1990 Playboy, with Trump and Playmate Brandi Brandt on the front. Brandt is also known for her failed marriage to Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx and for being jailed for her involvement in a cocaine smuggling syndicate that hid drugs in the toilets of airliners.
The New York Post reports that the Playboy cover is a permanent fixture in Trump's Manhattan office on a wall that showcases other magazine covers Trump has graced.
The image is considered especially ironic considering the fact that Falwell Jr.'s father, Liberty founder Jerry Falwell, famously sued Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt for a satirical depiction of him in his porn magazine, in a case that landed in the Supreme Court, reports Relevant magazine. Falwell lost the case.
Liberty is the largest Christian university in the world, according to the school's website. Located in Lynchburg, Va., it was founded in 1971. It also is the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation, and the largest university in Virginia.
It's not the first time Falwell Jr.'s alignment with Trump has created controversy. In May, a long-time board member at Liberty resigned over the Fallwell Jr.'s endorsement of Trump. Falwell Jr. also attracted some heat for recording campaign robo-calls for him during the Republican primaries.
The Trump campaign named a list of people on Tuesday who will serve on an evangelical executive advisory board to Trump that will "convene on a regular basis," according to Politico. Some of them were responsible for organizing the meeting between Trump and Christian leaders in New York on Tuesday. Falwell is one of them.