Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. clarified that his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is a "personal" one, and argued that the United States needs a businessman in charge of the country.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Falwell, who endorsed Trump for president last week, has since clarified that he was expressing a personal opinion, not a professional one, noting that tax-exempt universities are not permitted to make political endorsements.
Explaining his personal endorsement, Falwell said:
"That's really one of the things that attracted me to Donald Trump is that I see our country at a stage now where we're approaching $20 trillion in debt, and it reminds me of where Liberty University was in the 1990s, when we were struggling to survive."
He added: "And it just convinced me that we need a businessman.... We need somebody besides a career politician, somebody who has been in the real world."
Falwell introduced Trump to the stage at a campaign event in Davenport on Saturday, and in turn Trump praised the president of Liberty University, which has established itself as the largest evangelical college in the world.
"The job that Jerry has done at Liberty University is amazing," Trump said, referring to the swing in financial fortunes over the years.
"You're one of the most financially solid, financially sound universities in the entire United States, with a tremendous endowment and tremendous amounts of money that can go for expansion. You don't have debt. You've done an amazing job," he added.
Last week, Falwell said that he is proud to endorse Trump, calling him a "successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again."
The endorsement prompted criticism from some Liberty alumni, who shared their disappointment with The Christian Post.
"As an [alumnus], I am grateful for my four years at Liberty and had a great experience there, but I am actually pretty embarrassed right now about it," said Dean Inserra, pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Florida, who graduated from Liberty University in 2003.
"I think Evangelicals at times, can be a cheap political date. I think that this is an example of that," he added.
Falwell later said that he has learned it is important to clarify that he is making personal endorsements, and not professional ones.
"I believe we all have the right as private citizens to endorse candidates and participate in the political process," he remarked. "It's almost impossible to explain to somebody my view of the world without relating personal stories."
Trump led the Republican race in the polls for months, but came in second place to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at the Republican Iowa Caucuses on Monday night at the start of the presidential contest.
A Fox News poll found that over 62 percent of the voters at the GOP Iowa Caucuses identified as evangelical Christians, a group that the candidates have been trying hard to woo over the last several months.
With over 46,000 votes, Cruz earned the biggest support ever for a single candidate in the Iowa Caucuses, and credited God for the victory.
"Tonight is a victory for the grassroots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and all across this great nation," Cruz said.