Jerry Falwell Jr. Will Only Wear Face Mask He Designed Featuring Virginia Governor Northam's Blackface Photo

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said he would "reluctantly comply" with a face mask requirement, but only if his mask has a photo of Governor Ralph Northam in blackface on it.

Falwell posted on Twitter on Wednesday that he "adamantly opposed" Northam's recent mandate that required people to wear masks in public spaces. However, if he is ordered to wear a mask, he said he would only do so by wearing one he designed himself that included a photo from Northam's 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.

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Northam confirmed he was the man wearing blackface in the photo and called it "clearly racist and offensive" in a statement shared in February 2019. Northam apologized for his decision to "appear as I did in this photo" and for the hurt the decision caused.

The photo ignited calls for him to resign from his position as governor from both sides of the aisle. Northam indicated at the time he would not resign and instead would work to win back the trust of his constituents. Northam is unable to run for reelection in November 2021, as Virginia's rules don't permit consecutive terms.

Newsweek reached out to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Liberty University and Jerry Falwell Jr. for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

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As of May 27, Virginia had a total of 40,249 coronavirus cases, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. Northam instituted similar lockdown measures as the rest of the country to mitigate the outbreak. On May 15, most of Virginia was able to start reopening.

Northern Virginia was excluded from the May 15 reopening but can enter Phase 1 of the governor's reopening plan on Friday, meaning restaurants and beverage businesses with outdoor seating permits can operate with outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity. Non-essential retail stores and places of worship can also operate at 50 percent capacity.

Beginning on Friday, anyone 10 years of age or older must wear a face covering when in indoor public settings. People may remove their masks to eat and drink at a restaurant or beverage establishment and when exercising.

"Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect," Northam said in a statement. "This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth."

jerry falwell jr ralph northam blackface mask
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. participates in a town hall meeting on the opioid crisis as part of first lady Melania the first lady's "Be Best" initiative at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino on March 5, 2019, in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, Falwell posted on Twitter that he would only wear a face mask if it was one he designed, which had a photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in blackface on it. Ethan Miller/Getty
Jerry Falwell Jr. Will Only Wear Face Mask He Designed Featuring Virginia Governor Northam's Blackface Photo | U.S.