No, Jennings didn't know about the workshop's contents in advance

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The anti-gay right's newest line of attack on Department of Education staffer Kevin Jennings is that he "knew" in advance about the content of a seminar held at his organization's 2000 conference, in which two Massachusetts Department of Education employees engaged in explicit discussion of sexual practices with a teen audience. But the evidence those right-wing sources are hanging their hats on is extremely thin - even for them.

WorldNetDaily and Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft are both claiming that one of those instructors is on the record stating that Jennings knew. Both are pointing to a blog post by the anti-gay hate group MassResistance which states, "Of course Jennings and the Massachusetts Department of Education knew beforehand what the 'sexuality educators' would discuss with children at the 'fisting' workshop. The instructor Margot Abels said so herself."

But the statements MassResistance cites Abels reportedly making only indicate that her immediate supervisors in the Department of Education were aware of her work - not Jennings or other GLSEN officials. MassResistance emphasizes Rod Dreher's Weekly Standard report that "Abels fumed to the press that the education department had known perfectly well what she had been doing for years and hadn't cared until the tapes had surfaced." They also point to a report in the conservative Mass News, which states that Abels told the LGBT newspaper Bay Windows that "she had the support of state officials during her seven years at the state Department of Education," and quoted her statement that "Maybe David Driscoll [Commissioner of Education] didn't always know everything that we did, but certainly our supervisors did."

So no, Abels hadn't "said so herself" that Jennings "knew beforehand" the contents of her workshop.

The other piece of "evidence" MassResistance and their allies in the right-wing blogosphere are pointing is as follows:

Jennings, after all, worked hand in hand with the Mass. Department of Education from the beginning, as co-chair of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth education committee, which set up the statewide program, "Safe Schools for Gay and Lesbian Students" in the DOE. That is the program the fisting workshop instructors worked for.

In fact, as the bio on Jennings' website indicates, he left that commission years before the 2000 conference. Unless these people are alleging some massive conspiracy in which Jennings plotted out the details of the workshop discussion years in advance (and I suppose we can't really rule out that sort of logic from them), this line of reasoning falls apart pretty quickly.

For that matter, even if Jennings had been aware of the general contents of Abels' presentation (and there's no actual evidence to that effect), that still wouldn't in any way support the argument that he was aware of the specific discussion the right-wing finds so offensive before it happens. What we're left with is still that Department of Education officials held the seminar at GLSEN's conference, Jennings criticized them, and they were fired or resigned.

In short, the right is dredging up a ten-year-old instance that was widely reported at the time, and using innuendo and faulty logic to try to smear Jennings with it. But I guess we couldn't have expected any less.

Network/Outlet
WorldNetDaily, BigGovernment.com, Gateway Pundit
Person
Jim Hoft
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