For several days now conservatives in the media have been on a witch-hunt for Kevin Jennings, the U.S. Department of Education's director of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Led by Fox News, the right-wing media have claimed that 21 years ago, when Jennings was a 24-year-old teacher at Concord Academy in Massachusetts, he "cover[ed] up statutory rape" by not reporting to authorities a conversation he had with a student who told him about being involved with an "older man."
Media Matters for America has exclusively obtained the Massachusetts drivers' license of the student confirming that at the time of the incident, he was at least sixteen years of age -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.
Jennings' 2006 memoir, Mama's Boy, Preachers Son, makes clear that he began teaching at Concord Academy, the student in questions school, in late August or September 1987.
Additionally, in his 1994 book, One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories, Jennings described the student as "a sophomore boy who I came to know in 1987, my first year of teaching at Concord Academy, in Concord, Massachusetts."
The following scanned image of the student's current drivers' license has been heavily redacted to protect his identity.
This should put to rest claims made by Fox News and other conservatives that Jennings covered up "statutory rape" or "molestation." To continue reporting such reckless speculation is at best willful disregard for the facts and at worst journalistic malpractice.
For more information, visit our Kevin Jennings news feed.
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From Media Research Center director of communications Seton Motley's Twitter.com account:
CNN's Jessica Yellin yesterday did a decent job trying to put the Kevin Jennings "controversy" in context. (See clip below.) But watching the report I couldn't help thinking how strange this new Obama-era news model has become. It used to be that in the past, when leaders from the party out of power had a (partisan) beef with the White House and were willing to spend some political capital to make a stink, the Beltway press paid attention.
Today, with the GOP increasingly irrelevant within the Beltway and the right-wing media, and specifically Fox News, taking over as the Opposition Party, other journalists are now taking their cues in terms of partisan news from radio talk show hosts and cable TV hosts. It's unprecedented.
At what point did CNN during the Bush years, for instance, carve out time to report on what Air America hosts or liberal bloggers were complaining about regarding personnel issues inside the White House? If Democrats big whigs wanted to cause a fuss, they might garner some coverage. But liberal commentators? For most of the Bush years the Beltway press couldn't care less what they had to say, and certainly never saw their comments or attacks as news.
Yet watching CNN's report on the Jennings 'controversy,' it was painfully clear that the GOP Noise Machine has rigged the system. They raise concerns (i.e. they lie and fear monger) about a single passage in a book written 21 years ago by a mid-level White House official and that's news? On what planet does that kind of newsroom math add up?
Weak witch hunts like the one unleashed this week against Jennings only work if the mainstream press acknowledges them. And I'm sorry, but serious journalists need to use a higher, better standard to determine a story's newsworthiness beyond the hollow "conservative are angry about.....," construct that's currently in use. Even if the press sets out to debunk the claims.
As I suggested in the headline, if CNN is going to routinely report out these conservative attacks on members of the administration (which will never, ever end), than CNN ought to at least be upfront about it and start up a running segment called, "Witch Hunt Watch."
How's this for dreadful journalism [emphasis added]:
Several commentators charged that Chicago is corrupt and that Obama pals will profit, such as adviser Valerie Jarrett, who had a Chicago real estate business before she came to the White House, where she's a top adviser. "Some people say she was a slumlord and she may personally benefit," said Glenn Beck of Fox News.
Hmm, "several commentators" alleged a White House official would personally profit from the Olympics. And Beck mentioned "some people say" that official was a "slumlord."
Those are the allegations. Guess what? The McClatchy article never bothers to detail that, y'know, the allegations are false. I guess McClatchy just didn't have time/space to point out that the unhinged attacks on Obama's pursuit of the 2016 Olympics are built on lies.
Do you see the corroded press model at work? Conservatives hysterically attack Obama over fill-in-the-blank, and the press springs into action, because when conservatives are angry, it's news. But then covering angry conservatives, the press doesn't bother to note when their Obama attacks are false.
Question: Why on earth would conservatives ever stop hysterically attacking Obama if they realize there's no downside because the press is never going to call them out when they make shit up. Instead, the press just reports those lies as news, thereby exposing them to a larger audience.
At Think Progress, Eric Alterman and Mickey Ehrlich provide excellent context to the unfolding right-wing media smear campaign against the Obama administration's Kevin Jennings. Media Matters all week has been documenting the unbridled hatred, and at times open homophobia, that's driving the GOP Noise Machine attacks against Jennings. Alterman and Ehrlich shine a spotlight on the mainstream press and ask what its role is when a character assassination plot like this gets pushed out.
Unlike the Jones and ACORN cases, we've received no new information in any of these [Jennings] accusations. All the right has done is repeat accusations made against Jennings by the Family Research Council who began the "Stop Kevin Jennings" campaign and the accompanying website, StopJennings.org, back in June. But so long as the mainstream media invites the lunatic fringe to set its agenda, our politics will remain in thrall to a man who claims that Obama retains a deep-seated hatred against his own white mother, and invites black school kids to beat up white ones because, well, just because…
That can't be why they got into journalism in the first place.
The sad truth is that today's serious political press corps, when faced with right-wing hardball, often retreats to a he said/he said reporting style in an attempt to not ferret out the facts; to avoid being held responsible if the conclusions anger conservatives.
We're seeing much the same unfold this week with the Jennings story. But this right-wing attempt to hijack the news, as Alterman and Ehrlich detail, is even more insidious: It's a naked attempt to ruin a public official's reputation by inventing incendiary allegations. Period.
Question: Is the press really going to stand by and not only watch that happen, but also indirectly contribute?
No joke. Because Politico is just a GOP bulletin board.
The insights come courtesy Kenneth Vogel [emphasis added]:
Much has been made of the potential international embarrassment and Republican attacks Obama might endure if the IOC rejects his pitch. Any such backlash would very likely have limited shelf life, but a successful outcome in Copenhagen could arm opponents with ammunition for more than six years, particularly if preparations for the Chicago Games were beset by the delays, cost overruns and controversies that have plagued Olympics past.
And just in case you missed the point, there's this:
National Republicans and local Chicago Olympics opponents have already signaled their desire to use Chicago's bid and Obama's connections to it to try to taint him. If Chicago wins, they'll have plenty of opportunity, since the president and his hometown allies maintain strong political, personal and economic links to the effort.
Wow, could the RNC's Michael Steele have typed it up any better? First, the Politico article barely even contemplates the political ramifications for the GOP surrounding the unprecedented attempt by Republicans to aggressively root against an American city that's in the running for the Olympics. At Politico, that kind of ground-breaking, hyper-partisanship is of no interest.
Second, if Obama is successful in helping Chicago land the Games, it "could" arm opponents with ammo "if" preparations goes badly. But at Politico, the idea that preparations go smoothly, and that the Olympics could add to Obama's reputation, is barely even considered. Instead, the central angle examined here is how landing the Games would (will!) wound Obama.
UPDATED: Huge win for Obama today, right? After all, according to Politico, Obama would have been the political loser if Chicago got the Games. So doesn't that mean he's the winner since the Second City isn't celebrating today?
It's been several days since Andrew Breitbart's web site conceded it has no idea what community organizers were saying when they gathered for a prayer session last December. Breitbart and the right-wing loons stomped and hollered on Tuesday because Breitbart originally announced the mostly Africa-American activists were praying to "Obama."
But oops, they were saying "Oh God," which means the whole smear fell apart. It cratered all over Breitbart's website where lots of progressives swung by to gawk and laugh at the wreckage. You'd think the other bloggers who posted their original hateful items about the supposedly demented activists would come clean about the fiasco, right?
Ha! We're talking about the morally, not to mention factually, challenged right-wing blogosphere, where facts never, ever, get in the way of a good smear. So it's Friday and far-right carnival barkers like Gateway Pundit haven't touched their original posts where they claimed the activists praying to God are part of a cult.
At Gateway Pundit, the fact that Breitbart's nasty smear has been found to be completely without basis doesn't mean that Gateway Pundit's blog post has to updated, let alone taken down. The fact that the entire smear has cratered because apparently Breitbart can't tell the difference between "Oh God" and "Obama," is no reason for Gateway Pundit to concede the glaring error.
How can that be, you ask? What kind of person would wake up in the morning, trumpet a nasty hit piece about community activists praying, call them members of a cult, and then just quietly ignores the fact that the allegation turned out to be totally unfounded? People like Gateway Pundit, that's who.
Like we said, playing dumb has become a calling.
But shhh, don't distract him. Gateway Pundit's still trying to nail down the story about how 2 million people showed up at the Sept. 12 anti-Obama rally. (He's only off by 1.9 million.) And how 12,000 showed up that same day in Quincy, IL. to protest. (He's only off by 10,000.)
From the October 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Fox News is off by just 134.1 million.
More than 60 advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his October 1 sponsors, in the order they appeared: